Ian Page realised that Classical Opera is no longer a suitable name for his concert chamber orchestra, therefore The Mozartists is the name under which its new identity was launched at Wigmore Hall. Based on fourteen stringed instruments, the ensemble filled the platform and the well-balanced sound represented eighteenth-century style admirably. The ‘natural’ horns were particularly colourful, woodwinds were exceptionally skilled and ‘period’ matters were attended to with harpsichord continuo (played by Steven Devine) accompanying the arias. For the Symphony, the layout (hitherto placing all violins to the left) was changed and these instruments were reassembled antiphonally.
Mozart's Sinfonia concertante K364 featured leader Matthew Truscott and first viola Alonso Leal del Ojo. This was a bright, vivid reading, Page employing lively tempos and ensuring that rhythm was strong and chording crisply articulated. This was an excellent partnership, Ojo's tone being ideally warm and Truscott's elegance the ideal match This was a bracing performance in which expressive nuances and subtle shadings never impeded the forward flow. The first movement was strong and symphonic, the Andante coolly romantic with no sentimental overstatement and the swiftness of the Finale made for excitement yet the lyrical nature was preserved.
Louise Alder sang the two extensive recitative-and-arias vibrantly using a modest touch of vibrato and never allowing the cadenza-like moments to be vocal virtuosity for its own sake. There is more than a hint of similarity between that from Gluck's II Prologo of 1767 and the excerpt from Idomeneo composed by Mozart some thirteen years later. Perhaps the subject matter is unimportant – Gluck has Jove benevolently giving celestial blessings on behalf of all the gods. The orchestration is colourful with cello and oboe solos interweaving the extensive vocal line. The Idomeneo aria – an exposition of unrequited love – is also a fine exploitation of the soprano voice. Here Alder's lyrical singing was enhanced by oboes.
In Mozart 29, Page took a vivacious view of the opening Allegro moderato without being unduly fast. There were plenty of stylish long grace-notes to sustain the melodic line (though not quite so many as with Otto Klemperer who included them so convincingly) coupled with crispness of chording and clear balance. Less impressive was Page's unusual choice of repeats. It’s fine to have the Minuet’s two repeats made before and after the Trio because the rapid pace was akin to that of a Scherzo but I find it difficult to understand why both halves of the first movement were repeated whereas in the second and final movements only the exposition was restated. This said, the Finale was played with superb precision – the demanding up-rushing string figures exact in their execution and the fiercely demanding horn flourishes in the coda were splendid.
As an encore Louise Alder sang ‘Quanto mai felici siete’ by Giardini, a poetic aria accompanied by violas, cellos, bass and harpsichord – an opportunity to employ the gentler aspects of the soprano voice.