By Stephen Cera

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA — When I snagged a ticket to the Vienna Philharmonic’s January 30 concert in the Altes Mozarteum, I didn’t expect it to be a high-water mark of the 2019 Mozart-Week.

The program had no conductor — it was led, rather, by the orchestra’s concertmaster, Rainer Honeck.  As well, it opened with Mozart’s evergreen Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, a piece so familiar that it’s almost taken for granted as one of the classical “Top-40.”

Yet this was no ordinary rendition.  From the confident opening motif, the musicians (all strings) dug into the score with energizing commitment and finesse.  We heard an Eine Kleine Nachtmusik of sweetness, strength, and cohesion.  It reinforced the Vienna Philharmonic’s stature as the gold-standard of Mozart orchestral-playing.



soprano Krassimira Stoyanova (R) and Rainer Honeck, concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic

The evening’s delights didn’t end there.  Celebrated Bulgarian soprano, Krassimira Stoyanova, a fixture of the Vienna State Opera, sang three great Mozart arias.  In “Porgi amor” (from The Marriage of Figaro,) as her voice achingly conveyed the Countess’s sorrow at her husband’s infidelity, it was complemented by ravishing woodwind interludes.  “L’amerò, sarò costante” from Mozart’s early opera, Il Re Pastore, showcased the elegant solo violin of Rainer Honeck, while Vitellia’s great aria, “Non piu di fioro,” from Mozart’s late opera, La clemenza di Tito, was underscored by the ravishing timbre of the solo basset horn.

Stoyanova, whose versatile soprano can accommodate bel canto, Verdi and Puccini as readily as Richard Strauss and Slavic composers, here proved herself a fervent and stylish Mozartean.

As if all this were not enough, the program closed with the large-scale Divertimento in B-flat, K. 287, with its two high-flying horn parts (negotiated with ease by the Vienna Philharmonic hornists.)  Reportedly Mozart himself played first violin in a performance of this piece in 1777.  In a letter to his father, he boasted, “I played as if I were the greatest violinist in Europe!”