Mostly Mozart – Opening Concert

Piano Concerto No.17 in G, K453
Mass in C minor, K427 [realised Langrée]

Stefan Vladar (piano)

Susan Gritton (soprano)
Lucy Crowe (soprano)
Thomas Walker (tenor)
Iain Paterson (bass)

Mostly Mozart Festival Chorus

Acadamy of St Martin in the Fields
Louis Langrée

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 13 July, 2007
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

And so Mostly Mozart Festival gets going for its sixth year. This opening night was bravely up-against the first evening of another music festival happening a few miles away in Kensington. (The Proms!) But the Barbican Hall was virtually full.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields has become the resident ensemble for this Mozart celebration; Mozart’s music is in the fibre of these musicians, as was evident on this occasion. Stefan Vladar was the youngest winner of the International Beethoven Competition, held in Vienna, and can often be found playing chamber music. When playing a concerto he often directs from the keyboard, but not on this occasion, although there were moments when he seemed to be attempting just that, with arms darting in the orchestra’s direction. The concerto was given a lyrical account, the mood set from the outset by Louis Langrée. Vladar’s playing seemed too earnest, offering little more than loud or quiet and not much in between. In the Andante Vladar’s first entry was well-judged, less so some of the audience’s intrusive coughing, but the movement as a whole did not live up to expectation, as no mood was allowed to settle and silences seemed overly protracted although the woodwinds’ conversation was beguiling. The Allegretto finale rounded off the piece well, though, the horns giving splendid, well-balanced support and Vladar sprinting home with wit and vivacity.

The unfinished Mass in C minor was given in Langrée’s own realisation. (Another, by Robert Levin, was heard at last year’s Proms, conducted by Charles Mackerras.) Here, Lucy Crowe was a late substitute for an indisposed Cara Burggraaf. The other soprano, Susan Gritton, was assured throughout. In possession of a wonderful line in her voice, she commanded attention with the opening ‘Kyrie’ and was both sensuous and operatic in ‘Et incarnatus’. The choral singing was mixed. There was plenty of drive and conviction and the male singers had sufficient penetration through the sopranos and altos in ‘Qui tollis peccata mundi’ (in which the cheeky trombones were splendid) didn’t always bring resolution. Langrée was not trying to anticipate Beethoven, or later, but was firmly rooted in Mozart’s times and style, unlike the more expansive completion of Levin. The orchestra made a solid and sympathetic contribution, bringing out the chamber qualities of the music, but not denuding its grand moments.

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