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Mozart; Symphony no. 1, K16; Symphony no. 10, K74; Grabmusik K42; Concert Arias; Extracts from Apollo et Hyacinthus K38 and Mitridate, re di Ponto K87, The Classical Opera Company and Ensemble, cond. Ian Page, Wigmore Hall, 7.01.2006 (ME)

 

 

2006 is of course Mozart year, providing hacks with loads of easy copy in the ‘Mozart is so bourgeois, for really important music you must listen to Shostakovich’ vein, Salzburg with the opportunity to stage all the operas with starry casts in surroundings of stupendous beauty for the delectation of the fabulously rich or indeed for those same hacks to disparage, and the rest of us to pick up the crumbs from the table of what has been provided to commemorate this composer whose genius is of course too subtle and ambivalent for the intellectually coarse, yet finds a ready audience amongst the millions who have the desire to be captivated and enriched. My ‘Mozart Year’ could hardly have had a better beginning than this concert: a group of his early works, written between the ages of 8 and 14, providing many new delights as performed by a first class company and a group of soloists which included young singers destined for future greatness.

Ian Page had prepared a most enticing programme, finely balanced between the obscure and better known pieces, and the 1st Symphony was the ideal beginning: clearly showing the 8 year old’s debt to JC Bach and Friedrich Abel, it nevertheless looks forward to his own later works such as the ‘Jupiter’ symphony. This was followed by two concert arias from Artaserse performed by the soprano Martene Grimson, yet another ex- Royal College of Music student in whose career I have taken an interest from her debut  - she did not disappoint, in fact this winner of the 2004 Maggie Teyte prize has developed into an artist with a poised stage presence as well as a truly exceptional voice. She sang ‘Per pieta, bell’idol mio’ with rich tone and beautifully judged phrasing, and ‘O temerario Arbace’ with great style and fluency: this is a young singer to watch, in my opinion a future Countess on the major operatic stages.

The first half of the concert ended with the fascinating Grabmusik, of which legend says that Mozart was forced to compose it in solitary confinement after the Archbishop of Salzburg determined to counter any suspicion that the prodigy might have been receiving help from his father. It’s a wonderful little oratorio, consisting of a dialogue between The Soul and a consoling Angel, very much in the spirit of Bach’s ‘Ach, Jesu, meine Ruh, mein Licht, wo bleibest du?’ and it was superbly performed by the baritone Jacques Imbrailo and the soprano Rebecca Bottone. Imbrailo is another RCM student who has already impressed me, and he is another future star – his ‘Trau, Natur, Ich traue mit’ was a very fine piece of singing.

These two singers were heard again in the beginning of act III from Apollo et Hyacinthus, a curious work which was actually Mozart’s first opera, written in Latin and taking the story of Apollo and Hyacinth from Ovid. Philip Langridge joined the cast to provide authoritative support as the King, and though this is not a work which I would rush to hear in full, it has moments of exceptional musical beauty, especially in the final duet ‘Natus cadit.’ The 10th symphony then provided the chance to hear  some finely articulated, sprightly playing by the Classical Ensemble, and the concert ended with a performance of the duet ‘Se viver non degg’io’ from Mitridate which featured some virtuosic singing from the two sopranos. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.

 

 

Melanie Eskenazi 

 

 

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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)