Monday, February 25, 2008

Blomstedt Conducts Mozart

Mozart Divertimento in D major
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22
Mozart Symphony No. 38, Prague

Herbert Blomstedt, conductor
Jonathan Biss, piano

I wanted to hear Blomstedt during his 2 week visit with the SF Symphony, so last Wednesday I made it to his all-Mozart program. Sadly the hall looked only half full. I suppose it was because the line-up looked so square. However, Blomstedt rarely disappoints, & he led a stylistically impeccable performance with apparent ease.

The Divertimento was played by a very pared-down ensemble (5 1st violins, 4 2nd violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos, 2 double basses, 2 horns, oboe) & featured William Bennett's mellifluous oboe sound. The result was deft & light. The audience embarrassed itself by not being able to count movements & applauding one movement early. However, it is an easy mistake to make, as that final march movement is certainly out of place. Blomstedt humorously cued the correct applause point when it was over.

Jonathan Biss is a new name to me. He's very young, only 27, & very self-assured. His playing was very even, rapid, tasteful & restrained. He's a good match for Blomstedt's highly controlled style. To me, Mozart's piano concertos are his most characteristic works, & the searching slow movement of this one is a truly profound thing. I also enjoyed the wonderful wind band sections that emerge from the orchestral accompaniment.

The performance of the Symphony displayed many of Blomstedt's well-known mannerisms: perfect balances between sections, an over-refined, almost thin, string sound, & a clear sense of the over-all structure of the piece. He did not feel the need to use a baton or to stand on a podium. & for each piece but the concerto the score on his music stand remained unopened.

This might not have been one of the more exciting or emotional concerts I've been too, but I left knowing that I'd heard Mozart played truly well.

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