Orchestral Music Review

Mozart Interruptus

October 10, 2001 - Durham, NC:

The all-Mozart program planned for the Duke Symphony Orchestra's October 10 Baldwin Auditorium concert was intriguing. Conductor Harry Davidson said that it was part of a series of programs that will end in concert performances of the opera Don Giovanni with professional singers in the spring season. The piano soloist was Olga Radosavljevich, a graduate of and now a distinguished faculty member and Chairman of the preparatory piano and Conservatory secondary piano departments at the Cleveland Institute of Music. (She is also the mother of former NCS violinist Katherine Manker.) In thirty some years of going to concerts in the area, there have been shamefully few performances of Mozart piano concertos. Due to schedule conflicts, this was my first opportunity to hear the Duke Symphony since the last appearance of Davidson's predecessor.

The concert opened with a very good performance of the overture to Die Zauberflöte. The ominous opening three chords came off well. Strings were remarkably assured with good intonation. The brasses were a little sour and tentative at the beginning but quickly gained in confidence. The woodwinds were accomplished.

The Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat, K.271, began with considerable promise. Davidson chose a good tempo that allowed time for exceptionally detailed string articulation. Despite a few sour notes, the woodwinds and brass were fine. Radosavljevich was an unhesitatingly stylish soloist. There was no hint of "porcelain Mozart" here - the notes were crystalline in clarity and the phrasing was totally convincing. The first movement was splendid but it quickly became clear that the soloist was in physical distress for she was short of breath as if she had been running a race. After a prolonged wait, she signaled that she would resume. The violins entered with their intonation a little off, not unexpected considering the growing concern for the soloist. After a few brave bars, the pianist was unable to continue and was taken to Duke Hospital.

After a long break to deal with the medical emergency, Davidson spoke to reassure the audience and musicians. He said that Radosavljevich suffered from "water on her lungs" and had experienced a high heart rate that quickly stabilized when the EMS crew administered oxygen. Her prognosis was positive.

The concert continued with an enjoyable performance of the Overture to Don Giovanni, K.527. The strings were very good and the woodwinds were mostly fine. After some early tentative attacks, the brass settled down.

Davidson ended the concert with an extraordinarily detailed interpretation of Mozart's Symphony No. 31 in D, K.297 ("Paris"). The first movement opened with unified orchestral sound that by no means was expected of a student orchestra. A great amount of attention was paid to string articulation. There was an unusually good sense of rhythm throughout. I wish that all professional performances in the area reflected such care!

Update: Maestro Davidson sent a follow-up report the day after the concert, when Mme. Radosavljevich was resting comfortably at Duke Hospital, where she will be undergoing tests for several days. He reports "We do not yet know when she will be able to return to Cleveland" and conveyed her "great sadness and regret about not being able to finish the concert and do the masterclass today [October 11]."