The Mozart bicentennial juggernaut rolled through Annapolis Thursday night, with a concert at St. Anne's Church presented by the Mid-Atlantic Chamber Orchestra and a collection of first-rate soloists from St. Mary's College.
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the master's death, conductor Yuval Waldman and his players provided an exceedingly generous helping of Mozartmania: Symphony No. 29, the Concertone for Two Violins and the Sinfonia Concertante for winds and orchestra, Papa Leopold Mozart's Trumpet Concerto and a baritone aria from Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's oratorio, "Der Israellten in der Wuste:"
This concert sent two clear messages. The first - surprise, surprise - is that Mozart was a genius. The more newsworthy conclusion is that St. Mary's College employs and has access to a very fine crew of musicians who play Mozart exceeding1y well.
The Mid-Atlantic Chamber Orchestra, which the college frequently engages to accompany its faculty soloists, consists of eminent area free-lancers. Its ranks include Jose Cueto, former concertmaster of the Annapolis Symphony, Vladimir Lande, a recent Soviet emigre who served as principal oboist with the vaunted Leningrad Philharmonic, and St. Mary's faculty members such as trumpeter Jeff Silberschlag and bassoonist Deborah Greitzer, who have both held principal chairs in European and Israel orchestras.
Waldman is an established figure in New York City conducting circles and a violinist who performs and records internationally.
Together these forces produced a mostly Mozart evening of top-notch playing and polished, agreeable interpretations.
Mozart's A-major Symphony No. 29 is arguably the greatest teen-ager symphony ever Written. (The composer was all of 18.) It received an unhurried but enthusiastic reading, bringing out both the finesse and rambunctiousness that Mozart sprinkled in equal parts throughout the score.
The opening movement progressed gracefully and songfully, with careful attention to those marvelous inner harmonies from the violas and second fiddles.
This admirable sense of detail set the tone for the final three movements. There was plenty of bounce and solidity, and many judiciously balanced interludes, such as the wonderful dialogue between the first and second violins in the last movement.
Violinists Waldman and Cueto were attractively vigorous soloists in the Concertone, which was accorded a bright stylish performance.
It was in the Concertone's oboe obbligato that Vladimir Lande displayed the solo talents that landed him the first chair in the Leningrad Philharmonic. His phrasing is impeccable, and his tone is unfussy, unaffected and absorbingly eloquent. Prediction: A big-league band is going to snap up this guy in no time.
Among the Mozart works, only the Sinfonia Concertante failed to satisfy. Waldman adopted a brisk, unrelenting tempo that robbed the first movement of its gracious, lyrical character. His excellent soloists were forced to sprint through passages where a bit of relaxation would have brought more character to the music.
Several tentative string entrances and a serious blunder by the oboist, who began playing third-movement variations before he introduced the theme, didn't help the music.
But terrific performances were given by trumpeter Jeff Silberschlag and baritone Larry Vote in the Leopold Mozart concerto and the C.P.E. Bach aria.
How nice to see C.P.E. and Papa Mozart get a bit of time in the spotlight. Both composers were eminently respected in their day as musicians of talent and importance.
And, of course, both men have been thoroughly eclipsed by their own families: C.P.E. by his supernatural father, Johann Sebastian, and Leopold by music's most prodigious son.
But then again, what musician ever said life was fair?