MAINLY MOZART FESTIVAL
POLINA OSETINSKAYA/ MAINLY MOZART STRING QUARTET
By Lawrence Budmen
One of South Florida’s most delightful musical rituals of spring is the Mainly Mozart Festival in Coral Gables. Under the erudite, urban guidance of University of Miami Music Professor Frank Cooper, the Festival always manages to combine familiar glories of the master from Salzburg with rarely played works. This year the Festival celebrates the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.
On May 28 Cooper conjured up much of the intimacy and civilized elegance of an 18th century salon in the ballroom of the Omni Colonnade Hotel. The musical offering was unique. In 1783 Mozart arranged three of his piano concertos for keyboard and string quartet. Essentially he reinvented the scores as piano quintets. In addition to its original solo role, Mozart assigned much of the wind writing and some of the bass line to the piano. These rarely heard transcriptions formed an impressive showcase for the formidable talents of Russian pianist Polina Osetinskaya.
Osetinskaya has concretized with such renowned conductors as Vladimir Spivakov, Dimitry Yablonsky, and Vladimir Verbitzky. In her previous Miami appearances, she has shown impressive technical command and strong affinity for the works of such 20th century Russian masters as Shostakovich and Scriabin and the music of the contemporary iconoclast Desyatkinoff. She proved to be a vivacious, nimble Mozartean. Osetinskaya’s performances of three concerti were lively, precise, and often bracing. Her keyboard dexterity at brisk tempos was state of the art. She offered really individualistic, characterful performances. There was nothing powdered wigged about Osetinskaya’s Mozart.
She was given stellar support by the specially assembled Mainly Mozart String Quartet. Violinists Huifang Chen and Eduardo Martinez played with crisp articulation and robust phrasing. Chen, concertmaster of the new Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia, offered strong, musically intense leadership. The resonant tone and spacious musical shaping of violist Sarah Sutton riveted attention to the inner voicings of Mozart’s string writing. Cellist Susan Moyer offered beauty of tonal utterance and splendid ensemble playing.
In the Larghetto of the opening Piano Concerto in F Major, K.413, Osetinskaya’s deft touch was a joy to hear. Her gracefully spun shaping of the melodic line and pianistic ornamentation dazzled the ear. She brought grand, regal impetus to the concluding Tempo di Menuetto. Indeed these scores sounded like different works in Mozart’s fluent, inspired quintet versions. Osetinskaya and her colleagues brought forth the sheer joy of music making and artistic invention.
The initial Allegro of the Concerto in A Major, K.414 was emphatically vibrant. By contrast the Andante was played with stately gravity and rich sonority. Here Mozart used a melody by Johann Christian Bach, one of his teachers who had passed away at the time of the concerto’s composition. Both music and performance were appropriately reverent. The Allegretto finale had winsome clarity and fleet lightness of touch.
The concluding Concerto in C Major, K.415 finds Mozart in a celebratory mood and the opening movement was rendered with appropriately rousing fervor. In this concerto especially, Osetinskaya unfurled bristling pianistic fireworks in the cadenzas. Mozart’s sublime Andante was exquisitely molded, the elegance of filigree beautifully stated. The curved lines of the Allegro finale really sparkled under Osetinskaya’s ebullient fingers.
More than merely a birthday tribute, this Mainly Mozart concert vibrantly illuminated a fascinating footnote in Mozart’s oeuvre. Polina Osetinskaya and the musicians of the Mainly Mozart String Quartet displayed musicianship that honored this glorious music!