Friday, January 25, 2013

Langrée conducts Mozart in the Digital Concert Hall

Musical silences can cut like diamonds. Mozart marked several silences with fermatas in his overture to La Clemenza di Tito, and guest conductor Louis Langrée extended these moments to create the sense of wonderful strangeness in an all-Mozart concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker transmitted through the Digital Concert Hall.

The point of this strangeness connected with the extended silence just before the recapitulation; which then continued in reverse order; with the wind driven second theme group coming ahead of the dramatic fanfares which opened the work.

The Met has La Clemenza in its repertoire this season and fans have this entire opera ringing in their ears. It was welcome to hear the overture in this symphonic context because Mozart was so frequently concerned with blurring boundaries between orchestral music, sacred music, and opera. In the interval interview with Emmanuel Pahud, Langrée noted that one needs to balance concerns for pure structure in Mozart with concerns for the power and meaning drawn from the rich surfaces of the music itself. One "shouldn't interpret," said Langrée, "just balance the elements."

In an article specifically about Clemenza, I wrote about its underlying Dorian structure. Like Clemenza, the Davide Penitente K. 469 also begins and ends in C; but unlike Clemenza, shifts from the darkness of C minor into bright C major at its close. However, its deeper key structure shares a similar C dorian structure, with the key of its movements articulating various tones of the mode. This reading helps to explain the lovely impression created by the terzetto, which is set in E (which sounds like the brightened picardy third of the mode) but not E major...E minor: a darkened picardy.

Langrée connected the tenor aria (newly written for this specific work by Mozart) into the Chorus in G minor to form the central axis of the performance. The tenor aria also sought mercy (pietà perhaps rather than clemenza), rejoiced, and then followed a specially constructed transition directly into the chorus. It was in moments like these that make the impression created by this work vastly differed from the intention of the better known C minor mass from which most of the music was recycled (by Mozart himself).

Between these two works which could be brothers, the first half of the program closed with the late G minor symphony. In it one was drawn to counterpoint balanced with artistic care so that each part had meaning. When this concert arrives in the archive listen for the way that lines arced from one player to the next in the winds with elegant gracefulness. There was a dialog between clarinet and bassoon  near the end of the exposition where the colors sounded like two shades of a single instrument. As always the strings of the Berliner Philharmoniker played with burning colors that were particularly welcome on a cold winter day.

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