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Sinfonova - purest brand of Mozart

Dr. Eric Block, senior physician of the women's hospital in Halmsted, Sweden, uses an unusual aid to childbirth: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. When contractions start, a tape of Mozart's K. 467 Piano Concerto is played. The relaxed atmosphere in the labor room is said to make birth less painful and dangerous for the mothers-to-be, who have already practiced relaxation exercises to the music. The infant mortality rate in Halmstad is far below the average of other clinics.

Any American maternity units contemplating use of this all-soothing drug-without-side-effects would do well to prescribe heavy doses of Sinfonova brand, the purest form of the drug currently available.

Sinfonova's Jordan Hall concert last Friday night danced with delight but also fathomed what Alfred Einstein identified as quintessentially Mozartian "poignant pessimism," and did it with such touching contemplative beauty that no listener could escape finding elation in sadness.

Mozart's Divertimento in B flat, K. 137, began the evening in elegant and vibrant style. But it was in the Andante of the Divertimento in F, K. 138, that we reached the height of Mozartean rapture. The orchestra -- behaving as one transparent instrument -- evoked a texture of greater sublimity than words can describe: such pleasure in pathos can only be adequately expressed in tones, and Sinfonova's tones breathed the soul of Mozart.

We heard next the Boston premiere of Mozart's recently rediscovered Symphony in A minor, K. 16a. An early work -- and exercise in sturm und drang -- it is a symphony of contrasts, and Sinfonova brought it off with panache. The work opened with urgent dynamics, but the orchestra never failed to eloquently display the many curious little details to be found in the score with dash and taste.

David Deveau -- an instructor at MIT -- and Randall Hodgkinson provided a lively account of Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos in E flat, K. 365. The humor, the playfulness -- of Mozart the eternal child -- between the pianists was uplifting; but their response to the deeper questions asked in the Andante was breathtaking. The wonderfully colorful strings provided a serenely unifying force to support the soloists. Deveau, energetic and flighty, Hodgkinson, the introverted dreamer became one with the orchestra, and with Mozart too.

Andrei Gavrilov gave his Boston debut last Sunday: His command of the keyboard and exciting -- if massive -- style showed that this will not be the last time he plays in this town. Scriabin's Twenty-four preludes were shown in many lights, from icy harshness to romantic warmth. His grip on the works was mezmerizing. Perhaps particularly remarkable was his treatment of the Prelude in C sharp minor for the left hand, Op. 9, No. 1: One had to look to appreciate that he was only playing with one hand.

In the Rachmaninov, which followed the intermission, there was, at times, a little too much nervous frenetic energy and a few resultant passages of rawness, but his romance with the pieces shone through, making Gavrilov's a captivating recital.

Jonathan Richmond->