October 6, 2012
by Michael J. Moran
The Arcadia Players, an instrumental and vocal ensemble based in the Pioneer Valley and presenting music of the Baroque and earlier periods in historically informed performances, launched its 24th season with a varied program of concertos and other works by Mozart and Haydn. They were led by Ian Watson, beginning his ninth season as their Artistic Director.
The concert opened with the two-minute Overture to the one-act comic opera "Bastien et Bastienne" by the twelve-year-old Mozart. It was notable for introducing the guttural but full sound of the Arcadia strings and for a passing melody that foreshadowed a theme in Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony.
This was followed by Mozart's first work for a wind instrument, his only surviving Bassoon Concerto. Still the major repertory concerto for the bassoon, it showcased the formidable interpretive and technical skills of soloist Andrew Schwartz, who returned to his seat as a member of the ensemble for the rest of the program. His colleagues gave him solid support.
The first half of the concert closed with a piece by the mature Mozart, his Keyboard Concerto No. 12, in an exuberant performance on the fortepiano by Monica Jakuc Leverett. The metallic sound of the fortepiano, a cross between a harpsichord and a modern piano, took some getting used to, but the soloist's sensitivity to the concerto?s shifting moods displayed its full expressive potential.
Following intermission Watson led Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1 from keyboard continuo in a thrilling account with Arcadia cellist Guy Fishman as soloist. After playing the virtuosic cadenzas in both the first and second movements, Fishman dispatched the Allegro Molto finale at record speed. The tone of his Baroque cello was rich but slightly sharp-edged.
The concert closed with a radiant performance, featuring soprano Kristen Watson, of Mozart's motet "Exsultate, Jubilate," which Fishman, in his witty and literate program notes, calls a "concerto for soprano and orchestra." Watson's clear, bell-like voice brought the program to a lovely close.