Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 15, 2008

Mozart & Mendelssohn

Springfield Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall, Springfield
February 9, 2008
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

The music of a revered classicist opened the evening’s performance – the Overture to the opera, "Cosi fan tutte" ("women are all the same"), a lively five minutes, composed when Mozart was 33. His Symphony No. 29 in A Major followed, written when he was 18. During Music Director Kevin Rhodes’ pre-concert talk, he mentioned that Mozart could "imagine the entire piece in his head" before beginning to write. Honored by admirers as the most accomplished composer ever, the Mozart sound is readily recognized which is rather amusing inasmuch as he often mimicked others’ music. However, his unique essence cannot be eclipsed because often even his slow passages described by one Mozart aficionado as "pure silk."consist of millions of notes. That’s an exaggerated number but not by much.

Following intermission, Mendelssohn’s richly melodic Symphony No. 4 in A Major – The Italian – filled Symphony Hall with Romantic strains (revised by Mendelssohn in 1834 and not discovered until the 1990s). Of particular beauty were the French horns in the third movement. By presenting familiar passages followed by their revisions, the audience could play Holmes to Maestro Rhodes’ Dr. Watson. Not so fast! Without in-depth familiarity with the original score, pinpointing any changes was difficult to impossible with one exception: the revised final movement is a heightened triumph of whirling rhythms that brought the audience to its feet.

Here’s another nugget shared by Rhodes during his pre-concert talk: strictly speaking, Classical is not a blanket adjective but refers to music composed between 1730 and 1820. Other named periods begin with Medieval (476-1400) followed by Renaissance (1400-1600); Common (1600-1750); Romantic (1815-1910); Modern/Contemporary (1900-2000). Perhaps eons from now there’ll be assigned a contemporary avant garde classical period which will have been a stepping stone for an au courant classical body of work. And the beat goes on.