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Mozarteum in top form at Segerstrom

Less glitz but no less enthusiasm greets the Salzburg orchestra as it opens the Philharmonic Society's season.

September 19, 2006|Daniel Cariaga | Special to The Times

To those attending, for the third night, the festivities opening the new Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, Sunday evening may have seemed anticlimactic. But for those of us entering the handsome new facility for the first time, it was a most impressive discovery.

The high-ceilinged listening room is airy and sumptuous and tastefully, if not lavishly, decorated, and its live acoustic, still to be tested over time and reported to be reverberantly adjustable, responded effortlessly Sunday to the brilliant and mellow sounds produced by the visiting Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg.

Opening the Philharmonic Society of Orange County's ambitious new season here and at the same time concluding its summer season (most of the latter performed at home in Austria), the 50-member ensemble reiterated the high level of accomplishment it demonstrated on earlier Southland visits.

In this Mozart anniversary year, the program was, not surprisingly, all Mozart, and comprised the First and 41st symphonies, the Double Piano Concerto played by Louis Lortie and Angela Hewitt, and arias from "Zaide" sung by German soprano Mojca Erdmann.

The Salzburgers, here specifically to play in the new hall, were in top form, bringing to the cherishable Symphony No. 1 a sparkling brightness and to the "Jupiter" a direct line to its transparency and inexorable logic.

Conductor Ivor Bolton commanded all with an easy, but not indulgent, fervor. He also proved an able collaborator with the soloists.

Erdmann, who this year sang the role of Zaide at the Salzburg Festival, negotiated her two arias nicely and showed good promise for her future development. But her performances, somewhat stiff, were more tentative than impressive.

The Canadian-born pianists Lortie and Hewitt, both now in their 40s, brought high polish, glittering passagework and beautiful sounds to their performance. Their ensemble was flawless, and the bell-like tones they produced in the slow movement of the concerto made memorable an already poignant re-creation of that andante.

The Sunday audience, well-dressed but not so glitzy as those reported attending the previous nights' Pacific Symphony events, responded quite enthusiastically and had to be shushed only once, after the first movement of the "Jupiter" symphony.

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