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Chamber Music, Recital Review

Another Mozart Birthday Fest

January 27, 2006 - Raleigh, NC:

Tired of Mozart? You're in some trouble, if you attend concerts, so perhaps you'd better stay home for the rest of the year and listen to Wagner CDs by, for example, "Dear Birgit" (who also performed – recorded – lest we forget – some impressive Mozart...). Yep, you're in trouble deep – because it's another big Mozart year. January 27 was the actual natal anniversary of the Birthday Boy, so the buildup's over – but the after-parties will continue unabated for months. Over at Meredith College on the big birthday, parking was at a premium, thanks to two concurrent events – the NC Dance Festival held forth in Jones Auditorium (for coverage of which, click here) while, in Jones Chapel, music department faculty members paid tribute to W.A.M. Just as there was competition for slots outside, so there was a logjam inside the sanctuary, which wound up packed – 'twas SRO, with people sitting on the balcony steps and in the anteroom, too. This was hard to believe, for a classical concert on a busy Friday night, even it if was free....

After a short delay to allow latecomers to find seats, organist David Lynch discussed the first numbers on the program – the three rarely-heard works for, well, "mechanical organ," composed for a gee-whiz museum. They do well on a real organ, and there's a nice one in Jones Chapel, and Lynch, who was assisted by his spouse, Marilyn, serving as Stop-Puller in Chief, played them nicely, although one of 'em sounds (as he said) like a calliope and all of 'em seemed somewhat "mechanical," for want of a better word. The artist's down-to-earth comments and his performances, too, were rapturously received by the capacity audience.

Another rarity, the Duo in B Flat, for Bassoon and Cello, K.292, was performed by two cellists –Virginia Ewing Hudson and Rebecca Lyman – in an arrangement by one J. Werner, who seems to have re-christened it as a "sonata." It was, like the opening organ pieces, pleasant enough, and the performance was pleasing, too, although it might have been a bit more incisive.

The intermission-less program concluded with the famous and much-loved First Piano Quartet, in g minor, K.478. It's such a well-known work that artists surely quake at the thought of all the "greats" who've played it, but there's nothing like a live performance, and the crew that essayed it this time – pianist Tom L. Lohr, violinist Dana Friedli, violist Lisa Randolph, and Hudson – did well enough, for a pickup ensemble. The reading was significantly enhanced by the use of a Bösendorfer grand, on loan from Ruggero Piano, and Lohr was, in turn, ably abetted by the string players, although – as in the Duo – things would have been much more exciting if Randolph and Hudson had emulated Friedli and thrown a bit more of themselves into the mix.

To tell the truth – which mamma once told me one should avoid at parties – there were little probs here and there throughout the evening – some halting and hesitation in the opening numbers, some balance issues in the Duo, and some intonation and ensemble challenges in the Quartet. That said, there were no serious blemishes, and the minor ones could all have been addressed with, say, one more rehearsal. The audience responded with warm and protracted applause, and there were several birthday cakes at the reception, so everything ended well.

See our calendar for lots more Mozart at Meredith – and just about everywhere else under the sun for now.