Mozart, Liszt, Schubert
The Hungarian National Philharmonic visited Salzburg’s Great Festival House with the French oboist and conductor François Leleux, bringing colorful performances which lacked motion. Well, Leleux jumped around a lot and was quite expressive. And clearly he had a sense of color as well, dinstinguishing each fine grain. This was serious music-making. Yet still it sat (perhaps using “still” here as both an adverb and an adjective).
The concert opened with Wolfgang Amadé Mozart‘s oboe concerto, with Leleux performing the solo and conducting. Leleux produced a warm tone, maybe not quite as strident as an oboe should be, but more cantabile. The Mozart concerto is in general unconvincing – I think he must have spat it out for a commission, but it lacks passion (interestingly, I am familiar with the version Mozart later transcribed for flute – either it works better as a flute concerto, or Leleux just did not convince me about the oboe version). Tomorrow night these forces will perform Ludwig August Lebrun’s first oboe concerto, which (for those in the know) really is special. But my subscription is tonight, and I won’t go tomorrow (there is duplication on the program, and tonight’s concert did not inspire me to see if any tickets are available tomorrow).
The Mozart concerto did conclude with music Mozart subsequently reworked for an opera aria in Abduction, so there was promise there at least. And Leleux returned for an oboe encore with the orchestra, which was actually the highlight of the entire evening: a transcription of the Queen of the Night’s aria from the Magic Flute. Leleux’s oboe sang.
The pure orchestral music followed, with Ferenc Liszt‘s Preludes. This must be bread-and-butter for the Hungarians, but it underscored the entire concert. They produced very nuanced colors – indeed this was a painting as much as it was a symphonic poem, crossing all senses. But somehow it lacked impulse. So while I may never have heard this work sounding so colorful as the orchestra made it sound tonight, I also did not think it was possible to make this work lack movement. Leleux was bouncing, and obviously coaxing the colors from the orchestra, but the music was not going anywhere. So gorgeous, complex playing… but static.
After the intermission came Franz Schubert‘s Fourth Symphony (“Tragic”) and as an encore an intermezzo from his Rosamund (the second time I’ve heard that piece as an encore this season), and both performances dragged colorfully much like Liszt’s Preludes. In the audience, I did hear some Hungarian accents, which always sound especially charming in German, so I went home with a smile on my face, if not exactly energized.