Two kinds of touring orchestras often pass this way. First, those ensembles who are tense, brittle and jealous of their own powers--they arrive, anxious to show off, to conquer and to move on; they do so. Then, there are those who appear, usually looking fatigued, performing in a slovenly manner, uncaring and numb from travel, who play, and also disappear.
The Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, a well-groomed, warm-toned and musically neat ensemble of 45 (at its largest) from, of course, Austria, fit neither of those descriptions when it played at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena on Thursday night. No tour-sloppiness marred the group's visual or aural profile; no undue self-consciousness colored its Mozartean mellowness.
And mellowness there was in abundance in this Mozart program offering the Divertimento in D, K. 136, the D-minor Piano Concerto and the Symphony No. 38, "Prague."
Splendid ensemble, virtuosic and polished instrumental skills, unforced balances and a disarming and relaxed stylishness marked all the playing, especially in the familiar and exposing inner workings of the "Prague" Symphony. Some of these qualities may emanate from the modest but alert Hans Graf, the 36-year old Austrian who became the orchestra's music director last September. But the actual temperament and discipline of the ensemble seems to exist separately from its latest conductor.
Homero Francesch , a 35-year old native of Uruguay, was the elegant pianist in the concerto. He produced a reading which seemed at its start to be one of Spartan literalness, but later, in the Andante and finale, began to flower. Francesch's restraint, if that is what it was, achieved an unusual understatement of the dramatic content in this most Olympian of piano concertos.
The ensemble will repeat this program at El Camino College, Sunday at 8 p.m.