Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photos courtesy of Mostly Mozart and Getty Images
Mostly Mozart 2017
An enchanting evening was had by all!
We attended the opening production of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart 2017 Summer Season, and what a night it was! Music Director Louis Langrée was at his effervescent best as he led the Festival Orchestra through this most memorable of performances entitled “The Singing Heart”.
The concept for this program is anchored in the philosophy of the 18th century when the potential for contributions by children to society was first recognized. Previously childhood was believed to be simply a passageway to adulthood, of little intrinsic value to society. But with the dawning of the Age of Enlightenment came a new understanding.
Mozart composed the evenings opening piece, Kyrie, K.90 in 1772, when he was only 16 years of age. It was 10 years later when he composed the festive Symphony No. 35 in D major, K.385, commissioned by the Haffner family of Salzburg and commonly referred to as the Haffner symphony.
Conductor Langrée had taken an artistic decision to distribute the three movements of the Haffner symphony with interludes of coral pieces performed by the outstanding Young People’s Chorus of New York City (YPC), under the artistic direction of founder Francicso J. Nunez. In Mozart’s time this was a common occurrence and made for a delightfully diverse presentation. And so it was last night when the chorale opened the program with the Kyrie and the orchestra continued with the Allegro con spirito.
The entrance and on-stage presence of the children’s chorus was beautifully orchestrated and announced by director Nunez. Unfortunately his comments were not clearly heard on my side of the auditorium but more importantly the vocal presentation of the chorale was clear. The three folk songs that alternated with the Haffner were from different traditions. “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal” was popular during the 19th century in rural America, followed by the Andante from the Haffner. “ Três Cantos Nativos dos Indios Kraó”, an indigenous song of the Amazonian Kraó Tribe of Brazil, was followed by the final movement of the Menuetto and Presto from the Haffner and “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” a negro spiritual, was followed by “Ah vous dirai-je, maman” better known as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. The a cappella arrangement by director Nunez was joined by the entire children’s chorus aged 8-18, all holding tiny lights that sparkled in the darkened auditorium. Special note must be given to the presentation of the Brazilian piece which the children performed by making sounds associated with the rain forest evoking the sound of rain; the call of birds; and the whisper of the wind through the trees. It was magical and the audience responded with a thundering applause equal to the thunderstorm special effects sounded during the song.
The final program segment of the evening was the Fantasia in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80 (Choral Fantasy) by Ludwig Van Beethoven. Featured artist was pianist Kit Armstrong who began his venerable career at the age of five. Mr. Armstrong led off the Fantasia with fingers as hummingbird wings fluttering over the keys so rapidly and at the same time with such controlled movements and with such artistry that it was a joy to behold. He barely touched the keys and yet each note was cleanly defined. After his piano opening the orchestra joined in and finally the Concert Chorale of New York featuring Soprano’s Janai Brugger and Brandie Sutton; Mezzo-Soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano; Tenor’s Jack Swanson and Miles Mykkanen; and Bass Adam Lau, plus the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, for a rousing finale as only Beethoven can invoke.
The appreciative audience was awarded to an encore of an excerpt from Leonard Bernstein’s score for “Candide”, his stirring musical extravaganza that ended the evening on a satisfying high note.
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