As a student of counterpoint, I am in awe of the last movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony. It is not just that it ends with a fugue combining all the motifs from earlier in the movement; there are lots of amazing fugues in the repertoire. But this fugue is so effortless! To the casual listener, it is simply a delightful, lively finale. The detail, though there in plain sight for anyone who cares to notice, is woven into the texture so naturally that it doesn’t sound complex at all, and the whole movement seems to spring forth effervescently.
However, Langrée takes it a such a breathtaking speed that there is no opportunity to savor this detail. True, it is marked Molto Allegro, and the orchestra can play it at this incredible tempo, and do so with grace. The effervescence was there, but the detail that I find so marvelous was so crammed together that it became clutter, lost in the large scale sweep and technical virtuosity of the performance.
They played two Mozart symphonies in C major; the great (Jupiter, no. 41) and the little (no. 34). Though I complain only about the final finale, I found all of the tempi on the fast side. To be honest, most top conductors today would side with Langrée’s tempi: it is as if the mark of a really fine orchestra were how quickly they can run through the well known classics. In this performance, occasionally, the charm of Mozart came through . For example, in the trio of the minuet in the Jupiter Symphony, there was a delightful little pause in the beat, not too much to spoil the dance, as the oboe and strings began their little melody. However, too often, such delights were lost in the full head of steam, as Langrée barreled through. The technical brilliance of the orchestra notwithstanding, I would have enjoyed the evening more if Langrée had given us more time to luxuriate in the elegance and grace of Mozart.
If you really want to go that fast, I suggest Rossini.
Between the symphonies, they featured a world premiere by André Previn, a double concerto for violin and cello, played by Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson. I am pleased that this orchestra has participated in commissioning a new work, and I think that composers who have served the movie business also have something to offer the classical concert literature. Previn’s varied career certainly qualifies him to receive such a commission. However, I do not expect this particular piece to enter the repertoire. Previn’s writing for the soloists, though romantic in tone, seemed strained and a bit awkward, especially in the first movement. He is more comfortable with the full orchestra, where his writing was colorful and imaginative. Previn’s skill at sketching a mood was well displayed, but the mood kept changing, and I did not get much of a sense of direction or inspiration.
If you want to commission a movie composer, I suggest John Williams.
It is still a marvelous orchestra.