What do you do if your group’s interests and enthusiasms expand beyond its original purview? Ian Page’s answer was to set up a new organisation; while Classical Opera will continue to explore the operatic range of Mozart and his contemporaries in concerts that have become major events in the calendar for Amadean enthusiasts, a new splinter group, The Mozartists, will pursue the orchestral repertoire that has become a burgeoning part of Page’s exploration of the period. In his introduction to The Mozartists’ inaugural concert, Page wrote that he wanted to “whet” the audience’s appetite and with a programme that began with Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E flat major, the mouth did indeed begin to water.

Louise Alder © Fane Henderson
Louise Alder
© Fane Henderson

The piece is one of the greatest works of the genre, full of flavour and flair. One of the finest compositions from Mozart’s time in Salzburg, it reflects both the composer’s love of the viola and his encounters with the elite ensemble from Mannheim, perfectly suited to do justice to the sparks of the piece. The violin and viola soloists for this performance were respectively the orchestra’s leader, Matthew Truscott, and Alfonso Leal del Ojo, providing readings that both blended and offered variation in approach. Truscott’s playing bristled with energy which bordered on the seductive at times; not always showing pin-point precision, but displaying the vibrancy of tone and audacity of attack, particularly in the Presto, that one always hopes to hear. Truscott conveyed a certain sensualism in moments of teasing in the Allegro, rejected by the more austere and shaded playing of Leal del Ojo, perhaps a little too shy in the first movement, but confident and defined by the third. Page’s tempi and dynamics were taut and fleet throughout and there were pungent contributions from the woodwind and horns.

Dividing the orchestral works were two vocal contributions from Louise Alder, well on the way to making a name for herself after a strong showing at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. She started with a real rarity, the aria “Ma qui le cure vostre...De’ sublimi augusti eroi”, an aria from Gluck’s Il prologo, literally a prologue piece written for a performance of Traetta’s Ifigenia in Tauride that was to be given in celebration of the expected birth of Peter Leopold I’s first child. Jupiter is the sole character in this prologue and the aria is a long and triumphant celebration of the imminent royal arrival. Alder brought a sense of the nobility and authority of the king of the gods to the recitative, while in the main aria, we heard a clear and sleek voice with some lovely ornamentation and a sturdy, unwavering top. Splendidly fluid oboe contributions gave the aria a frothy veneer that complemented Alder’s lyricism.

Alder followed this with “Quando avran fine omai…Padre, germani, addio” from Mozart’s Idomeneo. Here, the ability Alder showed earlier in imbuing her singing with character was reinforced, with a biting, vengeful recitative, splendidly articulated, and with smooth legato in the aria itself – a real treat that in particular made me want to hear her as Donna Elvira. The concert ended with Page’s individual reading of Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A major, beginning with a brisk opening. The contrasts he brought out among the strings gave the Allegro an additional flavour; rich, port-tinted playing from the deeper strings against violins which had just a touch of acidity. Horn contributions were appropriately raucous, particularly in the Minuet where they veered towards wanton hooliganism above the over-polite and mannered delicacy of the violins. Not a bad start for Page’s new band.

****1