If there was a list of classical musicians who’d be fun to dance with, Gil Shaham and Pablo Heras-Casado would make the top ten of that very selective and short list. At Tuesday night’s Mostly Mozart concert at Avery Fisher Hall, Heras-Casado led the very energetic and engaging Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra through a performance of Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto (1938) with the energy one would expect from a young conductor. His gestures were bouncy, animated, outwardly expressive–a perfect match to Shaham, who engaged the audience with his ultra-extroverted performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, K. 219. The second movement Adagio felt a bit rushed, as if to say, ‘Let’s get to the fun stuff again!’ And indeed, Shaham performed the third movement with playfulness and virtuosity of the first. We did not expect what came after the Mozart was finished…
Dubbed by Shaham a ‘Turkish-dance-not-by-Mozart,’ both Heras-Casado and Shaham just let it rip (we can just imagine Heras-Casado telling the orchestra, ‘I’m gonna to this stompy thang here and make my curls bounce, just go with it’). Complete with blue and bent notes, improvised-sounding phrases, and a driving rhythm, this music brought out laughs, and afterwards, a standing ovation, from the audience.
This audience clapped between every movement (who wouldn’t appreciate a little ‘Go you!’ during a performance? ). According to Allan Kozinn, this shows that ‘this was an easy crowd to please.’ At least we know that the seats were not filled by only music students and industry people. This also showed how little often people go to concerts at all. If this was someone’s first concert experience, it was a great one: Shaham and Heras-Casado, and the Mostly Mozart orchestra not only played, but performed, traditional repertoire with skill and emotion. This is the type of performance that would make people come back.
We left at intermission. The orchestra was to perform Beethoven’s Second Symphony, but we felt we got the meat of the program. Not to say that Beethoven is excess bun, but when you’ve heard several performances and recordings of something, sometimes you just want to go get a drink already. (We know, ‘But each performance is different!’ Okay.)
It seems the Mostly Mozart Festival really knows its audience, which seems to be one that does not listen to classical music regularly. This was a smartly programmed concert, with a non-stereotypical classical composer (people 99% of the time instantly think Beethoven or Mozart) alongside pieces to be found on ‘Mozart for Munchkins’ or ‘Beethoven at Brunch.’ That, plus the engaged performers, a conductor who is alive, and Shaham’s encore that showed classical music’s ability to be fun and trivial, contribute to this concert’s success. Heras-Casado+Shaham=a good time.