This “Homage to Stravinsky” featured a classical concerto of Mozart flanked by a pair of neoclassical works from the great Russian. Although the opening work for chamber orchestra, Dumbarton Oaks, was modelled on Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, so “neo-baroque” would describe it better. Its small scale (15 instruments) is ideal for the distancing required of the musicians, yet as each one is treated as a soloist, there is plenty of busy counterpoint – although in the central Allegretto some of the wispy lines are barely more than a note or two. The players relished the independence and sheer fun the piece gives them, constantly refreshing the textures of a piece that is over in about twelve minutes. But then the composer, whose output has very few works longer than half-an-hour, once said “With music, one must be stingy”.

Charles Dutoit
© Luca Sangiorgi

Alena Baeva was the soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto no.5 in A major, and wore a mask, used a score, and faced the orchestra – little point facing the empty auditorium, of course. She played very well, with a nice line and tone and neat articulation in the swifter passages. In fact it was reminiscent of how this music sounded before more historically aware approaches infected (sorry, informed) even the modern instrument players. And although I can often hear why Neville Cardus was heretical about Mozart slow movements, this one had the charm of a Salzburg divertimento. The final minuet has been done more graciously perhaps, but the “Turkish” intervention that gave the work its nickname had the appropriate Levantine levity.

Alena Baeva
© Luca Sangiorgi

The complete ballet score of Pulcinella was then given, with three excellent singers. They would originally have been in the pit and not identified with any of the characters dancing above them, a far cry from opera stars. I felt I should give the palm to one of them, but kept changing my mind about which one, so evenly were they matched, their light voices so suited to this work.

Orchestra della Svizzera italiana
© Luca Sangiorgi

The players of the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana sounded perfectly at ease with the composer who wrote Pulcinella in his Swiss home. It too is “neo-baroque”, being based on Pergolesi (or possibly not). Our masked maestro was the Swiss Charles Dutoit, long an associate of the Swiss Ernest Ansermet, Pulcinella’s first conductor. Dutoit has long been a fine conductor of Stravinsky, and this thoroughly idiomatic performance completed an ideal homage, 50 years after the composer's death.

This performance was reviewed from the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana's live video stream