Violin Concerto No.1 in B flat, K207
Violin Concerto No.3 in G, K216
Symphony No.8 in G, Op.88
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin/director)
Reviewed by: David M. Rice
Reviewed: 20 March, 2006
Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, New York City
For the third time in just over two weeks, a major orchestra performing in New York has had to replace a world-renowned conductor at short notice. Previously, Ludovic Morlot replaced the ailing Christoph von Dohnányi for four New York Philharmonic performances at Avery Fisher Hall, and Marek Janowski filled in at Carnegie Hall for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s injured music director, James Levine. Now the London Philharmonic has had to find substitutes for its principal conductor, Kurt Masur, whose illness prevented him from participating in the orchestra’s American tour.
At the LPO’s Avery Fisher Hall appearance, the conducting duties were divided between violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, who played and directed two of Mozart’s concertos, and Brazilian conductor Roberto Minczuk, who led a performance of Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony. The originally scheduled Beethoven concerto was dropped in favor of the two Mozart works (Mutter has recorded the five numbered concertos with the LPO for DG and is scheduled to play them with this orchestra in Baden-Baden in late May). The first four of the seven California concerts that began the LPO tour were conducted by Osmo Vänskä, the Minnesota Orchestra’s music director, and the remaining three by Minczuk. Neeme Järvi then led two performances in the New York area (Long Island and New Jersey) just prior to the March 20 concert. For the remainder of the tour, including another Avery Fisher Hall concert on March 26, the LPO is being conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier.
The Mutter-Minczuk tandem succeeded in producing a fine concert. Mutter’s idiomatic conception of the Mozart concertos was graceful and unhurried, yet never dragging, and she played with a light, delicate touch, producing a warm, silken sound. Her artistry was particularly evident in the challenging Presto that concluded the first concerto, the expansive Adagio of the third concerto, and in all the cadenzas – one in each movement and each with something unique to offer. Mutter’s conducting gestures were rather minimal, consisting mostly of head nodding, but they were more than sufficient. The orchestra played well, with the winds – and particularly the horns – standing out.
Following the interval, Minczuk led the LPO in a stirring performance of Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony. Conducting without a score, Minczuk captured Dvořák’s characteristically Bohemian spirit, particularly in the charming Allegretto grazioso third movement. His brisk tempos in the first and last movements energetically impelled the music forward, with the final coda taken at a thrilling, almost breakneck, pace. In this symphony, Dvořák entrusts the flutes and the cellos with the statement of many of the principal themes; the LPO musicians played beautifully and flawlessly throughout.
The only significant shortcoming in this generally excellent performance was that the brass section’s clarion-clear sound overbalanced the rest of the orchestra in the first movement, a problem exacerbated by seating the brass players on risers. Minczuk seemed to correct this imbalance as the work progressed, and by the electric finale, the brass – and the horns as well – played with appropriate, but not excessive, power.