Music of the Baroque wraps 40th season with triumphant Mozart

Mon May 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Jane Glover led Music of the Baroque in Mozart’s final three symphonies Sunday night at First United Methodist Church in Evanston. Photo: Jerry Bauer

Of all the remarkable creative feats that populated Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s short life, one of the most astounding is the composition of his final three symphonies. Completed in less than six weeks, they show not only the usual melodic wealth and technical mastery but serve as a road marker to early Romanticism as well as an indication of the future direction of Mozart’s music.

Music of the Baroque is wrapping its season with Mozart’s Symphonies Nos. 39-41, and the first of two concerts, presented Sunday night in Evanston, served to close the ensemble’s 40th anniversary year in style.

These three works were written at one of the darkest periods of Mozart’s life, yet as with most 18th-century artists, his craft existed largely in a different realm than his dire daily concerns.

Only in the Symphony No. 40 in G minor with its inexorable fate-like momentum and stabbing accents can one get some sense of the grim desperation of Mozart’s life at the time. In a packed First United Methodist Church, Glover elicited notably taut drama and and big-boned textures in the relentless outer movements of the G minor work with the woodwinds and brass leading a nice tart bite to the textures.

The radiant Symphony No. 39 in E-flat, which led off the evening, was equally vividly characterized. With thundering timpani, Glover gave great weight to the introduction yet the main Allegro was fleet and spirited with notably incisive string playing, some fitful disarray in the violins apart.

The middle movements were stately and vigorous by turn and the finale crackling at a very fast tempo. Yet for all the speed and dynamism, the wit and buoyancy of this most Haydnesque of Mozart closers was largely missed at this hectic tempo.

Glover and the MOB orchestra rose to the challenge of the Jupiter Symphony (No. 41), which received the finest performance of the evening.

Large in scale and generous with repeats, Glover led a vital, stylish and majestic performance that also proved the most finely detailed of the evening. The middle movements were especially inspired with the Andante flowing and elegant and the Menuetto receiving superb oboe work by Robert Morgan and Peggy Michel.

The celebrated finale with its thematic riches and contrapuntal wizardry came off in terrifically inspired fashion. Glover is not an inhibited presence on the podium but I’ve never seen MOB’s music director lead a performance in such dervish mode, urging the orchestra on to faster speeds and greater volume. The coda with all five themes blazing made an aptly triumphant coda to Music of the Baroque’s superb 40th season.

The program will be repeated 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Harris Theater.; 312-551-1414

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