"Mozart the Virtuoso," proclaimed the tickets to the last of this season's Utah Symphony chamber concerts on Saturday. But they might just as easily have said, "Silverstein the Virtuoso," given the solo role he assumed in addition to conducting three of that master's concertos.
In other words this was Mozart the violin virtuoso, an instrument he pretty much abandoned after leaving Salzburg in his 20s. But not before establishing himself, even at that age, as one of the foremost violinists of the day. And leaving to posterity five concertos for same, all produced in the year 1775, when he was all of 19.They still rank among the most celebrated works of their kind, especially the last three, K. 216, 218 and 219 respectively, which is what this program consisted of. That may not make for the most varied diet, even in the Mozart canon. But the variety and imagination they display within that compass are still pretty remarkable.
One has to focus on the subtler aspects of the writing to appreciate that, something encouraged by the intimacy of Silverstein's playing. In short, these were anything but big-scale performances, prefering to draw the listener inside these scores.
That meant a smallish solo sound, to match the reduced orchestra (here with divided violins). Indeed, in something like the slow movement of the K. 216 Concerto, in G major, Silverstein's part almost seemed to grow out of the orchestra, maintaining the line yet adding its own delicate figurations, and its own modest cadenza.
In fact cadenzas throughout were Silverstein's own - at their best, I think, in this concerto, but generally in keeping with the spirit of the others. In addition, he occasionally embroidered the ends of phrases with some discreet ornamentation - for example, the final bar of the first-movement Adagio in the K. 219 Concerto, in A, just before launching into the main Allegro.
Whatever the case, his playing was always tasteful, always singing and, in the finales of each concerto, lightly dancing, with the trills beautifully integrated.
That was especially true in the Third and Fifth concertos, each a little heavy ensemblewise but possessed of an inward grace and concentration that commanded attention from the first. The K. 218 Concerto, by contrast, boasted a meatier sound and a bit less intonational security.
But even here there was much to admire, not least the quietly incisive alternating sections of the concluding Rondeau. I am also partial to the faster tempos Silverstein appears to have adopted since I last heard him in the K. 219 Concerto, again mostly subdued but with a welcome bite (aided by the horns) in the "Turkish" episode.
Against that must be measured a printed program that managed to transpose the movement designations for every concerto, and the applause that came between every movement, even the quiet ones. But it certainly was deserved at the end of each piece, and they end quietly too.