Two concerts into the Mainly Mozart Festival and all is well. The second concert on Thursday, June 15, was a mixed bag for moi. This was the third time I’ve been to a Mainly Mozart concert when they decided to skip the conductor and have the orchestra play off the leadership of concertmaster William Preucil.
The previous two concerts were overshadowed by the rest of the concerts, in my opinion, and I was afraid this would be the case on Thursday. I think I need a conductor to get the full experience.
Now that I think about it, the conductor is not only leading the orchestra. The conductor is also leading a good chunk of the audience’s experience. It’s as though a good conductor takes us over to the window to show us the view. The conductor can’t explain the view but can certainly let us know where to look.
Mozart's Symphony 29
Please understand that I am owning my Philistine status here. A “pure” concert, which is the for-sure way to look at a concert without a conductor, is just something I’m unable to negotiate as well. It could also have been something I ate.
The repertoire of the evening was Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 29.
I thought I could go my entire life without hearing another of Mozart’s violin concerti. They just aren’t my favorite Mozart. I’m afraid that’s still the case even after the beautiful performance on Thursday.
I will invoke the fact that Mozart composed all five of his violin concerti within a nine month period when he was 19 years-old and then never touched the idiom again. I think that indicates how dedicated Mozart was to the violin concerto.
If I were to get all psychoanalytical I'd say Mozart wrote the five he did to please his father, the violin pedagogist. I have nothing to base that on but I find it an interesting angle.
Look, this has nothing to do with the quality of the musicians or the abilities on stage. When it comes to that, I’m the leper and the Mainly Mozart orchestra is Jesus. Or maybe Mozart is Jesus, and the orchestra is the disciples, but I’m still the leper.
You don’t like the Christian tone? Ok. Mozart is Zeus, the orchestra is the muses, and I’m one of those goat-dude-things.
Why so much self-deprecation? Because the Mainly Mozart Festival is so good as to be almost beyond criticism. Almost.
The Horn Concerto by Richard Strauss was out of this world good. Soloist Andrew Bain tapped into The Force and played a flawless performance. As it turns out, Andrew Bain is the most famous horn soloist currently alive.
He knew a little about The Force
By what standard? The popular standard. Bain, the principal horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, played the horn solos in a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You may have heard of it. As an encore, Bain took us through some of the more famous leitmotifs of the Star Wars musical universe.
My feeling on Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 is that it was somewhat under tempo. It was sparkly clean and delightful, and played with a rigor which exceeded any standard you can think of, but it was missing a feeling of momentum which can make this symphony compelling music.
San Diego, there were more than a few open seats on Thursday night. Stop sucking at culture and start proving that our city is not the porcine side of the “pearls before swine” parable.