The Mostly Mozart concert on Tuesday at Lincoln Center was indeed mostly Mozart. Louis Langrée, clumsily billed as “Renée and Robert Belfer Music Director”, led his busy, occasionally rough and sometimes ready band through two of the master’s opera overtures plus a hum-along piano concerto. So far, so so-so. A compensatory shock emerged, however, with the world premiere of the first and only violin concerto by Magnus Lindberg.
Commissioned for the occasion, it uses the same intimate resources that Mozart required for his own concertos. Any similarity ends there. The Finnish iconoclast, now a grand old man of 48, has written a glittery and jittery little showpiece that steadfastly refuses to show off. It toys inventively with intricate expressive impulses, making a virtue of intellectual convolution. The soloist chatters with the ensemble one moment, rallies against it the next. In either case, impact depends on progressive structure, not melodic stricture. Despite its complexity, Lindberg’s 25-minute opus insists on making friendly sounds, the exposition taut and tense, the dynamic values subdued, the harmonic clashes relatively mild.
Lisa Batiashvili, a Georgian from Munich, played the forbidding solos with dauntless ease, fiddling elegantly while Lindberg’s rhetoric burned. It was a staggering achievement, appropriately cheered.
Otherwise there was less to inspire cheer, though the crowd cheered anyway. Langrée began the evening with an inarticulate race through the Figaro overture, balanced after the interval with a dull account of the Don Giovanni overture. Finally he accompanied Lars Vogt in a rather disjointed performance of Mozart’s A-major Piano Concerto, K.488. The German virtuoso made the introspective passages ripple with sensitivity worthy of Gieseking. Unfortunately, he tended to lose clarity in a quest for speed (his quest or the conductor’s?), and he sometimes let the gentle line turn suddenly explosive. A not-so-grand finale. ★★★☆☆
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