The first thing you notice is that the Mostly Mozart Festival draws a younger, hipper crowd than what is usually seen at the awe inspiring Avery Fisher Hall. There’s also a definite vacation vibe, with everyone dressed much more casually. Before the concert, a huge crowd has gathered to watch the fountain dance higher and higher. There’s just no place on Earth better than Lincoln Center in the summer.
This is the forty-fifth year of the Festival, but the concept still feels fresh, and the orchestra and audience are equally exuberant. For some reason, the musicians are dressed in black instead of their customary white this season, but the mood is in no way subdued. The orchestra is literally closer, which adds greatly to the sense of intimacy, and also to the quality of the sound.
The program I attended was the soaring “Jupiter” Symphony, which featured the Concert Chorale of New York. The conductor was Ivan Fischer, who is also a producer in his native Hungary. It’s impossible to over exaggerate how much his warmth and grace added to the evening. Watching him work with his singers and musicians was like observing a flawless exhibition of dressage. His hands are exquisitely expressive, and his smile and genuine affection for all the performers was a joy to behold.
No one is sure how the title “Jupiter” became attached to Symphony No. 41 in C Major, but the first use of the sobriquet appeared in early nineteenth century England. Written in June of 1791, it was Mozart’s last symphony.
There are some interesting notes about this performance. Foremost is the fact that there was a Concert Mistress, rather than Master, tuning up the orchestra just before the concert began. Also unique, under the dozen yellow pendant lights illuminating the stage, a petite woman ably played a double-bass, which was considerably larger than she was. I truly enjoyed watching the chorus in back of the musicians gently swaying to the music. And I wondered if the audience on either side of the orchestra on stage had a totally different experience than that which we experienced sitting in our traditional seats.
There should be no embarrassment about not knowing just when to applaud. Not applauding after each movement is a relatively new phenomenon, instituted about fifty years ago. Before that, audiences applauded whenever they felt like it. I find it best to just follow the herd.
There’s something both wondrous and a little sad in realizing that this orchestra only comes together during the summer to play this Festival; after, they all go back to their respective permanent groups. Incidentally, if you want to cheer for everyone on stage, the correct expression is “bravi.”
If you’ve never used the term before, the Mostly Mozart Festival is a great place to start.
Ivan Fischer photo by Carol Pratt
Thru August 27th
Avery Fisher Hall
70 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist. She writes extensively about music, dance, and theater, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall has a degree in Fine Arts from Boston University.