This MMFO program, a gem of imagination and sequence, presented a Central European kaleidoscope, offering a glittering combination of urban refinement and rural tradition representing three nationalities within the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In a pre-concert recital the venturesome string quartet Brooklyn Rider set the mood, a sneak preview, four short compositions: Alla Tarantella by Schulhoff, a piece by Dvořák, and arrangements of two traditional Romanian pieces.
A fine rendition of Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony opened the main event. Louis Langrée achieved a perfect balance of tempos for the Adagio-Allegro opening movement, and – with speeds somewhat on the brisk side but never sounding rushed – elicited the maximum measure of lyricism from the Andante. The bubbly and brilliantly-played Finale was enriched with some gorgeous contributions from Jasmine Choi’s flute.
More-rustic fare followed, an engaging and invigorating rendition of Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, opening with Lawrence DeBello’s brilliant horn solo to summon the imagined dancers. The highpoint of the never-sluggish Lento introduction was John Manasse’s stately clarinet contributions. Langrée found an attractive balance between joviality and rhythmic energy in the folksy and frisky sections, dispatching the close with fire and fervor.
The evening concluded with Joshua Bell’s exhilarating account of Dvořák’s Bohemian-influenced Violin Concerto. His instrument sounded exquisite, especially in the first two movements, Bell bringing dynamic tension and alluring élan. Playing with effortless brilliance and poetic feeling, Bell faithfully sustained the integrity of the musical line and managed – despite playing from copy – to sound thoroughly spontaneous.
For an encore Bell and the MMFO gave a graceful and enchanting rendition of a transcription by the soloist and Ben Wallace of Chopin’s E-flat Nocturne, Opus 9/2.