A week ago I suggested that in recent years the world as a whole has come a long way vis-a-vis the music of Mozart. Not only do we hear more of it - especially this year, the bicentenary of his death - but what we hear is a lot closer than it used to be to the way he might have heard it.
That was certainly true of Saturday evening's Utah Symphony concert, an all-Mozart chamber program under Joseph Silverstein. Who, if he has brought anything to this orchestra in his eight years as music director, it is a heightened appreciation of 18th-century style.Here the subject was two of the divertimenti for horns and strings - No. 7 in D major, K. 205, and No. 15 in B flat, K. 287 - preceded by the later Adagio and Fugue in C minor, among the most somber essays in the Mozart canon.
Yet even with a smallish string complement - here seven first violins, six seconds, four each violas and cellos, and three basses - Silverstein managed to communicate not only its compactness but its classical-baroque strength. And that was true from the deeply intoned Adagio (for once properly double-dotted) to the resolute working-out of the Fugue, here launched manfully.
On the non-somber side, balances were no less expert in the D major Divertimento, despite its somewhat bottom-heavy scoring. At least the two horns were always in the picture without the rest being at all overstated.
That was most affecting in the lovely Adagio, with its wonderfully subdued trills. Against which came the two minuets, the first wistfully genteel and the second hearty, bracketed in turn by the sprightly outer movements in which even the incisive unison scales of the first did not compromise the overall lightness of touch, or the general sheen and precision.
I cannot claim that for the B flat major Divertimento that followed, where the ensemble seemed just a bit off in places. For all its progress, this orchestra apparently still needs more than Silverstein is able to give them from the concertmaster's chair alone.
Yet that was counterbalanced by him having moved into that very position, as Mozart himself might have, supplying not only the same stylish direction but, in the later movements, his not-inconsiderable violinistic presence.
In the Adagio that meant a concerto-like display notable for its inwardness and lyricism; ditto his gracefully polished playing in the trio of the second minuet and cadenza-like solos in the concluding rondo, based on the then-popular song "The Peasant Girl Has Lost Her Cat."
Clearly Mozart here had his tongue in his cheek. But nowhere more so than the delightful set of six variations that make up the second movement, which here went swimmingly. Thus one admired not only the graceful flow of the opening theme (marked grazioso) but the dialogue with the horns in the third variation and the controlled brio of the sixth.
At the same time I cannot believe even he intended either of these divertimenti to be heard uninterrupted, much less two in one sitting. That's a lot of party music - which is what these pieces were composed for - especially divorced from the original circumstances.
On the other hand one might ask how else we are going to hear them in this day and age. Obviously there are some ways in which we can't go back, so let's just call it a Mozart party and leave it at that.