Saturday evening, Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, was filled with the sounds of W. A. Mozart (1756-1791) Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) familiar friends to concert-goers, but much to be explored during the re-acquaintance.
Why would a chamber orchestra of , say 35 performers, present the same literature played by much larger orchestras? What is there to gain? If there are fewer players, isn't there less music? One answer is clarity, more delineated shapes and lines. Another is intimacy. In the case of the literature presented tonight, perhaps authenticity should be included. This orchestra is probably more nearly the size ensemble used at the respective premiers of these works, rather than the super-sized ensembles of today. Keep in mind, that a single violin can fill Helzberg Hall with sound; any addition to that should have a reason to be.
Mozart's Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro, was sprightly, dance-like, airy, and intimate. When overloaded with numbers of instruments, the piece can be sluggish, too familiar, just a toss off piece.
Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony (the 4th, in A Major) intended to musically describe the countryside through which Felix traveled was evocative of chirping and rustling sounds from birds, grasses, and leaves. The freshness of the appropriate-sized ensemble gave the sense of light breezes and balmy mornings.
Beethoven’s Eroica” Symphony“ (the 3rd in Eb Major) was reputed to have been originally endorsed to Napoleon, the great democrat, the little general, the one who would free all Europe from the feudal system. But, like the proverbs that relate to amassed power, Napoleon crowned himself as emperor, trading the old rascals for a new one. Perhaps, in retaliation, Beethoven re-wrote the dedication to "the memory of a great man." Translated as "heroic," the music is filled with brass flourishes and brass responses to lighter themes. The playing of the orchestra was buoyant, a little off the floor, not tied to terra firma. Throughout the evening, the articulations were perfectly timed, the pizzicati (plucked strings) were as one, the building and softening gave the sensation of improvisation, rather than plotted.
The evening was a perfectly enlightening, as well as, entertaining time, which the good-sized audience acknowledged with a concluding standing ovation. Season information and tickets are available from Kansas City Chamber Orchestra.