Smetana, Mozart, Tschaikowsky
The Salzburg Kulturvereinigung (Cultural Association), which organizes most of the big concert events in Salzburg outside the various festivals, celebrated a jubilee concert this evening in the Great Festival House, with the Mozarteum Orchestra under its new chief conductor Riccardo Minasi (my fourth concert in a row with this orchestra, three of them with the new conductor).
I am glad the Kulturvereinigung leaves the music to the musicians, because the association’s math and reading skills left me befuddled. All of the publicity including the program books called this the 70th anniversary jubilee. However, the year 1947 (70 years ago) appeared no where, and all references to a specific starting date indicated this concert commemorated the very first concert from 17 October 1952 (which is only 65 years ago). The publicity also made a point that tonight’s concert repeated the program of that very first concert – yet here again it did not (they reproduced the flier from that first concert program which showed this clearly).
Ignoring the bizarre publicity and turning to the music: the orchestra performed Smetana‘s Moldau (the second tone poem from My Fatherland) and Tschaikowsky‘s Symphony #5, both in similar fashion. In the case of the Moldau, we heard the waters swirl, the waves splash, and the stream flow by robust promontories. And while that’s probably not what Tschaikowsky had in mind when he wrote his symphony, the interpretation somewhat worked here too. Minasi kept the orchestra delicately restrained at times, then introduced the themes on top, growing from the stream to great crescendi before backing down. And while careful at the more subdued bits, Minasi does have a tendency (which I have noticed in the other concerts I have heard him conduct recently) to get a little excited during the bigger moments, moving forward at faster-than-necessary tempi (most obvious during the march at the end of the final movement, which was practically a double-step). These styles (too fast or too delicate) also do not always let the orchestra exhibit full sound – but many of the solo and sectional lines demonstrated that the instrumentalists do have much to say.
The original 1952 concert they commemorated had opened with the Dances of Galánta by Zoltan Kodály. Tonight this work had fallen out of the program, replaced instead between the Smetana and Tschaikowsky works by Mozart‘s 20th piano concerto. That substitution was a a real shame – the Kodály work is far more interesting than Mozart’s rather routine concerto. Piano soloist Peter Lang (who apparently made his Great Festival House debut with this concerto in 1966) and the orchestra produced a completely idiomatic if uninspired reading. All the more reason they should have done the Kodály dances. Yawn.