Marvelous Mozart Concert at Rigefield Playhouse – January 5, 2002
Review By Frank Merkling
Danbury News-Times ARTS CRITIC
RIDGEFIELD — The twelfth day of Christmas brought to this town not twelve drummers drumming but a new site for certain Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra concerts. On Saturday night Sidney Rothstein conducted an all-Mozart program in the Ridgefield Playhouse, a charming box with comfortable seats and fine acoustics that used to be the auditorium of the old Ridgefield High School — and once served as headquarters for Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals.
It was perfect for works calling for 20 to 30-some instruments. In fact, these forces could have been called the Ridgefield Chamber Symphony. But since Rothstein is as good at building an audience as he is at building an orchestra, he didn’t risk the hint of something minimal. Saturday’s performance was anything but minimal.
The RSO, of whatever size, has never sounded better, and there was a first-rate soloist for the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor. She was 18-year-old Rui Shi, who played fleetly, fluently and with exemplary cadenzas in music that struggles from darkness to light, even in its mostly placid slow movement. The other two works were Mozart’s first symphony and last, the one rarely heard and the other a towering masterpiece.
True, even the three-movement symphony written at age 7 or 8 is thoroughly grounded in the styles of his day. And its sober andante horn theme foreshadows the motif of the “Jupiter” finale. But that finale, no matter how often one hears it, leaves one in awe at the sheer effortlessness of so much contrapuntal brilliance. Interesting as structure, texture, melody, harmony and rhythm, the entire “Jupiter” shows how much ground Mozart covered in his 35 years on earth. And the Ridgefield Playhouse proves to be a major addition to the area’s concert scene.