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WCO: Mozart

Mozart: Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183
Mozart: Concerto in A Major for Clarinet and Orchestra, K. 622
Mozart: Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297/300a

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
Linda Bartley, clarinet
David Crosby, conductor


Clarinetist Linda Bartley was the featured soloist in an all-Mozart program by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Saturday evening at the First Congregational Church. David Crosby conducted, and a nearly full house was on hand for the concert.

The program opened with the Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183, written when Mozart was about 20 and clearly under the influence of the highly dramatic sound-picture of Gluck and C.P.E. Bach: stong dynamic contrasts, minor scales, large leaps, and manifestations of Sturm und Drang. The string ensemble, though small (five first violins, four seconds, 3 violas, two cellos, one bass) suits this style well by keeping the sound transparent. Crosby's tempos in quick movements were lively yet not breakneck, but I found his andante (a walking pace), just a bit too leisurely to maintain a good sense of forward motion. The level of playing was really quite good, however, with only a few slips (horns a bit late several times in the third movement, for example).

Mozart's final outburst of creative genius included the Magic Flute, K. 620, the Requiem, K. 626, and the Concerto in A Major for Clarinet and Orchestra, K. 622. Probably the largest and brightest gem in the whole clarinet repertory, this work's challenges separate truly great players from the merely good ones, and Bartley quickly claimed membership in the first rank. The outer two movements have a quality of outward simplicity, but in fact are extremely difficult to play because any faltering or small accident is glaringly exposed. As it turned out, there were no accidents. Both Bartley and the orchestra made the music sound elegant, as well as rich in subtleties.

One of the nicest aspects of Bartley's playing, I think, is the shape she brings to even a single note: it begins, it grows, it breathes out: to do that and stay in tune is an almost impossible order. This remarkably high standard was displayed stunningly in the intervening adagio, one of those sublime Mozart scores that embraces everything wonderful about making and listening to music. There was a well-deserved standing ovation for the players and the playing.

After intermission came yet another style from the master's pen, the Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297/300a, the "Paris" symphony. Here too there was very spirited playing in the outer movements and a slightly slow andante, but so well sustained that it worked. The only deficit I found here was a balance issue between strings and winds, and then only in softer passages, where the string sound was thin and pale along side the richer wind band; at forte this issue was absent.

All in all, it was an excellent concert, well received by a large audience, and gratifying evidence that the WCO is again growing artistically.

Isthmus, May, 1998
Copyright 1998 Jess Anderson

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