Music of the Baroque members shine brightly in a Mozart birthday feast

Tue Jan 30, 2018 at 4:00 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Music of the Baroque performed an all-Mozart program Monday night at the Harris Theater.

Music of the Baroque performed an all-Mozart program Monday night at the Harris Theater.

In recent seasons Music of the Baroque has paid homage to Mozart with its January program, marking the great man’s birthday month. And while the actual timing of Mozart’s birthday (Jan. 27) may have been off by a couple days, the spirit was surely there in the all-Mozart program led by Jane Glover Monday night at the Harris Theater.

The Symphony No. 33 led off the program and served as a calling card for the high quality of the music-making to come. K.319 is infrequently performed but just as rich and enjoyable a work as its more-often-heard brethren.

One can sometimes take Glover’s excellence for granted in this repertoire. Monday’s vital and spirited performance showed once again why she is one of the finest Mozartians of our day. Tempos were ideal, balancing scrupulous and with fleet, stylish playing by the MOB orchestra, Glover underlined the score’s vivacity and wit with a natural idiomatic touch.

Even by Mozart’s standard, his Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola is a miraculous work—unerringly balanced between the soloists and encompassing a profusion of melodic riches, from great expressive depth in the slow movement to the riotous high spirits of the finale.

Concertmaster Gina DiBello and principal violist Elizabeth Hagen made an engaging and simpatico duo. The former’s sweet violin tone was nicely set off by Hagen’s dusky viola timbre and the soloists showed an easy and collegial empathy tossing Mozart’s themes back and forth in a natural, conversational style.

DiBello, a CSO member, is a superb musician. Incisive yet tender in the probing contemplation of the Andante, she conveyed the searching, slightly tragic shading of this ruminative music.

Hagen’s playing was admirable if less freely expressive than her colleague, fitfully sounding tight under pressure. She was also less nimble and polished than DiBello in the rollicking finale. This infectious music is one of Mozart’s happiest inspirations–with laughter in the very notes–and the soloists’ rapid-fire exchanges conveyed the high-spirited bravura with Glover and colleagues lending equally lively support.

The evening concluded with Mozart’s other Sinfonia Concertante, for winds. Jennifer Moore’s program note concisely traces the tortuous history of K.297b, lost and then reassembled with Mozart’s lineage of this work still not a sure thing.

If not on the level of K.364 for violin and viola, the woodwind confection–performed in Robert D. Levin’s reconstruction–is still enjoyable and a pleasure to hear, especially with the level of playing by the four MOB orchestra members who took the spotlight.

Oboist Anne Bach, flutist Mary Stolper, bassoonist William Buchman, and hornist Oto Carrillo made a cohesive and quite glorious quartet of solo protagonists. The foursome balanced their playing skillfully and echoed each other’s phrasing and dynamics masterfully. The oboe is primus inter pares in this work,  and Bach–MOB’s new principal–brought a tangy timbre and easy facility to her role. The understated playing of CSO members Buchman and Carrillo was especially delightful, almost humorous in the deadpan understatement in which they tossed off the most florid solo passages.

Glover’s conducting provided a virtual seminar–balancing the four soloists attentively with the orchestra and bringing out the melodic glow of the Adagio as surely as the gracious quality of the outer movements.

Jane Glover conducts Music of the Baroque in Handel’s oratorio Esther 3 p.m. February 25 at the North Shore Center for the Arts in Skokie and 7:30 p.m. February 27 at the Harris Theater. baroque.org.

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