"symphonic miss." Gratefully, the hit was saved till last: Mozart's Symphony
No. 40 in G minor,
K. 550, helmed by yet another Brit guest conductor, Leo Hussain. The suite from Prokofiev's
movie music to Lieutenant Kijé, Op.
60 (1936), opening the program, was the enjoyable non-hit.
Between those two, we heard, in the ISO's first performance ever, soloist Vadim Gluzman
Gluzmanin the least satisfying of Shostakovich's concerted works (those for
soloist[s] and orchestra), his Violin Concerto No. 2 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 129 (1967).
January weekend carries the potential threat of snowy/icy weather, so if
one wishes to maximize your potential draw, one should program a plethora of "hits" for a
series so titled. Still, the Mozart was worth the wait - 25 minutes of one of
the few great 18th-century symphonies, taut, dramatic and filled with the
beauties under a contrapuntal labyrinth which only a mature Mozart could
provide. While Hussain gave us a smoothly energetic, well shaped first
movement, he made his players more articulate in the ensuing, triple-meter
(three beats to a measure) Andante.
He then picked a notably faster tempo than usual for the
fiery, G minor Minuet, while reducing the pace for its contrasting, centerpiece,
G-major "trio" section. All these approaches worked to reveal the symphony's
greatness from an era in which scores were minimally marked; we don't know how
the composer heard it in his head. It remains to observe that Mozart's decision
to revise K. 550, adding clarinets to the flute, oboes and bassoons of his
original wind complement, allowed ISO principal clarinetist David Bellman to
highlight his instrument beautifully in the Finale's second subject.
Prokofiev's five-part concert adaptation of his first
attempt at scoring film music has proven one of his most popular successes, its
faux militarism handled in an
engagingly tonal, tuneful manner - especially "Troika" (Sleigh Ride), one of the
composer's most famous excerpts of his career. Regrettably, some of the solo
work misfired the first time around in Friday's Lt. Kijé, but was corrected in its repeat. Otherwise, Hussain's
orchestra managed the score with unexceptional lyric clarity.
Shostakovich had only eight years to live after completing
his second and final violin concerto. Although contributing lots of flash and
dash in the solo violin part, well realized by Gluzman, the Soviet composer
seemed to be "resting" before his final push toward his late-style 14th and 15th
symphonies to come.
As a result, this work comes across as the composer
imitating his earlier self - with inferior inspiration yet. All the mannerisms
are there but without anything much for the listener to cling to. Gluzman's
penetrating tone was dominant throughout, often enough to cover the strings in
back of him.