Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil continued their partial Mozart month on Sunday with a concert titled “Mozart 1791: The Final Piano Concerto.” In addition to the Piano Concerto, No. 27, in B-flat Major, K. 595, with Spanish pianist Javier Perianes, the concert included works composed very late in the composer’s life: the overture from the opera La clemenza di Tito, K. 621, “Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio,” and “Deh, per questo istante solo,” both also from La clemenza di Tito,” Laut verkunde unsere Freude, K. 623, and the Ave verum corpus, K. 618.
The program opened with the overture to La clemenza di Tito, a typically short and stylish Mozartian opera overture (five minutes), but packed with immediately singable melodies which the smallish Mozartian LA Phil pulled off with ease and panache.
The first half concluded with Mozart’s final piano concerto, one that is every much a masterpiece as some of the more recognizable ones, but one that is more subdued and reflective, and still filled with sublime melodies. As he always does, Dudamel provided sensitive accompaniment for Perianes who was able to get a sound from the grand Steinway that itself bespoke of intimacy. His playing was rich but never overstated, and was a perfect vehicle for this Mozart concerto. And instead of a flashy encore that could show off his technique, Perianes chose a similarly restrained and intimate work, the Nocturne No. 20 by Chopin.
The second half began with the two selections from La clemenza di Tito with the American mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges. In the first selection, “Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio,” Bridges was joined by the LA Phil principal clarinetist, Boris Allakhverdyan, whose silky-smooth playing complemented Bridges’ exquisite singing.
“Laut verkunde unsere Freude,” which is listed as the last composition in his catalogue, and was composed during his final illness, was a tribute to his fellow Masons (Mozart was himself a Master Mason) and features three male soloists, two tenors and one bass, sung with conviction on Sunday by tenors Paul Appleby and Jon Keenan and bass-baritone Aubrey Allicock. This little throwaway cantata, along with the other selections on Sunday’s program, showed Mozart’s facility for expressing himself just as brilliantly with vocal as well as with instrumental music.
The concert concluded with the sublime Ave verum corpus, also composed in his last year of life and seemingly a harbinger of his own death. Composed for the Feast of Corpus Christi for strings and chorus, this short motet seemed divinely inspired, although for Mozart it shows once again the range of his musical genius. On Sunday, the equally sublime LA Master Chorale joined Dudamel and the LA Phil for the Ave verum corpus.
Dudamel, ever the humble conductor, kept such a low profile throughout the concert, it was almost as if he were letting Mozart’s music conduct itself. And the orchestra was content to be the conduit for Mozart’s genius and let the music speak for itself.
Sunday’s entire program, plus next week’s concerts, which include the Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622 and selections from The Magic Flute, K. 620, showed that Mozart breathed music the way we mortals breathe air.
—Henry Schlinger, Culture Spot LA