Fri, Sep 24, 2010 - Page 15 News List

MUSIC: Booing not obligatory

By Bradley Winterton  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

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Period instrument specialist, musicologist and keyboard performer Christopher Hogwood takes the stage on Oct. 1 at the National Concert Hall, conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in an altogether bizarre program.

The concert begins with Webern’s orchestral version of the last section of Bach’s A Musical Offering. It’s known as a “ricercare,” an early form of the fugue, and only lasts six minutes.

Then comes the concerto. Mozart wrote his much-loved Clarinet Concerto in 1791, but the clarinet was in those days a new instrument and few people knew how to play it. So it wasn’t too surprising that in 1802, after Mozart’s death, a version was published with a viola as the solo instrument. The two instruments share something of the same range, but although the viola was reportedly the instrument Mozart himself most loved to play, he never wrote a concerto specifically for it.

Hogwood has edited this score for modern publication, and in addition made a version of it for viola and piano. Creating scaled-down versions of orchestral works for domestic performance was a common practice in Mozart’s time. The viola player in Taipei will be Paul Silverthorne.

The first item after the interval is Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, known as the “Serioso” quartet, as arranged for string orchestra by Mahler. Mahler made three such arrangements during his early years with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Actually Mahler made almost no changes, merely adding a bass part in a few sections. The premiere of his orchestral version of the quartet being performed next Friday actually elicited loud booing, a response unlikely to be duplicated in Taipei, perhaps unfortunately. We live in less demonstrative times.

Even the concluding work, Mozart’s Symphony No. 32 in G Major, is an eccentric choice. It consists of only three movements and they’re played without a break, with the result that it sounds more like an overture than a conventional symphony. Indeed the work was used by Mozart himself six years after its composition as exactly that — an overture to someone else’s opera.

The entire program appears very short, not much more than an hour long, if that. Let’s hope there will be some substantial encores. There’s also something more than a little precious, even finicky, about the items chosen. It would be wonderful to hear Hogwood launch into altogether more full-blooded items at the end, if only for contrast — a couple of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches, for instance. Not that there’s very much chance of that.

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