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Review of Ridgefield Orchestra Concert—January 10, 2003—Jim Pegolotti

The Danbury News-Times

Early January is a time when orchestras usually are silent, so it was a particular pleasure to attend an all-Mozart concert at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Saturday evening. The Ridgefield Orchestra, scaled down to an appropriate classical era size of 26 instrumentalists, planned to provide two symphonies and the”Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra” (K. 364), with violinist Elissa Koljonen and violist Roberto Diaz as soloists. That was the plan.

But when at 8 p.m. music director Sidney Rothstein walked onto a stage full of empty chairs, something clearly was amiss. He explained to the capacity audience that Friday’s snowstorm had wiped out one rehearsal and because of that one of the symphonies would not be played. Fortunately, the two soloists had come to the rescue: in place of the symphony, they would perform a Mozart rarity, a violin-viola duo.

Mozart’s composition of the duo was as unplanned as its Ridgefield performance. His friend Michael Haydn (younger brother of Joseph Haydn) had become ill and was unable to complete a commission for six such duos. Mozart stepped in to save the day by providing two. For the Ridgefield audience, the unexpected proved delightful. Diaz (principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra) and Koljonen (soloist with major orchestras throughout the world) are two vibrant performers. In the “G major Duo” (K. 423) they proved how the beauty of the tone of the viola (warmth) and violin (brilliance) could
coalesce successfully.

Mozart’s “Symphony #29” (K. 201), composed by the 18-year old genius in Salzburg, is considered one of his first mature symphonies. Maestro Rothstein led a sparkling, crisp performance. Scored simply for strings, oboes, and horns, the symphony appealed from the very first notes, octave leaps in the strings and an upward thrust of notes that built a pleasant tension.

After a serene andante, followed by a vigorous minuet, the orchestra attacked the final presto briskly. Here the horns gave
wonderful support as the strings clearly articulated every note as they zipped along in rapid scale work. It is a marvelous symphony given its due by the orchestra.

Marvelous, also, is the “Sinfonia Concertante.” But is it a symphony? A concerto? As scholars point out, it comes from the tradition of the baroque concerto grosso, where members of the orchestra are pushed out front to be a soloist, with the orchestra still the principal focus. The very beginning of Mozart’s work emphasizes this point: after an impressive orchestral introduction the two instruments emerge soaring above the orchestra.

In all three movements, the two instrumentalists are given equal prominence, emulating each other with the variety of melodies that Mozart provided. The songful second movement, with an underpinning of sadness, is countered with a final joyous one.

Throughout the work Diaz and Koljonen concentrated on the effective interplay of viola and violin so essential to the work.
Rothstein, ever the attentive collaborator, saw to it that the orchestra’s responsibility -supportive when needed, demonstrative when appropriate -was carried out from beginning to end.

When outside temperatures were plummeting, what more could one ask for than the warmth and genius of Mozart’s music lovingly played?

Other reviews of this concert
Review by Courtenay Caublé