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Lesser Known Classics at the Mostly Mozart Fest

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Lincoln Center

The first program, entitled "The Singing Heart", in this year's Mostly Mozart Festival—which I attended on the evening of Wednesday, July 26th, at David Geffen Hall and which featured the house orchestra confidently conducted by the enthusiastic music director, Louis Langrée—proved to be an unusually memorable one.

The concert opened with the sublime Kyrie, K. 90, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, gorgeously sung by the appealing Young People's Chorus of New York City, under the direction Francisco J. Núñez. This was followed by a splendid account of the first movement of the same composer's excellent "Haffner" Symphony, with some of the movements interrupted by other works sung by the chorus, in accord with the practice of the time. These included the 19th century American hymn, "Hark, I hear the Harps Eternal", and the Brazilian "Three Indigenous Songs of the Kraó Tribe", as much performance art as beautiful music. After the final two movements of the symphony, the chorus performed the powerful black spiritual, "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel".
The choral director's enjoyable arrangement of the children's song, "Ah vous dirai-je, maman" was a prelude to the thrilling finale, Ludwig van Beethoven's superb, rarely performed "Choral Fantasy". The Festival Orchestra and the Young People's Chorus were here joined by the fine Concert Chorale of New York —directed by James Bagwell—along with the precocious pianist, Kit Armstrong, and a sextet of wonderful singers: sopranos Janai Brugger and Brandie Sutton, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, tenors Jack Swanson and Miles Mykkanen, and basso Adam Lau. An enthusiastic ovation elicited a magnificent encore, Leonard Bernstein's unforgettable finale to Candide,"Make Our Garden Grow".
The first week of the festival concluded with its second house orchestra program on the evening of Saturday, July 29th.
A lovely pre-concert recital featured Franz Schubert's lyrical, seldom heard Introduction and Variations on "Trockne Blumen" for flute and piano—based on one of the composer's songs from his extraordinary first cycle, Die schöne Müllerin—here effectively realized by flautist Jasmine Choi, accompanied by Roman Rabinovich.
After a brief introduction by guest conductor Edward Gardner, the concert proper began superbly with what proved to be the highlight of the evening: a moving account of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's rarely performed, glorious Masonic Funeral Music in C minor of 1785.
Acclaimed soloist Jeremy Denk then took the stage for a solid reading of Ludwig van Beethoven's ubiquitous Piano Concerto No. 4, in which he played the composer's own cadenza, which is standardly heard. Passionate applause was answered by a welcome encore, the exquisite Andante from Mozart's Sonata in C Major, K. 545.
The program concluded gracefully with an enjoyable performance of Schubert's lesser known, elegant Symphony No. 5.

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