OAE/Margaret Faultless with Roger Montgomery – Mozart – Linz Symphony & Posthorn Serenade

Symphony No.36 in C, K425 (Linz)
Horn Concerto No.4 in E flat, K495
Serenade in D, K320 (Posthorn)

Roger Montgomery (horn)

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Margaret Faultless (director & violin)

Reviewed by: Graham Rogers

Reviewed: 25 October, 2012
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s unusual self-governing status, with no music director, allows it the chance to play under a wide variety of different conductors – or, as in this Mozart concert, none at all. Under the direction of one of its leaders, Margaret Faultless, this well-honed group of charismatic musicians proved that they certainly don’t need a conductor for them to produce outstanding performances.

A terrifically spirited account of Mozart’s ‘Linz’ Symphony got proceedings under way, with all the players apart from cellos standing. On the way back to Vienna after visiting his father in Salzburg, the symphony was written on a stopover in Linz, Mozart famously claiming to have written the work at breakneck speed. There is no reason to disbelieve him – but it makes the symphony’s weight and maturity all the more impressive. By observing all repeats, the OAE ensured that it felt even more substantial than it can otherwise do – and the musicians did full justice to the wonderfully Mozartean blend of urbane charm, dazzling pomp and infectious good humour with a fluent performance full of polish, excitement and joy. Simon Rattle or Vladimir Jurowski may possibly have found more detailed nuance, but probably at the expense of the uncomplicated, spontaneous music-making.

Next up, Roger Montgomery had his chance to shine in the most well-known of Mozart’s horn concertos – the No.4 (in fact the second). And shine he did. Seemingly channelling the spirit of Mozart’s virtuosic friend Josef Leutgeb, Montgomery demonstrated breathtaking mastery of hand-stopping that made playing the notoriously temperamental valve-less instrument of Mozart’s time seem easy. The odd crack or fluffed note only added to the sense of high-wire accomplishment; his musicianship was impeccable. The OAE, now seated, provided stylish, sensitive and alert accompaniment – the violins sounding even sweeter in tone than in the symphony.

After the interval, a rare treat – Mozart’s ‘Posthorn’ Serenade. Contrary to what the title may imply, this is a substantial work, in essence a symphony with extra movements – including a couple of which threw the spotlight on the OAE’s vibrant woodwind section lead by flautist Lisa Beznosiuk and oboist Anthony Robson. The lilting Andante grazioso and smilingly conversational ‘Rondeau’ find Mozart at his most charming. The Trio of the second Minuet has a cameo for the eponymous posthorn – played with suitable brilliance by David Blackadder. A captivating rendition of the sparkling finale brought to an end a thoroughly enjoyable evening. You will never hear more engaging Mozart performances from any orchestra – with or without a conductor.

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