By Lawrence Budmen 

The major cause for celebration at the New World Symphony’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth on Saturday night at the Lincoln Theater was an extraordinary performance by Italian pianist Benedetto Lupo of one of the Salzburg master’s most popular works – the Piano Concerto No.21 in C Major. Lupo, the Bronze medal winner of the 1989 Van Cliburn Competition, is a musician of keen musical intelligence and probing intellect. 

Lupo, a superb Mozartean and a pianist to be reckoned with, sparkled in his performance of the Elvira Madigan concerto. The initial Allegro maestoso was classically sculpted and beautifully articulated. Lupo made the ornate cadenza an integral part of the movement’s structure rather than a mere moment of pianistic display. He turned the familiar Andante into a vast emotional canvass. The final Allegro vivace assai glowed with Mediterranean sunshine and beguiling lightness of touch. Lupo was ably supported by an excellent contingent of New World musicians under the baton of the Quebec based conductor Bernard Labadie. Katherine Young’s bright, elegantly shaped oboe solos were especially delightful. 

A period instrument specialist, Labadie favors spare vibrato from the strings, clarity of texture, and light instrumental timbres. Labadie’s best offering was the Overture to The Magic Flute. The conductor led a sprightly performance with sharp, bright hued instrumental execution. 

Labadie brought high drama to the Masonic Funeral Music and drew some characterful wind playing (particularly from the bassoons) but this tragic adagio needed greater nobility of line. 

Labadie’s performance of the Symphony No.41 in C Major (Jupiter) – Mozart’s last and greatest symphony – was a dispirited affair. The boldly imaginative Allegro vivace was played in a ponderous manner and seemed interminable. Mozart’s glorious Andante cantabile lacked any sense of musical pulse. The Menuetto was heavy footed. In the Molto allegro finale, Labadie brought great clarity to the multi-textured instrumental lines – particularly in that remarkable passage where five themes are sounded simultaneously. Despite fine instrumental playing, this music needed greater power and rhythmic energy. But even this heavy handed performance could not disguise the eternal genius of Mozart.

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