Conductor and violin soloist: Amalia Hall
Mozart: Violin Concerto No 5 in A, K 219
Mozart: Symphony No 31 in D, K 297, “Paris”
St Andrews on The Terrace
Saturday 6 June 2020, 1 pm
This was the first of three concerts entitled “Amalia and Friends” featuring three violin concerti and three symphonies by Mozart: “Paris”, “Prague” and “Linz”.
After nearly three months of lockdown without live music, this first outing for Orchestra Wellington was an almost festive occasion for its Wellington audience. Over the past weeks the NZSO has invited us in to individual members’ homes for cameo performances in the “engage@home Play Our Part”, and there has been a multitude of Youtube creations mainly referring to Covid Lockdown situations, but we’ve been starved of live music performances.
With a limited capacity in St Andrews the available tickets “sold out” very quickly and many keen supporters of the orchestra missed out. Although there was a limit of one hundred in the audience, there were few signs of separation for physical distancing, as many in the audience came in groups and would naturally be comfortable sitting together. It was a “free” concert but the audience was encouraged to make a koha as names were checked off at the door.
The violin concerto is the last of the five that Mozart wrote while still a teenager and has earned the nickname “Turkish” from the lively dance-like middle section of the final movement. The orchestra for this work has a reduced string section and only oboes and horns in the wind section.
Amalia made her appearance in an elegant black velvet dress slightly off the shoulder and welcomed the audience. She then stepped back amongst the strings and directed the orchestra just as Mozart would have done. But the difference here was that she played with the tutti sections until her solo began. The first movement is labelled Allegro Aperto – aperto meaning literally “open” – it is thought that Mozart intended this movement to be played more broadly than the “allegro” would suggest. This was certainly the impression I had with the opening section, assertive yet graceful, followed by a complete change of mood and tempo with the adagio introduction of the soloist. When she took up the solo she stepped forward, unobtrusively turning pages on her ipad with a foot pedal.
The second movement opened as did the first with an orchestral tutti before the entrance of the soloist. With many modulations this movement seems to be somewhat sombre in mood, which is in great contrast to the Rondo, whose middle section launches into a vigorous dance-like rhythm which has earned the entire work the nickname “Turkish”. With it’s radical leaps and percussive bass techniques it probably sounded very exotic to Mozart’s audiences.
Each movement features a cadenza, the last two written by Amalia herself. She has an engaging presence and her performance showed great rapport with this style and in particular she handled the pianissimo passages with faultless delicacy and control. One member of the audience later told me “her violin sang”.
The “Paris” Symphony was written a few years later when Mozart was, as you might expect, in Paris. It seems he didn’t have a very high opinion of the Parisians and hoped to please the audience with “simple” music and several repeated sections. It seems he succeeded as the work was greeted enthusiastically at the time, as it was on this occasion. It was here that he found that he had a much larger orchestra to work with and for the first time used clarinets (and flutes, trumpets, horns, bassoons and timpani).
Perhaps it was because I’d heard nothing but recorded music for nearly three months, or perhaps because I usually hear this orchestra from the far reaches of the Michael Fowler Centre, but in these more intimate surroundings, the orchestra sounded more vibrant with more clarity and more precision than I’ve experienced previously. What a pity it is that it would not be economic to put on more concerts in similar venues.