Spirited Mozart, Haydn from MOB

By John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
April 25, 2017

The group's name notwithstanding, Mozart and Haydn have been vital strands of Music of the Baroque's corporate DNA practically from the arrival of Jane Glover as music director 15 years ago. So it came as no surprise that the program of gems by those classical masters she conducted with the MOB orchestra on Monday night at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance turned out to be one of the organization's most enjoyable excursions into the late-18th century repertory.

Glover's soloist was her fellow Briton, pianist Imogen Cooper, a longtime friend and colleague who has appeared regularly with Music of the Baroque over the past dozen years. Together they delivered a Mozart concerto, No. 25 in C major (K.503), that was beguiling from beginning to end.

Cooper has long been one of the world's most eloquent and stylish Mozarteans, like her teacher, Alfred Brendel. Yet her approach to the C major concerto was very much her own—forthright in formal outline, firm yet elegant in tone, crystalline in articulation and chordal voicing, sensitive to the subtlest inflections of rubato, color and dynamics. Cooper and Glover's shared sensibility worked entirely to the benefit of this most grandly symphonic of Mozart's final keyboard concertos.

A celebrated 18th-century scholar and author, Glover wears her learning lightly when it comes to this repertory. Period manners are observed from a vigorous modern vantage point; they become the means to an expressive end, rather than the end itself. So it was with ballet music from Mozart's "Idomeneo" at the start of the program and Haydn's Symphony No. 101 ("Clock") at the end.

The crisp and hearty authority of Glover's Mozart and Haydn reminded you of her accomplishments as director of the London Mozart Players before her arrival in Chicago, witness the fine recordings she made with that ensemble. Her Haydn on Monday night was particularly winning. MOB's period-sized chamber orchestra — complete with mellow rotary-valve trumpets and timpani played with hard sticks — took wonderfully to her inspiriting direction. There was wit and warmth where needed, and, above all, a sense of Haydn as the most companionable of Enlightenment philosophers.