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Everything in its place

Roy Thomson Hall
01/10/2018 -  & January 13, 2018
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Serenade No. 10 in B-flat Major, K. 370a/361 "Gran Partita" – Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Bernard Labdie (conductor)

B. Labadie (© Jag Gundu/TSO)

The program for this concert seemed notably unambitious, with no bravura concerto or big-name guest. (This is not to diminish the stature of Bernard Labadie who, while technically a guest conductor, is by now very much a family member.)

And the lengthy work (45 minutes) on the program, the Serenade No. 10, called for just 13 players - 12 winds plus double bass. In many ways it can be described as a bijou work, but it is a surprisingly meaty one. Not only is it in seven movements, the fifth movement is a miniature three-movement symphony on its own, and the sixth a “theme and variations”. I especially loved the third (Adagio) movement with its forward pulse and gently rocking underlay. Mozart would have been amazed that the work would hold an audience in such a large auditorium, but this it did.

By the way, the Gran Partita was last performed by the TSO just three years ago, led by Louis Lortie.

The performance of the Symphony No. 39 - this time with about 45 players - arguably went even better than the serenade, from the rather portentous opening to the gentle fade at its conclusion. Many solo instruments were given a moment in the spotlight while Labadie in his usual manner deftly molded the various episodes within each movement.

The TSO has been working mightily to bring in a new audience, and this was evident partly due to the fact of applause after every movement. However, it was an attentive - and appreciative - audience. A bored audience will be restless, cough a lot (especially in January), and resort to the use of the iphone. There was very little of this.

Once again, the TSO demonstrated the magic touch it has acquired for Mozart during the 13 years since Peter Oundjian inaugurated the annual mini-festival.

Michael Johnson



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