A Gala Concert celebrating the Suntory's 30th anniversary finished the second night of festivities with an entertaining concert with a literal bang tonight. It was a full house, with the audience in formal dress code appropriate for such celebratory events.

Zubin Mehta and Seiji Ozawa © Suntory Hall
Zubin Mehta and Seiji Ozawa
© Suntory Hall

Maestros Seiji Ozawa and Zubin Mehta took turns conducting, the Vienna Philharmonic delivered the music and the two soloists, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Chen Reiss, added to the world-class performances. Mehta opened the concert with Mozart's Overture from Le nozze di Figaro, performed by a smaller group of the Philharmonic. An appropriate opening for a festive event, this Mozartian joyous mood was followed by Schubertian colour and sophistication in the Unfinished Symphony. The clear switch of atmosphere already proved the level of artistry. Maestro Ozawa was using a bench whilst conducting due to his health but regardless, his music was energetic and engaging in these two essential works in the classical canon. 

Seiji Ozawa and Anne-Sophie Mutter © Suntory Hall
Seiji Ozawa and Anne-Sophie Mutter
© Suntory Hall

The second part opened with Toru Takemitsu's Nostalgia, followed by Debussy's La Mer. The two pieces filled the auditorium with picturesque and imaginative sounds. At times warm and at times agonizing, Takemitsu’s piece was perfectly suited to creating the nostalgic atmosphere of the Suntory Hall’s endeavours in the past three decades. This piece, an arrangement for a small string orchestra and a solo violin, seemed to have benefited from the astounding acoustics. Though the overall volume was not so loud, every detail and gesture could be picked up, whereas it might have been difficult to achieve the same result in a hall with lesser acoustical quality. Mutter showed her high calibre and deep understanding of the music of this relatively new repertoire. I appreciated and enjoyed the collaboration of artists performing a work by a Japanese native, and the audience's excited response was immediate and vibrant. La Mer, on a noticeably different instrumentatal scale compared with Takemitsu’s piece, was a pure joy to hear. The Vienna Philharmonic had a uniquely free but well-controlled expressiveness in dynamic contrasts, colour changes and tempi, which added up to an ocean of sounds.

Chen Reiss, Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic © Suntory Hall
Chen Reiss, Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic
© Suntory Hall

The final part of the concert was a series of short pieces, mostly by Johann Strauss II, some featuring soprano Chen Reiss. These short pieces were either operetta arias or a dance pieces, which were festive and jubilant. For the encores, Reiss and the Philharmonic performed Lehar’s Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß; Mutter and the ensemble delivered Kreisler’s Caprice Viennois, and the two maestros were both on the podium to finish the concert with Strauss’ Thunder and Lightning Polka, with comical gestures and interactions with the orchestra and audience. The final note ended with loud crackers popping from the sides of the auditorium with golden strips cascading from the ceiling.

*****