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Philharmonia Baroque shows the sunny side of Mozart



Conducted by Nicholas McGegan.

Janel See, flute soloist.

All-Mozart program.

Jordan Hall, March 1.


NICHOLAS MCGEGAN and San Francisco's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra presented the sunniest imaginable side of Mozart in an evening of pure enchantment last Friday in Jordan Hall.

The opening work, Mozart's Symphony No. 33, danced along with a taut, clear sound, coaxing and teasing the humor out of the music. Little elements of surprise burst on the ear smilingly: This was absolute delight.

The second movement produced a sublime, happy legato, instrumental voices asking questions and receiving replies, cool woodsy original instrument winds projecting mellow hues into the sonic miscellany.

The finale was quite incisive, driving forth with great energy and joy.

Janet See next played solo in Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 2. Her sound was airy and open, cheeky and full of life: It was ticklishly funny at times. The ensemble engaged in spirited conversations with the soloist, and synergistically produced the quintessence of Mozart; like some wonderful fear-banishing potion, they admitted only the most hedonistic elements of rapture.

The andante took us into the world of melancholia, creating a feeling of ultimate repose, if doing so plangently. The presto then came in as if to consummate joy, transcending melancholy and, in its light playfulness, evoking a childlike pleasure. See's phrasing was wonderful: No nuance was missed; the orchestral accompaniment was perfect.

The Divertimento in D was equally happy and colorful, played like chamber music and with refreshing clarity and poise.

The Symphony No. 29 did seem very fast, probably because my favorite recording of the piece is from Karl B"ohm and the Vienna Philharmonic, and is very slow. I missed some of the meditative qualities B"ohm injects but instead enjoyed what seemed like a quite different work. Perhaps this underlines the fact that there are many faces of Mozart, many paths into his world, and many ways through which his music can lead us to enlightenment.

For an encore, written "I expect after lunch" according to McGegan, the orchestra played four L"andler, K. 606. Rude-sounding in their naughtiness, here was a scene for Amadeus -- and very satisfying it was, too.