The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Joseph Noel Paton
Every now and again it is important to eat some crow and I had an appetite for it after the Mainly Mozart concert on Thursday, June 22. Previously I had said I could go the rest of my life without hearing another Mozart violin concerto. I was wrong.
If Augustin Hadelich is playing a Mozart violin concerto with the Mainly Mozart Festival orchestra and Michael Francis is conducting then I’m all ears. They played Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4.
Allow me to map the Mozart violin concerto as it has occurred in San Diego over the past few weeks. On May 20 we got Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 at the San Diego Symphony as conducted by Charles Dutoit and played by Simone Porter. Thursday, June 15, we got Violin Concerto No. 5 performed by Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster William Preucil and now Hadelich on the fourth. I don’t know that we’re going to find a better stretch of Mozart violin concertos anywhere at anytime.
Ye spotted snakes
Hadelich is a star. It is impossible to explain but plain to see. A touch of magic tingles in the air when he plays. His emotional connection to the music is undeniable whether it be Mozart or Samuel Barber at the San Diego Symphony.
Once upon a time I was young and spent my leisure hours haunting the “cutouts” section at a long forgotten temple named Tower Records. One day there was a CD of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Incidental Music. I risked the $2.99—no returns on cutouts — and was instantly mesmerized.
I bring up my Midsummer Night’s story because I got the feeling on Thursday that most of the audience was familiar with the overture and the wedding march but not the rest, and the rest is glorious. Is there anything more lovely then Ye spotted snakes?
Mendelssohn wrote the overture as a standalone piece when he was 17 years-old. He receives much deserved credit for producing a masterpiece at an early age, but let’s not forget about big sister Fanny. There is no doubt that Fanny guided the young Felix in his musical development before fading into domestic life while Felix became a knight in the War of the Romantics.
Fifteen years later Mendelssohn was commissioned to compose incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The music was designed to accompany the play in the same style as a motion picture score does nowadays. However, the music wasn’t intended to start until the second act.
The Mainly Mozart Festival put on a theatrical-ish performance with a narrator, Eva Barnes, and the solo female soloists, soprano Sharleen Joynt and mezzo soprano Julia Di Fiore, acting out various roles.
If Eva Barnes had been “off book” the evening would have been even more effective. Sharleen Joynt’s singing was ideally suited to the soprano fairy role. Mezzo soprano Julia Di Fiore was not given much by Mendelssohn to sing outside the ensemble.
Patterned lights were projected onto the walls and ceiling of the theater while paintings and images based on Shakespeare’s masterpiece were shown on a screen behind the orchestra.
The overwhelming sentiment of both the music and images was one of beauty. I was struck by the effort of the artists to produce the most beautiful scenes from the drama and Mendelssohn’s unflagging ability to pull a stream of gorgeous tones from the orchestra.
As an aside, every time I hear the woodwind chords, which begin the overture and show up again in the finale, I expect Scheherazade to follow.
Just before the conclusion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream there is a descending phrase in the strings. Never in your life will you experience a more poignant musical moment.
It was almost too much to handle. The conspiracy of the projections, the women’s chorus, the soloists, the narrator, and the orchestra had opened a passage directly to the Athenian woods of hallowed antiquity.
I felt the convoluted gaggle of thoughts and emotions which I consider to be myself begin to dissolve. The evening was an authentic mystical event beyond the lofty expectations which I already place upon the festival.