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Mozart and Haydn: Jaime Laredo, cond./violin, Elisa Barston, violin, Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, 19.1.2008 (BJ)

Jaime Laredo’s guest engagement this time around migrated from the Seattle Symphony’s “Basically Baroque” series to the neighboring one dedicated to “Mainly Mozart.” The program featured three works by the eponymous composer, beginning with a welcome hearing of his First Symphony, written when he was an experienced practitioner all of eight years old. Then, to conclude, came what may well be Haydn’s greatest symphony: No. 102 in E-flat major, which if it only sported a nickname might well be heard more often than its companion works, the “Surprise,” the “Miracle,” the “Military,” the “Clock,” the “Drum Roll,” and the “London.”

As in last January’s Bach and Vivaldi program, the evening’s violinist-conductor offered performances that were refreshingly direct and technically sparkling. This was old-fashioned Mozart and Haydn. There was perhaps more vibrato in the string sound than purists would approve; Sam Franko’s cadenza in the first movement of the Mozart’s G-major Violin Concerto, K. 216 seemed a bit fulsome (and excessively wedded to double-stopping); and the minuet of the Haydn symphony was taken at a rather pompous tempo. But alongside these arguable drawbacks of “old-fashioned” style were the corresponding virtues. Phrasing throughout the evening was unfailingly natural and eloquent. And the orchestra’s tone, as well as that of Laredo and his fellow-soloist in Mozart’s Concertone, the orchestra’s brilliant principal second violinist, Elisa Barston, projected the kind of warmth and bloom that are not always to be experienced in today’s “historically informed” performances. Nor was there any unseemly dragging either in Laredo’s elegant reading of the Mozart concerto’s sublime Adagio, or in the equally marvelous slow movement of the Haydn symphony, where associate principal cellist Susan Williams phrased one of the composer’s trademark cello solos beautifully.

Fashions in the interpretation of baroque and classical music come and go. But there is always room, and time, for music-making of such charm, grace, and technical aplomb.


Bernard Jacobson

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