Mozart: The Mixtape
London Mozart Players
Fairfield Halls, Croydon
A gala concert to celebrate the 75th anniversary of London Mozart Players by Harry Blech, this event rather neatly replicated a concert which Mozart organised in Salzburg on 23 March 1783. Thus we got a symphony, two piano concertos, three soprano arias (Anna Prohaska) and two movements of a serenade.
Croydon is the current London Borough of Culture in connection with which, LMP, based at Fairfield Halls, has a partnership with a an inclusive photographic project, 100 Faces of Croydon. So the evening began with a short film about that. Then – a long way from Mozart and the concert’s title – we got Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique for 100 Metronomes which involved audience members, mostly those 100 Faces of Croydon, standing up with their ticking metronomes and a rather engaging sound like pattering rain.
Of course, LMP play beautifully. They really don’t need gimmickry such as peculiar red lighting (to match their festive red and black outfits?) to remind us of this. And even the players began to look puzzled/amused by the amount of stage smoke unaccountably being puffed across the stage.
We began with Haffner symphony (vibrant with a nicely highlighted contrast in the second subject) and “began” is the operative word. After one movement Petroc Trelawny appeared to explain what the concert was about. Then we heard the two middle movements (lovely filigree flute work in the second movement) but we had to wait until the very end of the concert for the fourth movement (nippy pace and splendid timp work). Well, this is apparently how Mozart programmed in in 1783 but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. As far as I’m concerned a symphony is an integrated four (usually) section work and I want to hear it played all together and in the right order, please. I know the word “mixtape” was in this concert’s title, but no thanks.
Imogen Cooper played Mozart’s piano concerto no 12 in C which is deceptively simple and doesn’t get as many outings as it should. It was stylishly played with the first movement’s dynamics and key change delivered with gentle strength and a pleasingly understated andante.
Martin James Bartlett’s take on Mozart’s first completely original piano concerto (K588) was so different in style that the piano sounded like a different instrument. Somehow he made it rattle like a harpsichord. I admired the beautiful horn work in the slow movement and Bartlett’s deftness of touch in the rondo as it winds through its witty variations.
Between items we were treated to filmed homage to LMP by various people who have worked with them and lots of input from Trelawny who also interviewed conductor Jonathan Bloxham. Well, since it was being recorded for broadcast on Radio 3 in a couple of weeks, he needed to explain a lot. Yes, I understand that but, good as he is at what he does, the constant repetition becomes very tedious for a live audience. It was a long concert by modern standards and could have done with a lot less chatter so we could all have got an earlier bus home.
Nonetheless it’s good to see a much broader audience demographic than you usually get at classical music concerts, even if the woman next to me managed to kick her metronome into action by accident during a quiet passage and never stopped reading stories on her phone about Prince Harry for the entire two and a half hours.