Mozart in Melbourne

2011-09-26 / The Age, Melbourne / Clive O’Connell

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Melbourne Town Hall, September 23

AT THE second Proms concert in a month, attendance numbers were down even though Friday’s program followed an unusually coherent time frame, the conductor a renowned expert in the 18th century content that the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performed, and the soloist having made a deep impression on previous visits. Possibly the disappointing numbers showed that Proms patrons may be willing to experiment with bagatelles from left field but want their main game to be familiar: symphonies by Brahms and Beethoven, concertos of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, overtures from Rossini and Mozart.

Still, the centrepiece of this concert was Mozart, the Piano Concerto No. 22; rarely performed but a treasure-house of melody and invention. Angela Hewitt made light going of both outer movements, setting a high standard in clear delivery and unflustered narrative where each episode fell into place without overexertion. Both soloist and conductor Roy Goodman emphasised the concerto’s subtle dynamic field and intellectual control: a real pleasure for Mozart enthusiasts and admirers of Hewitt’s elegant, seemingly effortless mastery of line and detail.

Goodman’s program included J. C. Bach’s Endimione Overture for Two Orchestras, enjoying blunt handling and raising yet again the question of why this spirited writer’s works get so little attention. At either end of the program came Beethoven’s Egmont Overture delivered with insistent aggression, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 99, Goodman and his willing forces underlining the score’s compressed brilliance right up to the false, applause-triggering conclusion in one of the composer’s most light-filled finales.