MOB wraps season with enjoyable music among friends

By Tim Sawyier, Chicago Classical Review
May 08, 2023

Johann Baptist Vanhal, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Haydn, and Mozart all knew each other in the musical hotbed that was Vienna in the 1780’s. The four composer-musicians even played string quartets together at what must have been memorable salon evenings.

Each was represented by a work on Music of the Baroque’s final program of the season, “Circle of Friends,” led by Dame Jane Glover at Skokie’s North Shore Center for the Performing Arts Sunday night.

As Glover added in gracious welcoming remarks, the four 18th-century composers were only one such circle on hand, adding that Music of the Baroque—the ensemble and its patrons—constitute another intimate band, as reflected in the program’s two concertante works, which featured soloists from MOB’s own ranks.
The first of these was Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Oboe, Cello, and Bassoon, with Gina DiBello, Anne Bach, Paul Dwyer, and William Buchman in the respective solo roles. These four made a sophisticated solo ensemble, playfully tossing Haydn’s intricately imitative writing among themselves in the spacious Allegro.

The soloists struck a more intimate chord in the reflective Andante, collectively spinning Haydn’s unassuming melodies. DiBello launched the closing Allegro con spirito with abundant esprit that her colleagues matched throughout the closing movement. Glover presided over a vibrant orchestral accompaniment, the players clearly eager to support their own.
Dittersdorf’s Sinfonia Concertante for Viola and Double Bass continued the evening’s genial theme, now with MOB stalwarts Elizabeth Hagen and Collins Trier in the spotlight. It was easy to appreciate why Haydn’s name has persisted through history while his noble counterpart’s has not; the exceptional oddity of the solo duo being probably the lone argument for performing the latter’s bland score.

Nonetheless, Hagen and Trier made the most of their unconventional solo turn. Throughout the work’s four movements they played with thoughtfulness and vigor that compensated for the awkward ranges of the instruments, particularly Trier, whole solo duties were generally more prominent and demanding. The closing Allegro ma non troppo went best, with the solo pair in engaged dialogue with their orchestral colleagues.

The evening’s concertante works were framed by two symphonies, with Vanhal’s Symphony in G Minor as an opener. This work clearly sounds like a precursor to Mozart’s more involved contributions in the same key (Nos. 25 and 40), particularly in the urgent pulsing of the Allegro moderato.

The ensuing Andante cantabile had prominent solo parts for DiBello and Hagen (back in their orchestral seats), which the two lofted operatically over Glover’s responsive support. Glover brought sinister gravitas to the heavy-footed Menuetto, and intelligently highlighted important structural moments in the scampering Finale.

The evening concluded with Mozart’s Symphony No. 34 in C Major, the last he wrote in his detested native Salzburg before relocating to Vienna, where he met his colleagues from the rest of the program. Glover led a crackling account of the opening Allegro vivace, emphasizing the movement’s dramatic harmonic and dynamic juxtapositions.

The symphony is in just three movements—none of them genuinely “slow”—and Glover injected a supple flowing quality to the central Andante. She and her colleagues capped the evening—and their Skokie season—with an infectious account of the concluding Allegro vivace, bounding in 6/8 with energy to spare. MOB’s friends in the audience met their efforts with appreciative applause, and a few waves of farewell until next season.