By Lawrence Budmen 

While many concerts are commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, the Staatskapelle Berlin’s Monday program with Daniel Barenboim in the dual roles of conductor and pianist ranked among the memorable.

Barenboim is a consummate musician. A brilliant keyboard virtuoso by the time he was a teenager, Barenboim is a first rate orchestral technician and an artist of rare insight. His Berlin orchestra, an Old World ensemble that plays with the intimacy and rapport of a chamber group, has roots that date back to 1742 (making it more than a century older than Mozart - and the second oldest orchestra in the world). The orchestra’s strings produce a warm, rounded tone that is typically Central European. (Among American ensembles, only the Cleveland Orchestra – with Miami on its future agenda – can boast a comparable sound.) 

Mozart’s music has always been a Barenboim specialty. His performance Monday at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Concerto No.23 in A Major featured equal parts artistic maturity and youthful discovery. Barenboim remains a nimble, fluent keyboard artist with a pristine sense of Mozartean style. He clearly understands the poignancy that lay beneath the music’s serene surface. The dialogue between piano and winds in the Adagio had the delicacy and transparency of finely crafted crystal. In the Allegro assai finale, Barenboim’s invigorating accents and beautifully decorative phrasing was a final exclamation point on a splendidly idiomatic performance. 

Two Mozart symphonies framed the concerto. Symphony No.25 in G Minor received a bold, virile performance. The Berlin winds’ sweetness of tone and subtle musicality in the Menuetto was but one of the orchestral miracles Barenboim enticed from his players. He offered big band, strongly emphatic Mozart in the tradition of Beecham, Krips, and Jochum. 

Symphony No.41 in C Major (Jupiter) looks forward to the titanic power of Beethoven. Barenboim’s performance balanced orchestral heft and aristocratic classicism. The finale’s contrapuntal details were strongly voiced (particularly by the divided violin section). String playing of such beauty and refinement was striking.

A standing ovation produced a silky, relaxed version of the Minuet in G, a lovely conclusion to an evening of rarified Mozart. 

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