Strauss, Mozart, Schubert
Thus spake Zoroaster: the 2016-17 music season hath opened. The Mozarteum Orchestra took to the Great Festival House this evening under Hans Graf, its former music director (1984-94) for Mozart’s clarinet concerto sandwiched by two tone poems by Richard Strauss.
Graf started the concert with Don Juan at a faster-than-usual clip, which highlighted the Don’s playful seductive nature. Also Sprach Zarathustra, which concluded the concert, came across suitably mystical. Both works showcased the orchestra’s talents, a fullness of sound and character. They also demonstrated how modern Strauss could sound, breaking ground as a tone poet (coming after Liszt, in this regard, but pressing ever forward into the twentieth century still-to-come).
In the juxtaposition with Strauss, Mozart came off worse for the comparison. This is not only because his clarinet concerto was composed a century before the two Strauss poems. But coming in the final year of Mozart’s life, it did not represent anything new in particular, but more a rehash of Mozart’s usual conventions. Certainly he was a master, and the very beautiful music and an understanding for the instrument helped. In this case, he wrote knowingly for the clarinet, as a non-human singing voice. And he had a sympathetic reading, by soloist Matthias Schorn, principal clarinetist of the Vienna Philharmonic, who produced a warm and fuzzy sound, big enough to fill the hall and – for added emphasis – breaking into a gorgeous mezza voce for the more delicate, yet still robust, measures. But was it original?
Schorn (with the orchestra) also gave the happy audience an encore: an arrangement (by Offenbach!) of Schubert’s song “Leise flehen meine Lieder.”