A romp down Mozart's path

The Addo Chamber Orchestra performing contrasting piano concertos by Mozart and Prokofiev in a file photo taken on Aug 16, 2015.
The Addo Chamber Orchestra performing contrasting piano concertos by Mozart and Prokofiev in a file photo taken on Aug 16, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE



Addo Chamber Orchestra

The Chamber, The Arts House

Last Friday

The Addo Chamber Orchestra continued its popular Mozartean Experience concerts with another light-hearted romp, this time at the historic Chamber of Old Parliament House.

The venue was bathed in an eerie pale blue light and at one corner sat a bewigged woman in period costume talking and singing to herself.

Members of the orchestra walked in, completely ignoring her, much to her consternation. Respect was what she deserved as she revealed herself to be the ghost of Anna Maria Mozart (1720 to 1778), devoted mother of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Except she was not an apparition, but the irrepressible Italian dramatist-soprano Sabrina Zuber.

This is how Addo Chamber Orchestra's Mozartean concerts usually begin, with an educational angle dressed up in finery and frippery. It was a relief that conductor Clarence Tan did not show up wearing a wig too as he had on previous occasions. But there was a cheeky nod to the nation's founding prime minister when he addressed a centrally seated gentleman as Kuan Yew.

Then the music began with seven female string players descending on Mozart's Divertimento In D Major (K. 136). Even if the strings of this familiar music sounded thin, there was no denying the vitality of its outer movements. In between was an elegant slow minuet, which came across very gracefully.

Next was a rarity, the Double Bass Concerto In D Major by the almost-forgotten Italian Antonio Capuzzi (1755 to 1818), who was active as a conductor and violin virtuoso in Vienna during Mozart's time.

It may be cruel to state that some works are justly neglected, but because this was written for the great bass virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti, it deserved an occasional dusting.

Bassist Damien Kee did the honours, turning the unwieldy instrument into a kind of super-sized violin by being unexpectedly nimble. The melodies were banal, which he kept mostly in pitch, and there was an aria-like slow movement to save the day. The finale saw him egged on by a pair of oboes which seemed to say: "Catch us if you can."

There was a comic moment when Kee had difficulty adjusting his music stand, attributing that to ill spirits, to which Frau Mozart retorted: "This is poor manpower, my dear child."

The final work was a symphony in B flat major by Mozart, but which Mozart? The work that was designated as Symphony No. 2 (K. 17) by Wolfgang Amadeus was actually written by Leopold, his father. This short four-movement piece came from the infancy of the symphonic genre and, for all its pleasantries, was as generic as one could get.

There were remnants of the baroque, influences of Haydn and the Italians, and simple tunes which the orchestra whipped off with relative ease and gusto. Anna Maria also tried her hand in conducting - with a fan - but that was mercifully short as the concert wound to a humorous close.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline 'A romp down Mozart's path'. Print Edition | Subscribe