Final Mozart Offerings Are Mainly Tepid : Festival: Basson solo is pallid, but Atherton and cohorts rise to the occasion in a spirited Symphony No. 33.
While expectant soccer fans around the world geared up for the opening of the World Cup in Italy, local music aficionados bade farewell to this year’s Mainly Mozart Festival in Balboa Park.
Friday evening’s final Mainly Mozart installment at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, however, did not match the musical heights of the festival’s other four concerts. In fact, it was tepid enough to start a Mozart lover daydreaming about soccer matches in Milan.
On the podium, music director David Atherton offered his customary lively tempos and alert direction, but Nancy Goeres, the soloist in Mozart’s B-flat Bassoon Concerto, K. 191, produced only a pallid facsimile of that redoubtable concerto. Her concept of the work seemed cramped, as she cautiously delineated its angular themes and backed away from high notes as if they might offend the listener or get away from the performer.
Goeres lacked the confident bravura of the festival’s other soloists, although in her role as the festival orchestra’s principal bassoon, she served well. Moving from the back of the orchestra to center stage, she simply lost her confidence.
The evening was not without its rewards. Mozart’s Symphony No. 33, K. 319, showed the festival orchestra at its best: polished, high spirited and deftly balanced. The players could not have been more sympathetic to the composer’s ample wit, and Atherton subtly underscored the work’s amusing structural novelties without losing its graceful overall shape. In William Boyce’s gregarious Overture in G Major and in the program-opening Overture to “Acis and Galatea” by Handel, Atherton and crew gave a stylish salute to British Baroque ceremonial music.
In toting up this season’s successes, the second year of Mainly Mozart can proudly point to a finer orchestra and smartly varied programming that avoided cliches. Attendance at the 10-day festival was solid, although it appeared to drop off noticeably after the opening weekend.
As Mainly Mozart looks to the future, it would be reassuring if maestro Atherton would articulate the festival’s larger vision. In its present form, a handful of concerts for Classical chamber orchestra, it merely bridges the local calendar from the close of the San Diego Symphony season to the opening of SummerPops. Why not work toward a real Mozart festival that would involve many local musical organizations, just as Atherton’s grand Stravinsky retrospective in London included not only his London Sinfonietta, but opera companies and symphony orchestras?