Arts » Classical Music

ISO plays Classical music

With pianist Marc-André Hamelin, guest conductor Bernard Labadie offers a program devoted to 18th-century repertoire.


conductor Bernard Labedie
  • conductor Bernard Labedie

Between the Baroque era in music (1600-1750) and the Romantic era (1820-1934) lies the Classical era (1700-1828). The above dates are approximate and overlapping. The Classical period is backed up toward 1800 and after, with geniuses Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven--putting earlier and contemporaneous composers well in the shade. One such is Henri Joseph Rigel (1741-1799). On Saturday ISO guest conductor Bernard Labadie sought to remedy ignoring of that repertoire by opening the concert with Rigel's Symphony No. 4 in C Minor.

This brief, three-movement work is very much in the style of Haydn's middle-period stűrm und drang (storm and stress) symphonies, though somewhat lacking in their inspiration. Still, Labadie (who conducted while seated on what looked like a piano stool--and without a baton) generated enough stormy energy in the outer movements to captivate much of the audience. Correspondingly,the middle movement, a Largo non troppo, though well played, seemed vapid in its thematic development--the least inspired movement of the three.

Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin joined the forces for Haydn's rather popular Piano Concerto in D (1784), though somewhat eclipsed by Mozart's greater, concurrent Viennese concertos. Its first movement is a Vivace, which Hamelin took at least at that pace. Moreover, his finger work was well nigh perfect as he sailed like a boat with the wind, through both the first and third movements. The second movement, marked Un poco adagio, is dominated by a Mozartean serenade-like theme. Hamelin's legato was, again, right on target.

Labadie continued with the Overture to Haydn's L'isola disabitata, an opera he wrote in 1789. Cast in G minor, the work is yet another sturm und drang, more convincing than the two Rigel movements. In any case, the orchestra, under Labadie, delivered perfect attacks and great precision throughout.

pianist Marc-Andre Hamlin
  • pianist Marc-Andre Hamlin

Labadie saved the program's masterwork till the end: Mozart's Symphony No. 39 in E-flat, K. 543, the first of his three final symphonies written in the summer of 1788. Beginning with a broad introduction with down-scale runs, the ensuing Allegro strongly anticipates the corresponding one in Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony. In fact, given that both allegros have identical key signatures, both are in triple-meter, (3 beats to a measure) taken at similar tempi, one could imagine switching works at the beginning of their second subjects and switching back at their recapitulations, both right on the beat, without the average symphony-goer batting an eye. In consideration of Labadie's prowess in these Classical selections, I'd love to hear the Canadian conductor have a hand in doing this "experiment." Oct. 15


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