Glover leads MOB in music of Mozart and Haydn

By Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review
April 25, 2017

For its penultimate program of the season, Music of the Baroque turned to works of Mozart and Haydn, core repertory for the ensemble in the Jane Glover era.

Monday night’s program at the Harris Theater avoided the usual rococo suspects with two less frequently aired Mozart works alongside a late Haydn symphony.

Glover opened the evening with the ballet music from Mozart’s opera Idomeneo. The lengthy sequence–heard in abridged form Monday–is less graceful and Terpsichorean than restless and mercurial. Alternating passages reflect a driven agitation that nearly echoes the opening of his Symphony No. 25 and some of the rhythmic turns and abrupt tempo reverses make it seem like C.P.E. Bach has dropped in for a drink. Glover led a performance that was lithe and polished yet also concentrated on the minor-key drama, as with the boldly projected opening Chaconne. The score was given consistently firm and incisive advocacy by Glover and the MOB ensemble.

With winds, brass and timpani, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 is among his most symphonic essays in the genre. A big, expansive work, with a quarter-hour first movement, K. 503 is thematically rich yet oddly unsettled, with the music shifting constantly between the major and minor.

Regular Glover and MOB collaborator Imogen Cooper was the evening’s soloist. The veteran British pianist remains a graceful Mozartean, fluid if fitfully cautious in passagework. Yet while her performance was poised and idiomatic, Cooper’s approach centered on a kind of sturdy efficiency, light on expressive charm and individuality (and unaided by a pingy Steinway). With all the gifted pianists on the scene, isn’t it time for Music of the Baroque to cast a wider net for guest soloists?

Music of Franz Joseph Haydn remains almost completely neglected in Chicago. So credit to MOB for continuing to carry the torch with the Symphony No. 101 of Mozart’s friend and colleague closing the evening.

As with her Mozart, Glover firmly pointed up the contrasts in Haydn, drawing out the dark somber Adagio introduction of the opening movement, and thereby making the relentlessly cheerful Presto emerge even more buoyant and winning.

Under concertmaster Gina DiBello, the violins were notably elegant in the Andante set against the tick-tock counterpoint that gives the symphony its “Clock” title. The Menuet went with jaunty vigor, Mary Stolper’s supple, pure-toned flute solos highlighting the trio.

Glover led a finale that was duly energetic and observant of dynamics. Yet here, especially, one missed the genial wit and ebullience that Nicholas Kraemer invariably brings to Haydn’s music, with Glover’s direction seeming a bit straightlaced by comparison.

Music of the Baroque closes its season with Telemann’s oratorio The Day of Judgment May 14 and 15.