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Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Returns

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Read my review published today in the Style section of the Washington Post:

Charles T. Downey, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields at Strathmore: Mozart on the fast track
Washington Post, November 5, 2010

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Mozart, Piano Concertos 21/22, J. Biss, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
In its second area appearance this year, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields performed an all-Mozart concert on Wednesday night at the Music Center at Strathmore. The beloved group is on tour with American pianist Jonathan Biss, who will take up a teaching position at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, his alma mater, next fall.

With a light hand in two piano concertos, K. 271 and K. 414, Biss glossed over many details of Mozart's melodic decoration, creating a pale sound from the lidless Steinway that one might have mistaken for a pianoforte, only without the quirky tone of that older instrument. Biss has exceptional facility in his fingerwork, as well as superb control over the weight and volume of tone, but he tended to rush already fast tempos, which kept the astute Academy players guessing about where the next downbeat might fall. The delicacy of Biss's tone seemed as precious as his ultimately unnecessary attempts at conducting during pauses in the solo part: It was pretty, if slightly over-gesticulated, Mozart, but rarely more than that. [Continue reading]
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
With Jonathan Biss, piano
Mozart, K. 271 | K. 414 | K. 201 | K. 124
Music Center at Strathmore

April 2010 (Julian Rachlin) | February 2009 (Julia Fischer) | February 2006 (Gil Shaham)
Thoughts on the Mozart piano concertos


Anonymous said...

You know better than I, Charles, but I thought it was boring and Biss was not at all convincing or riveting in his play. And the conducting, well, the less said the better.

Charles T. Downey said...

Yes, that's more or less how I saw it, although I did not put it quite that bluntly.