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Mostly Mozart Festival 2006 (I): Sergey Khachatryan, violin (New York debut) Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä (conductor) Avery Fisher Hall, New York City, 05.08.2006 (BH)

 

 

Martin: Ouverture en hommage à Mozart (1956)

Mozart: Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385 ( “Haffner”) (1782)

Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 (1806)


The transformation of the somewhat staid Mostly Mozart Festival has resulted in many new pleasures, such as the uncovering of this rare Frank Martin Ouverture en hommage à Mozart, a gem written fifty years ago for the composer’s 200th birthday party.  I doubt it has been performed much since.  Its sunny, Hindemith-y neo-classicism was the perfect prelude to the ebullient Haffner that followed, and conductor Osmo Vänskä immediately made an impression with some taut leadership and an ensemble that sounded glorious.

Vänskä dived into Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 with a ferocity that I thought he surely couldn’t sustain, but he did, producing a taut, propulsive Allegro con spirito and a suave, beguiling Andante.  The last two movements were done full throttle – probably too fast for some, but most were caught up in Vänskä’s exhilaration.  With lots of body language in Bernstein mode, he would suddenly crouch down in soft moments, then rise as did the crescendo, his arms moving in wide arcs.

Sergey Khachatryan and his collaborators delivered by far the quietest performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto I’ve ever heard in my life.  With delectably modest work from the orchestra and Vänskä, Mr. Khachatryan (who might resemble a younger, more sober-looking Simon Rattle) opened with a lithe, dramatic line and softness that some in the audience probably had to strain to hear.  Although the first movement splashes were splendid, overall one was left with the sensation of quietness and delicacy.  Love it or hate it, most listeners were likely not indifferent, and the piece is rugged enough to withstand a young violinist’s seriously introverted attack.  One friend even thought his approach “too serious,” especially in the buoyant final movement, but we all agreed that perhaps he will find a broader range of emotions in the piece as he matures.  But meanwhile, Khachatryan is the real deal, commanding a wide range of tone on his instrument, but always with a focused intensity.  To its credit, the audience was about as attentive as one could want, with some notable exceptions.  Just before the vast Larghetto, in response to someone who was loathe to be quiet, Vänskä put down his baton, turned and gave the kind of stony glare that could cause involuntary muscle cramps, and I bet the target will never talk in a concert hall again.

Irritation grew to a boil for another reason, when each of the three movements of the Beethoven and Mr. Khachatryan’s generous encore (Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor) were invaded by four separate mobile phone rings from all over the hall.  To the Mostly Mozart stage crew: unfortunately, a polite verbal announcement, “Please turn off your cell phones,” is all but de rigueur these days, given their increasingly ubiquitous presence.

But back to the good news.  Changes in repertoire are not the only novelties at Avery Fisher during the month-long festival.  The main stage has been moved further forward into the room, allowing about a dozen rows in a tier behind the stage, and seats on either side of it as well.  Overhead, a circular trestle holds a cluster of what look like large cream-colored vanilla wafers (i.e., acoustic reflectors) with slender lamps hanging in a circle above the heads of the musicians.  Despite some comments from a couple behind me (“We liked it better when there were flowers onstage.”) the visual effect is elegant and pleasing, and the even better news is that the sound has even more presence and focus.  Perhaps the temporary arrangement should be made permanent.

 

 

Bruce Hodges

 

 


 



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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)