The Mainly Mozart Festival concluded on Saturday night with a program of music which was both brilliant and, shall we say, curious?
Gilels plays Rachmaninoff
Prelude Op. 23 No. 5
The Toy Symphony by Leopold Mozart was the first piece on the program. It is not a great composition. It is a mediocre piece of music fueled by gimmicks and silliness. A row of “toy” instrumentalists stood at the foot of the stage and played a small army of noisemakers.
I was tempted to stand and impersonate Monty Python's Graham Chapman, “Stop that. It’s silly.” In spite of the silliness or perhaps because of it, I found myself enjoying the wry performance of the serious musicians “having a bit of a lark.”
Wolfgang’s miniscule Symphony No. 5 followed as a vehicle to clear the silliness from the hall and make way for a prodigy to perform a prodigy. Gavin George was the 12-year-old soloist for the concerto. That’s five years younger than Mozart was when he wrote the piece.
As the performance progressed I had the distinct feeling that Mr. George was unchallenged by Mozart’s offering. I’m not saying that the music was easy. I saying that it felt as though George had everything securely in hand and wasn’t even close to maxing out his bandwidth.
He played an encore of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude: Opus 23 No. 5 which pretty much sealed the deal on his abilities and my theory about his bandwidth. If the Opus 23 were a Sea of Monsters, then Gavin George is a real life Percy Jackson.
Stop that. It's silly.
...a snippet from Monty Python
I’ve never read Percy Jackson, but I know 12-year-olds like it, so, there you are.
Mendelssohn Symphony No. 1 was the piece of music that concluded this year’s festival. After the balanced and polite music that preceded it, this youthful music sounded like The Rite of Spring. Maybe not, but it exploded into the hall with a romantic ardour that made the rest of the concert almost appear to be a warmup.
The cello’s “song” in the second movement stunned me with it’s beauty and elegance as it arose unexpected from the cozy confines of Mendelssohn’s andante second movement. Even at the age of 15, Felix’s predilection for "songs without words"was apparent.
The music sang and filled the heart of the Balboa Theatre. Will it be enough to sustain the old girl for the next 50 weeks? I think so.