Review: The Mozartists’ 1769 – A Year In Music at Queen Elizabeth Hall

A near-capacity Queen Elizabeth Hall for The Mozartists‘ fifth instalment of music in Mozart’s life showcased baritone James Newby and soparano Chiara Skerath, along with some delectable musicianship from bassoonist Philip Turbett.

Ian Page’s introduction created an intimate heartfelt atmosphere, establishing the event as a two hours historical storytelling full of fascinating curiosities.

Spirited taut Mozart Symphony from Cassation in G major. First movement was joyous; fifth movement captivating thanks to a charming solo line from leader David Edgar. The musical material sometimes feels as though it loses its urgency – in places the musical development felt as though focus was lost by the composer, then I remembered what Page had said when he introduced the concert at the beginning: this was Mozart writing at 13 years old.

Chiara Skerath has an earnest kind of energy about her which is endearing. Her voice is rich and rounded. Sometimes the vibrato in the first Mozart bothered me a little, but its an inconsequential observation on my part and one, no doubt, borne out of ignorance.

The highpoint(s) came in the second half. Leopold Mozart’s Symphony in G major writing at the same time as his son Wolfgang, was a revelation. My assumptions about the Leopold is that he pitched his son around Europe because of his [Leopold’s] own shortcomings. That assumption isn’t based on evidence at all. Yet, listening to Symphony in G major and I turned to my plus one for the evening expressing surprise the work was as good as it was.

James Newby singing ‘Got, sieh dein Volk’ was electrifying. He is an amazing presence on stage. He also has a pleasingly well-clipped beard.

There were errors in the concluding Haydn though these didn’t distract from the performance so much as the work itself felt a little long and drawn out. The lasting thought at the end of the programme was the impact the young Mozart must have had had there been any conceivable situation when all of those composers got to hear each others works in 1769. I like the idea of it. I imagine it didn’t happen.

I’ve seen Classical Opera twice now – previously in the Barbican, and last night at Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank. They thrive with reduced forces in smaller spaces. A capacity audience creates a supportive atmosphere, and the pared-back stage makes helps promote focus attention on the players, without it feeling like we’re analysing things under the microscope. A sense of occasion exudes proceedings without being too over-blown. A good location for historical explorations.

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