“Bogotá is Mozart” trumpet the banners around the Colombian capital. With 63 concerts in just four days, it’s doing that bold claim justice. The city’s own Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá had the honour of officially opening the festival, bringing a packed – possibly too packed – programme to the Teatro Mayor. The Filarmónica, founded in 1967, gave spirited performances to kick things off, with some stylish solo contributions.

Jasminka Stancul and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá © Juan Ruy Castaño
Jasminka Stancul and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá
© Juan Ruy Castaño

The Overture to Mozart’s opera Idomeneo demonstrated both the orchestra’s strengths and its weaknesses: a lovely sweet violin tone was very much to the fore, but the string ensemble wasn’t always tightly underpinned by cellos and basses. Francesco Belli isn’t the most demonstrative of conductors and dramatic impetus was occasionally lacking; soft timpani sticks didn’t entirely help matters.

The playing settled as the Filarmónica was joined by Jasminka Stancul, of the Vienna Brahms Trio, for the Piano Concerto no. 23 in A major. Composed during the winter of 1785-86,  it was completed at about the same time as Figaro and premiered to great acclaim in the spring. Despite this, the concerto wasn't well known in Mozart’s lifetime, the composer explaining that it was a work that “I keep for myself or for a small circle of music-lovers and connoisseurs (who promise not to let it out of their hands).”

Stancul’s playing was well mannered, politely exchanging ideas with the orchestra in the Allegro first movement. This was one of the few piano concertos for which Mozart wrote down his cadenzas for posterity; Stancul demonstrated virtuosic flourishes before the orchestra re-entered and the movement gently wound down to a close. The Adagio is a slow siciliano, introduced by the pianist alone, eventually with a gently rocking accompaniment. Stancul played with a fine sense of cantabile before taking on a more urgent attack for the genial Allegro assai finale, Mozart’s genial wit at its finest.

Ori Kam © Manuel Vaca
Ori Kam
© Manuel Vaca

Israeli soloists Guy Braunstein and Ori Kam gave the evening’s standout performance, joining forces for the sublime Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola in E flat major. Although Mozart was an accomplished violinist, he preferred the viola when playing string quartets. Mozart’s love for the instrument is reflected not just in the solo writing, but in the orchestral accompaniment too, where the violas are divided into two sections, thus enriching the middle registers luxuriantly. Kam, violist in the Jerusalem Quartet, offered a wonderfully warm, full sound, contrasting well against Braunstein, with his bright, smiling tone. Lyrical phrasing and alert interplay between the two soloists made this a performance to cherish. Their musicality brought out the best in the Filarmónica too, playful pizzicatos and chattering woodwinds a pleasure to hear. The complete final movement as an encore wasn’t really necessary, but it was warmly received.

The “Haffner” Symphony which concluded the programme was competently performed, although the tempo for the Menuet was stodgy, conducted in a deliberate three-in-a-bar, and the finale contained a very noticeable ensemble car crash. But the intent in the outer movements was admirable and it left the public hungry for more Mozart. The next three days offers plenty of opportunities for further indulgence.