Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony (No. 41 in C major) was the perfect composition to be the major work on the program opening Minnesota Orchestra's Mid-Winter Mozart Festival. Mozart's grandest symphony is also his last, written about eight months before his death -- although there is no evidence that he thought of it as his final, or valedictory, one.
The Olympian grandeur that led a 19th-century commentator to nickname the symphony "Jupiter" was evident from the outset. Osmo Vänskä navigated the thematic richness of the opening Allegro vivace with assurance, maintaining a stately, aristocratic feel, while capturing a keen sense of the work's drama. He likewise balanced the lyricism and the agitation of the Andante cantabile.
He was a little heavy-handed in the playful Allegretto, overwhelming the buoyant wit. But his rendition of the finale proved the capstone of the performance. Vänskä clearly delineated the movement's amazing complexity, including a passage of five-part counterpoint, while making the dazzling technical achievement emotionally compelling as well.
The first half of the program was less profound, made up of youthful works, before Mozart had broken free of Salzburg for Vienna. The Symphony No. 32 in G major, K. 318, subtitled "An Overture in the Italian Style," has the structure and brevity of a theater overture. Some initial intonation problems in the horns aside (they soon settled down), this was a graceful performance of a rollicking confection.
Then associate principal oboe John Snow soloed in the Concerto in C major for Oboe. It's with the entrance of the soloist that the unremarkable orchestral introduction became inspired. Snow demonstrated exemplary breath control to sustain Mozart's long lines and the technical proficiency to toss off three extended cadenzas. His warm tone seductively elucidated the work's overriding lyricism.
The Concerto No. 10 in E-flat major for Two Pianos featured veteran Lydia Artymiw and her former student, Andrew Staupe, in roles Mozart composed for himself and his sister. The soloists traded phrases back and forth in a dialogue that revealed them to be equally accomplished virtuosos. They might be forgiven if they were not always completely coordinated, because they were clearly reveling in playing off one another. Their joy was infectious.
William Randall Beard writes frequently about music.