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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Concert Review: Youths Gone Wild

French pianist, conductor debut at Mostly Mozart.
Debut artist: French pianist Bertrand Chamayou.
Photo by Laura Vaconi for Naïve Classics
One of the joys of attending Mostly Mozart concerts is the opportunity to hear new talent.  Tuesday night's Mostly Mozart concert featured French pianist Bertrand Chamayou in his U.S. debut and conductor Jérémie Rhor, leading his first New York concert. 

Mr. Chamayou opened the evening with a lovely prelude recital that paired Haydn's Variations in f minor with Mendelssohn's Varitions sérieuses. The elegant Haydn spooled forth with a liquid ease. Mr. Chamayou played softly before the small audience, using legato and relaxed fingers to convey the composer's warmth and good humor. The Mendelssohn is made of sterner stuff, but Mr. Chamayou used the same approach. By placing emphasis on Mendelssohn's melodic invention he made a good case for including more music by this composer in future Mostly Mozart programs.

The concert opened with Haydn's Symphony No. 21. Nicknamed "The Philosopher" for its stately, considered opening movement, this is an atypical example of Haydn in his Esterhazy period. The work's unique sound comes from the pairing of two English horns (instead of the usual oboes) with two French horns in the orchestra, creating a dark atmosphere. The effect (and the general tone of the movement) was borrowed by Mozart for Act II of Die Zauberflöte: specifically the scene with the Two Men in Armor.

The Haydn was played with crisp efficiency. But the same cannot be said for the Mozart piano concerto (No. 12 in A Major) in  that followed. Mr. Rhor jumped the gun, leading off the first movement before Mr. Chamayou was ready to play. This did damage the overall performance, as one felt that the young pianist was working hard to play catch-up to his countryman. Mr. Chamayou played the solo parts with a fleet, elegant touch with Mozart's own cadenzas, an early example of the composer's brilliant writing for that instrument.

Mozart's Symphony No. 29 in Symphony stands at the beginning of the composer's mature period, showing the way forward to the great symphonies that came in the last years of his life. Mr. Rhor conducted the work with vigor, charging into the elegant main theme with enthusiasm, if little grace.

The challenging horn parts of the first movement that provided thrills. But the two horn players had intonation problems in the finale, making ugly noises when graceful playing was needed. Mr. Rhor again seemed eager, racing through the staccato passages of the minuet and the tricky finale.

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