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Mozart magnified

Koerner Hall
01/13/2017 -  & January 14, 2017
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 33 in B-flat Major, K. 319 – Piano Concertos No. 14 in E-flat Major, K. 449, & No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482
Emanuel Ax (piano)
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Michael Francis (conductor)

M. Francis & E. Ax (© Jag Gundu)

Soon after Peter Oundjian became music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2004, he inaugurated an annual Mozart festival and, over the years, has managed to create a core group among the TSO players that has developed an exceptional approach to the classical repertory. The Mozart series rarely sold out the 2600-seat Roy Thomson Hall (one exception being last year’s staging of Mozart’s Requiem) and this year has moved to the 1135-seat Koerner Hall.

It comes as no surprise that the resulting experience was greatly enhanced. Music that was already scintillating and pleasurable has gained an element of drama. In an intimate and understated work like Symphony No. 33 small musical gestures from, for example, the bassoon, were almost startling. Conductor Michael Francis brought forth a fully-supported sound from the orchestra throughout. There were about 40 players for the symphony and first concerto, and closer to 50 for the weightier K. 482.

It was a treat to hear regular visitor (always welcome) Emanuel Ax in two concertos which, although composed just a few months apart in the busy period of 1784-85, provide quite a contrast. He brought forth intimate grandeur within Concerto No. 14; he could have made more of show of the final movement’s playfulness but simply did not have to. There is a lot more musical drama in the 22nd Concerto, what with the extra woodwinds and tympany. His cadenza in the final movement was a clever summation of the entire work.

Mr Ax gave us a lovely encore, Chopin’s ruminative, rather melancholy Waltz in A Minor.

There was a good deal of coughing in the audience, usually a sign of disengagement (the usual Koerner Hall audience is a model of rapt attention). But each piece received an enthusiastic response, especially the two concertos.

Michael Johnson



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