Mozart in Calgary

2009-09-26 / Calgary Herald / Kenneth Delong

Hewitt delivers magical evening of Mozart

CPO Classic showcase series Angela Hewitt, piano Roberto Minczuk, conductor

The start of a new CPO season always makes the pulse beat a shade faster, and elevated pulses could definitely be felt in the orchestra and in the audience at the opening concert of the orchestra’s main Classics Showcase series.

Conductor Roberto Minczuk was on hand, and well-known Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, on a career high with the release of her new rerecording of the Bach Well-Tempered Clavier, was the soloist. With the program featuring three of Mozart’s most beloved works, the ingredients were in place for a magical evening of music.

And there certainly was magic, and where the magic might have been missing, there was at least the comfort of familiarity.

The most magical moments of the evening came in the Piano Concerto in C major, K 467, performed, one should add, on a Fazioli piano. As a general rule, Steinway pianos are the king of the hill when it comes to concert grands, but there are a few pianists–and Hewitt is one of them–that prefer the slightly warmer, softer-grained sound of the Fazioli.

Happily, Mount Royal Conservatory is the home of one of these still relatively rare instruments and it was good to hear the instrument in action in Jack Singer Concert Hall, and with a pianist of Hewitt’s calibre at the keyboard.

Hewitt coaxed from the instrument the most delicious of sounds, the runs a shower of pearls and the melodies fragrant as a rose. This was Mozart playing of the highest distinction, with Hewitt’s musical concentration evident at every turn.

The music of Mozart falls in between the discipline of Bach and poetry of Chopin and Ravel –composers that Hewitt has recorded to perfection. It was the blend of these musical and tonal values that made her performance so interesting and memorable: the rhythmic spine was always there, but so, too, was the underlying sense of melody and charm that always draws the listener to Mozart.

With all the sparkle and wit of the framing movements, it was the celebrated middle movement of the concerto that provided the most magical of the musical moments, the piano luminous against the muted strings of the orchestra, the poetry of the playing transporting.

The program also contained two symphonies, the Haffner and the late G minor, one of Mozart’s greatest works. Of the two, it was the Haffner that came off the better on this occasion, the string playing crisp and vivid, and the tempos well-judged by Minczuk, except for an overly brisk slow movement.

The G minor symphony certainly contains romantic elements, but on this occasion this aspect threatened to move the entire performance into the world of the grand romantic symphony. The overall sound was heavy and filled with tonal fat, the result, perhaps, of Minczuk’s view of the work.

This approach to Mozart, and this symphony, is certainly familiar and characteristic of German conductors of the 40s and 50s.

Today, however, such a view seems slightly out of date.