Microreview: Minnesota Orchestra, Mozart

This week’s Microreview is of the Minnesota’s Orchestra Mozart 39 – 40 – 41 concerts. Apparently the Strib was too exhausted from kissing Richard Davis’s tap shoes to send a critic to this week’s Minnesota Orchestra concert, so my word count standard for this week will come from Rob Hubbard’s Pioneer Press review, which clocked in at 359 words. As per usual for Microreviews, I wasn’t in the hall: I was on my couch listening to MPR. So the suspected disclaimers apply.


I like Mozart. I respect him. I don’t love him.

But if more people played Mozart like the Minnesota Orchestra did last night, my heart would reassess.

Every section shined, but to me, this was the strings’ night. Rob Hubbard mused in his review that the string complement might have been too large, and I can understand the concern, because the string sound was certainly big. But strings are my things, so I didn’t mind one whit.

Endless tiny moments to savor, all night long. The ringing of the open strings at the end of descending scales in 39. The unfussy phrasing of the opening of 40. The batsh*t crazy tempo of the finale of 41 (how did the back of the firsts and back of the seconds stay in synch at this tempo from across the stage?).

And this ascending line in 40. What the hell kind of magic is this? It’s a simple ascending line, for God’s sake. It shouldn’t make me want to squeal in bliss like some kind of Mozart-loving pig.

ascending line

And the breathlessly gorgeous phrases just kept coming. One phrase would end, and an equally luscious one would spin in to take its place.

This is a strange analogy, but I’ll make it anyway. The Minnesota Orchestra sounds like a splendid grande dame. She has the wisdom of decades combined with all the mischief of youth. She may be impeccably dressed, but fashion is only important to her within the context of self-expression: her motivations are pure, always. She knows when to be bold and brassy and when she can underplay her hand. Her sense of humor is sharp and biting and more than a little black and snarky. She can stay out later and party as hard as any twentysomething. She has been through more triumph and tragedy than anybody, and accordingly, she won’t stand for bull. She is an amazing 111-year-old lady.

And I love her.

There’s no doubt in my mind: this was the best played concert since the lockout ended.


341 words. Ha. I’ll cure you yet, wordiness.

If you don’t have your tickets for tonight, go! Buy them at minnesotaorchestra.org.



Filed under Minnesota Orchestra, Reviews

9 responses to “Microreview: Minnesota Orchestra, Mozart

  1. I too was just amazed at how incredible the string players sounded (I was there Thursday morning) — the clarity of tone, unity, the sheer expression…wow. This should be put on You Tube.

  2. Jim DePietro

    What a great writer

    • Larry from Lake Wobegon

      She does has a unique style of writing, that’s for sure! I wish I could write half as well as she does sometimes.

  3. My wife and I were up in Balcony C last night. We thought it was an excellent concert, with the orchestra very well balanced and very much together.
    The rhythms were very much in the style of J.S. Bach and his son C.P.E. Bach. After all, Mozart as a child studied J.S. Bach’s scores intensely. As Sir John Eliot Gardiner points out, Bach’s rhythms should be very elastic. So often they are not in many hands. I think it should be the same with Mozart. I noticed Christopher Warren-Green’s rhythms were very elastic last night. At the same time the playing was taught and precise. The result was precise but charming performances.
    I do think there is wide variation in the sound of the hall now. At the previous concerts this season, I have been in various seats in the Orchestra section. I have found the sound somewhat fierce there. In balcony C the sound was very well balanced and I noticed no excessive bass boom, that used to be a problem there before the renovation.
    Yes, these concerts should be available in AV. YouTube could be a vehicle as long as it was on the pay for view channel.
    As I have pointed out, orchestras to survive must get a fair return from all who hear the concerts where ever they are. Audiences must be built far and wide. We have spent a small fortune on tickets this season. It still does not pay the freight and there are constant requests for funds from this orchestra, the SPCO, the Minnesota Opera and others. I just don’t believe this is sustainable. There has to be another way.
    I’m a subscriber to the Berlin Philharmonic via the Internet. I love it. In addition they have just started their own label. I have just received my first digital package from them of the four Schumann symphonies, with No. 4 in the much better original version rescued by Brahms.
    The package includes two CDs, a Blu Ray disc which has high definition two and five channel audio only tracks and the performances in HD video with 5 channel audio. There are numerous bonus features, including Sir Simon Rattle talking at length about these symphonies. He is a natural born teacher by the way. You also get a code to download an ultra high definition audio only version to a hard drive. This package is absolutely superb in every way.
    Now all this has cost me a small fraction of the cost of the tickets to local performances and the donations.
    As many have pointed out, the AV experience is different from the concert hall and both equally valid. Honestly, if I had to choose, I prefer the home AV experience. For opera it is no contest, the home experience on a big screen with an excellent sound system is in my view much to be preferred to the opera house. Many, including a lot of critics have found this to be so.
    It is now long passed time for the musical arts organizations in Minnesota to develop a program. I’m prepared to do all I can to bring this about.

  4. Performing Artist52

    Mr. Carter, How wonderful that you purchased a digital package from the the Berlin Philharmonic. I think it is a great way to experience another orchestra from overseas. With your enthusiasm with this AV experience, how would you tie this in with the Minnesota Orchestra? It would be beneficial to those that can’t get to a concert here, but what about the “butts in the seats”? Orchestra musicians love performing to an audience. How can this be balanced with the audience members here and still keep the “butts in the seats”?

  5. Mr. Carter, perhaps you should have your own blog. There, you could make your case for the necessity of MN Orchestra (and others) expanding their digital/technical footprint to your heart’s content. As for me, I will continue to enjoy live performances as often as I can. (And listen on the radio when I can.)

  6. Jeanne Ellen

    Didn’t anyone notice the woodwinds and horns? They were sparse in number, but perfectly balanced with the strings. The flute in 41 was amazing.

  7. If anyone has any doubt about what artistic excellence sounds like, well, let them attend a MN Orchestra concert and they will hear it in abundance.

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