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Vienna Chamber Orchestra

Sunday evening in the Music Center at Strathmore, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra performed works of Mozart and Haydn. The concert, led from the podium and piano by Conductor Laureate “For Life” Philippe Entremont, was presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society. The orchestra played with fluency, figural clarity created by emphasizing shapes instead of notes, and resolute ensemble. Under an aural microscope, trills within sections and even upper-string tremolos were synchronous to the point of perfection, yet on the opposite end of the spectrum from the safety of monotony or predictability. Through absolute knowledge of the score, the musicians were able to point more receptive focus toward their peers and conductor rather than the score, whereby physically the musicians often exchanged smiles and exuded upward energy along with the sounds from their instruments.

The third Menuetto movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D Major (“Haffner”) allowed the musicians an opportunity to waltz as the Viennese do best. The Finale: Presto movement purveyed boundless energy in a dashing tempo that never sped, while the brass contributed colorful hues with noble reserve and balance. Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 (“London”) was approached with simplicity in mind. Long notes contained a transparent beauty, and certain attacks by the lower string sections had a perfectly timed bow smack, particularly effective in the final movement (Allegro spiritoso), something like a peasant's hoe-down. Perpetually on the edge of technical clarity, the final movement’s strength would have been weakened if Entremont had taken it just a hair faster.

Other Reviews:

Cecelia Porter, Entremont brings Vienna's charm to Strathmore (Washington Post, November 24)
Entremont was unable to attain this sparkling balance when conducting Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466. It was also not helpful that his back was to the audience and the piano lidless, with blurry sound wafting upward in combination with generous use of the damper pedal. Well-executed cadenzas and nice moments in the work did not overcome this problem. As encores, the audience warmly elicited a wonderfully affected Blue Danube (in balance despite all of the stilting), and a familiar waltz to which everyone enjoyed clapping.

The next concert in the WPAS Classical Series is a keenly anticipated recital by German violinist Viviane Hagner, tonight at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (November 24, 7:30 pm).

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