Mooredale Concerts Kuerti & Kuerti reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Sunday, January 11, 2008, MacMillan Theatre, Toronto.

The buzz that conductor Julian Kuerti would be joining his pianist father Anton for their debut duo concert in Toronto created a sell-out house. The duo did not disappoint. Bartok’s Hungarian Sketches, BB 103, introduced us to the synergy uniting Julian Kuerti, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the house acoustics. We heard music that was articulate: it spoke, it sang, it revealed itself as pleasure. Maestro Kuerti created nice spaces for the sequence of soloists on clarinet, flute, oboe and piccolo who introduce the thematic variations of the first Sketch. He skillfully negotiated the shifting tempi and moods that modulate subtly from lyrical to dissonant to sardonic and mocking and brought out the sense of clarity in Bartok’s music.

When Kuerti père joined his piano to the orchestra for Mendelssohn’s Capriccio Brilliante, Op. 22, the synergy doubled. This lively, free flowing, virtuosic piece opens with a slow melancholy passage. Anton Kuerti’s cleanly planted rests between phrases created a clarity that allowed the music to flow like a breeze between the bars of a swinging garden gate. And the orchestral richness followed right behind him.

Their collaboration in the Piano Concerto that followed, Mendelssohn’s G Minor Op. 25, was remarkable.  As the violas led the orchestral surge during the Andante second movement, the piano seemed to be singing an anthemic farewell to a time when a great love had been in bloom. That was a moment of great unity. The movement ends on an ambiguous note and the Finale runs through its shapely measures with great speed, energy, and decisiveness. Clearly a triumph.

After intermission, we had Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93. It is the shortest of the Nine and is said to be the composer’s favourite. One hears an abundance of rich textures in the first movement: waltzes you could skate to, Mozartean elegance mingled with Ludwigean thunder and lyricism. The second movement is justly famous for its comic opera humour based on the voice of the metronome.

There is a wonderful duet of horn and clarinet in the Menuetto that also recalls the theme of the first movement. And so on. Though all was well, except perhaps for a bit of heaviness in the brass, the magic seemed to be missing.  Nonetheless, one left this Mooredale concert feeling buoyed by a sense of this memorable musical celebration.

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