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Manze, Baroque Orchestra Reveal Mozart's Depth


It may jolt some people that a Baroque period-instrument ensemble is playing Mozart. But why not, if the players can make it sound good.

The San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, led by stellar guest violinist Andrew Manze, for instance, played a titanic performance of the "Jupiter" Symphony on a four-part Mozart program Thursday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Beyond that, however, Manze and the exemplary San Franciscans showed that what is often considered merely a charming work--the Fourth Violin Concerto, K. 218--contained unexpected depths.

Perhaps it was the intimate acoustic of the Irvine theater that proved--in Mozart--there are no filler parts. Or maybe it's the affecting but unassertive quality of Manze's 1783 Gagliano violin. But the concerto emerged as a fascinating, tightknit chamber work, full of supportive, witty interplay.

Indeed, in Manze's moments of supremely vulnerable exposure, as when he dipped into pianissimo near the end of the middle movement, the group emerged as a metaphoric lifeline for an individual going too far astray in subjectivity. Who would have thought that Mozart was a philosopher?

Facing the ensemble instead of the audience as he played violin (except for the concerto), Manze was able to urge and impel the musicians to greater heights by his body language. Not that they were reluctant collaborators.

The ensemble also played the March in D, K. 385a, a joyful curtain raiser, and the Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K. 546, a frighteningly austere and advanced confrontation with musical logic and fateful inevitability.

Early news is that the sponsoring Philharmonic Society, because of limited date availability, will be able to bring the orchestra back twice next season instead of the usual already lean ration of three visits. That would be a bitter disappointment.

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