Ann Arbor Symphony sparkles for Mozart's birthday
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By Stephanie Kadel Taras
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra’s 2013 Mozart Birthday Bash was a reminder that homegrown talent deserves appreciation.
That was something Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did not always enjoy in his hometown of Salzburg, Austria. It is absurd to imagine 18th century aristocrats talking over his performances at parties and treating him like a servant. But Mozart gets the last laugh when his nearly 250-year-old compositions attract a full house to the Michigan Theater.
In a program designed to highlight the range of Mozart’s work—party music, solo instrument, opera, symphony—the Saturday concert also highlighted the range of fine musicianship that performs regularly right here in our community. Most of the featured artists in the Saturday concert were the Ann Arbor Symphony’s own, and they sparkled.
Welcoming the audience to the birthday celebration was a piece originally written as background music for an evening party. The Serenade No. 6 in D Major would have been played while partygoers mingled, drank, talked, and laughed. But how could Mozart’s music not occasionally force them to pay attention?
For this dialogue between a string quartet and a larger orchestra of strings and timpani, four of the A2SO’s principals—Aaron Berofksy and Barbara Sturgis-Everett (on violins), Kathleen Grimes (on viola), and Erin Zurbuchen (on bass)—stood in front of a seated orchestra. The arrangement revealed the tight blend of these accomplished musicians as well as the intricate layers of the composition as it is built one instrument at a time.
Later in the evening, A2SO’s principal trumpeter, William Campbell, took center stage for the Trumpet Concerto in D Major (by Wolfgang’s father, Leopold Mozart). Campbell’s dynamic range and surprisingly smooth delivery on a miniature-sized A trumpet communicated the tender beauty and playfulness of the piece.
When the stage filled for Mozart’s rousing Symphony No. 35 in D Major (“The Haffner”), the entire orchestra had an opportunity to show off. Before the concert, A2SO Music Director Arie Lipsky said the final movement of The Haffner appears on orchestral audition lists around the world because it is so difficult.
The first movement, with its repeated octave jump, was performed with such fiery enthusiasm it’s a wonder the musicians could keep their seats. This gave way to a lovely Andante, sweet as icing on a birthday cake. And the last movement, which Mozart declared should be “played as fast as possible,” clipped along in a blur of bows but without sacrificing control or elegance. It was amazing to see how quietly the violins could play at top speed.
With all these local riches, it hardly seemed necessary to invite world-renowned violinist (and U-M professor) Yehonatan Berick to solo in the Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major. But what is a party without an honored guest? Although Berick appeared a bit strained in the first movement, the woodwinds saved the day with harmonic balance, and by the Adagio, Mozart’s willowy passages dripped off the soloist’s bow. The piece ends suddenly with the woodwinds back on top, like a final nod to local talent.
And all the partygoers cheered.