Tuesday, January 9, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Symphony Review
Mozart/Mendelssohn performance a subdued one

By Gregory Shepherd
Advertiser Classical Music Critic

It has long been accepted by many that Mozart’s last piano concerto (No. 27 in B-flat major) represents a kind of wistful farewell on the part of the composer, but little in the work actually supports this thesis. For one thing, the allegro (fast) tempo markings of the two outer movements are consistent with similar markings found in Mozart concertos generally accepted to be "sunny." For another, these two movements are both set in major keys and are chock full of playful turns of musical phrase.

An Evening in Italy

With pianist Marisa Tanzini, Guiseppe Cataldo and the Honolulu Symphony

7:30 p.m. tonight, Blaisdell Concert Hall


591-2211, 792-2000

Yet, on Sunday’s Honolulu Symphony concert, guest pianist Mariza Tanzini opted for the "wistful farewell" approach with mixed results. While Tanzini’s technique, with the exception of some overpedaled trills, was lucid and elegant her relatively funereal pacing of the work greatly detracted from its innate charm.

The first indication that the performance would be subdued came with the observation that the piano lid would not be fully opened, a practice not unheard of with Mozart, but a tipoff nonetheless. Next came Tanzini’s Chopinesque rubato in passages that practically screamed to be left alone.

The second movement is marked "larghetto" (slow but not dead-slow) but it was taken so lugubriously that one could almost hear the coffin lid being closed on poor Mozart. Finally, there is not a whit of sadness written into the final movement but in Tanzini’s hands Mozart’s notes sounded like rambunctious children trying to keep quiet at a wake.

Guest conductor Giuseppe Cataldo brought a dolefulness of his own to Mendelssohn’s "Italian Symphony," another work that begs to just be left to its own devices. Cataldo seemed to want to underscore every single inner detail of the work, with the result that its carefree Italian-ness was largely lost. It would be one thing if the performance of the piece were absolutely note-perfect, but there were several instances of orchestral sections playing out of synch with each other. The only movement that didn’t suffer from this interpretation was the Andante con moto which was allegedly inspired by an Italian funeral procession Mendelssohn observed. Are we seeing a theme here?

Rossini’s "Overture to (the opera) The Italian Lady in Algiers’" opened the program with a promise of effervescence that went unfulfilled in the two major works.

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