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W.A. Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik; Exsultate, jubilate; Symphony No.29, Eliana Pretorian, soprano, Orchestra of St John's, John Lubbock, conductor, Cadogan Hall, London, 19.01.06 (ED)




This concert, the first of a series by the OSJ at the Cadogan Hall over the coming months, presented an hour's worth of music uninterrupted by an interval. The 7pm start time and interval-less format meant it was likely to attract an audience that still wanted to get home at a reasonable time after a day at the office. Another feature of the series is the engagement of up-and-coming soloists, and this concert provided my first opportunity to document the qualities of soprano Eliana Pretorian.

With Mozart's birthday fast approaching the Orchestra of St John's got its celebration in early, with three of Wolfgang's most evergreen compositions. There may be those that would carp about unadventurous programming, or state rhetorically "do we need to hear those works again?" What can emerge from the experience of revisiting works like this live rather than on recording is a new freshness, possibly an interpretation with things of its own to say. Most of all though Mozart was a gift to humanity - timeless in relevance to audiences - and in performance terms his music offers its own subtle but distinct rewards for musicians.

John Lubbock's view of Mozart was clearly established with his reading of Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The music was given natural pacing that appeared governed by an unanxious internal breath. The Allegro was perhaps a touch unduly dominated by the violins, though later movements, particularly the Menuetto and Rondo, displayed this tendency rather less as the bass line made its presence felt to a greater extent.

Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate is an ideal vehicle for any soprano wishing to give free and open rein to various aspects of what her voice can do. Legato singing in contrast with sections at faster tempi, expressiveness of tone and feeling for words can all be displayed alongside a wide variety of dynamic shadings and sense of vocal range. Eliana Pretorian demonstrated this, and much more, with her singing. Particularly impressive was the variety of shadings of vocal timbre employed to express the text: a slightly smoky mezzoish tinge to much of the opening section contrasted with a steady purity in the middle ‘Fulget amica dies’, before leading to a rightly joyful  ‘Alleluja’.

Vocal ‘basics’ of strong technique, breath control and stage presence leave the impression of an artist already with some confidence, even if the very top of the voice appears less finished than the lower and mid range. This however is of minor consequence when meeting intelligence of interpretation and feeling for the composer. A voice is ever a work in progress, and Pretorian, I am sure, will build on her natural gifts over the coming years as she continues her studies at the Benjamin Britten Opera School at the Royal College of Music.  Londoners may have heard her before (Kathleen Ferrier awards, etc.) but they should take every opportunity to hear Pretorian early on, as she undoubtedly will be much in demand internationally as the years advance. Her previous collaborations with Lubbock and the OSJ further lent to the feeling of easy confidence and mutual musical understanding evident on-stage.

Symphony 29 closed the concert with a reading that displayed to a greater degree than before Lubbock’s care over orchestral sonority. With the addition of woodwind and horns greater contrasts, both tonal and spatial, were brought to proceedings as the reading sought to display a certain grandeur that was not beyond the means of an essentially chamber-scaled rendition.  Retaining the earlier spirited tendency in his reading Lubbock showed Mozart as a master jeweller in instrumental counterpoints of the minuet, before rousingly bringing things to a conclusion in a delightfully up-tempo Allegro con spirtito finale. 



However, after the event it is Eliana Pretorian’s interpretation that stays most clearly with me as a fine start to my 2006 Mozart birthday celebrations.



Evan Dickerson




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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)