Mozart Forever Young @261

To hear and see the Toronto Symphony Concert tonight was to be confronted with some ageless questions about age.

Mozart, that avatar of youthful brilliance, is indestructible, no matter how he’s played.
Don’t miss this opportunity to hear what the TSO really sound like. When they’re playing in gigantic Roy Thomson Hall (seating 2630) they’re impressive with fortissimos played with a big orchestra, but some of the subtleties of Mozart may tend to get lost in such a big space. It’s simple physics. If the same amount of sonic energy is being shared by 2600+ as well as all those walls and all that air, there’s no way it can be as loud as what you get, for example, hearing Mozart at the Four Seasons Centre (where we’ll have The Magic Flute later this month, shared among a mere 2071 patrons). Now imagine what you get when the TSO pump that same Mozartian sound out in Koerner Hall –their home away from home during the Mozart @261 Festival—for a mere 1135 patrons. That’s fewer than half the number you have at RTH.

No wonder they sound so good there, although the fabulous acoustic doesn’t hurt either. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear the TSO playing Mozart at this festival.

As we’re in the twilight of Peter Oundjian’s career with the TSO, it’s a good time to appreciate what he brings to the table.

He again acted the role of mentor, introducing a pair of young soloists to kick off a festival celebrating Mozart: the quintessential child prodigy.

First it was Kerson Leong, who has appeared with the TSO before, back to play the familiar C major Rondo for violin & orchestra K373.

violin

Violinist Kerson Leong, conductor Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony  (photo: Jag Gundu)

I enjoyed watching the eye contact between soloist and conductor-mentor, Oundjian’s joy unmistakeable.

nediak

Pianist Leonid Nediak

Then we met young Leonid Nediak, who has one of the most unique set of mannerisms I can recall in a soloist, apparently very humble. He comes across as a brilliant nerd, leading me to wonder if Mozart had been born in our century whether he too would be a whiz at computer science & math: as Nediak is.

His playing is quite delightful, accurate, fluid, and with a deep well of charisma under the surface. Where his body language is understated, the playing is powerful and mature.
After the intermission we heard the TSO with Oundjian, showing us what the orchestra really sounds like in this lovely little hall. Oundjian used a baton for the two outer movements, a choice I’m guessing that has to do with his approach to the tempi. Whereas he’s consistent in the inner movements –the second languid, the third, very quick—and so prefers to conduct using his bare hands, in the outer movements, he needed the extra control that the baton affords. This was especially clear in the last movement, where the first subject was breath-takingly fast, while the second subject (either in its first utterance in major, or its last one in minor) was more wistful, and even introspective: but requiring a quick return to the faster tempo for the concluding bars. This alternation of tempi is a more romantic approach that’s possibly a bit out of fashion, but still quite beautiful to hear, and consistent with what I grew up with on records, thinking for example of conductors such as Karl Bohm or Herbert von Karajan.

For an encore Oundjian led the TSO in a slow reading of “Ave verum corpus” arranged for strings, which I quite loved, both because it reminds me of the fun I’ve had singing this with my church choir, and because for a moment I was put in mind of Stokowski and his arrangements. In so doing it was curious that we were looking both ahead – to the bright future of the talented young prodigies we heard—and back, to the earlier style of playing Mozart.

But it all works.  Magnificent Mozart rules.

This program repeats Thursday January 12th while the festival continues with two other programs:

  • Emmanuel Ax plays concertos # 14 & 23, coupled with Symphony #33, conducted by Michael Francis, January 13 & 14
  • Conductor Bernard Labadie is joined by violinist Isabelle Faust for Mozart’s violin concerti #1 & 3, coupled with Symphony #38 on January 18 & 20

For tickets click here 

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