This was the morning after the night before, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin reprising Leg Five of their Mozart Festival and about to change programmes for their evening appearance (us webcast-receivers have to wait twenty-four hours for our share of the ‘Prague’ and ‘Jupiter’ Symphonies and contributions from flute and harp).
To begin with we were serenaded with ‘a little night music’ (pre-Sondheim), stylish, dynamic and elegantly turned, the DSO strings (violins antiphonal) pointed and unanimous in the outer movements (the Finale, ideally poised and springy, familiar as the sig-tune of BBC Radio 4’s long-running Brain of Britain quiz), and with the nominally slow movement inviting the implied romance before quickstep variations upped the pace, and the Minuet was also vigorous. Then to the compact ‘Haffner’ Symphony (a remarkable work), fiery and vivid in the first movement, all-important oboes to the fore, and with embellishment placed precisely. Then the Andante beguiled (further serenading) and expressed fully, following which the Minuet was courtly, the Trio a liquid centre (with a delightful hesitation), and the Finale matched exuberance to clarity.
An Overture opened the second half, one Köchel-number down from the ‘Haffner’ Symphony, the beginning of Mozart’s Turkish opera, involving abduction and a harem. Whether Seraglio or Serail, it’s a vibrant (percussion-fuelled, four players!) and lyrical piece, brought off with theatrical intent. And finally (for the moment), the spacious ‘Linz’ Symphony; as throughout, Slatkin conducted from memory. The introduction promised much and the performance went on to deliver – an astute tempo signalled the grandeur of the first movement (good to hear timpani and trumpets well represented), and the slow movement – if more an Andante than a Poco adagio – retained its serenity and bearing, and observing the repeat added gravitas. The Minuet conjured an imperial ball, the Trio suggested the intimacy of a dancing couple, and the Finale, not so Presto as to be a scramble, was crisp and shapely, shaded and significant, the DSO and its conductor showing no signs of fatigue.