Mozart Orchestra uneven, despite brilliant inspiration

The 45-piece Mozart Orchestra, which formed this season, made its debut on the Troy Chromatic Concer
Gerard Schwarz directs the Mozart Orchestra, which played Sunday at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Gerard Schwarz directs the Mozart Orchestra, which played Sunday at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

Gerard Schwarz, the music director of the Mozart Orchestra of New York, asked the large crowd Sunday afternoon at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall what they would have replied to, “What did you do last summer?”

If Mozart answered, he would have said he wrote three symphonies. Those symphonies, No. 39 in E-flat Major, No. 40 in G minor and No. 41 in C Major, are considered the culmination of the Classical era, Schwartz said. But the works were not written on commission, Mozart might never have heard them performed, and they weren’t published until after his death, he said.

The 45-piece orchestra, which formed this season, was making its debut on the Troy Chromatic Concert Series. Although the musicians have worked together as the New York Chamber Soloists, the performance was uneven and tended to be heavy handed. Schwarz is not an adherent of the less-is-more philosophy. He let the orchestra play out in an assertive, aggressive style. There was no subtlety, nuance or transparency of lines.

Surprisingly, pitch wavered in the opening symphony and ensemble playing was often ragged. However, tempos were good, dynamic contrasts were strong, and phrasing was generally musical if not imaginative or sensitive.

Fortunately, nothing obscured Mozart’s genius. His lyrical gifts sang, his interesting use of counterpoint and intriguing harmonic shifts caught the ear, and the overall fervor and energy always enticed and enlivened.

There were occasional highlights. The finale of No. 39 sparkled and the woodwinds played with lovely ensemble. The opening of No. 40 was a little less boisterous and the woodwinds provided much needed delicacy of attack and restrained emphasis in the slower second movement. Schwarz’s tempo for the “Menuetto” had an expansive quality that was effective, and the finale also had a lighter touch.

No. 41 initially sounded even better with the orchestra in a more delicate mode. This style prevailed for a while, and one wondered if the musicians had gotten more used to the hall’s acoustics. That disappeared in the bluster of the finale, which actually had the musicians not playing together. The question remained: had the group even rehearsed?

Still, the crowd enjoyed the concert, which was the season’s series final.

Categories: Entertainment

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