Three string works spanning two centuries and written in distinct musical languages gave this performance a fresh vista at every turn. SBCO’s move to Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West is proving a delicious acoustic fit, and Tuesday night’s ample audience was evidence that the idea is catching on.
The good will and innocence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s third so-called “Salzburg Symphony” set the evening off in crystalline eloquence. The 16-year-old boy wonder had already churned out reams of compositions by 1772, when he occupied the post of Court Concertmaster to Hieronymus Colloredo, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, and SBCO played this one with abundant clarity, delicacy, and panache.
Suite for Strings, by contemporary English choral composer John Rutter, revels in lush harmonic textures and is based, not surprisingly, on song. The SBCO strings showed just how much power they can deliver in the jaunty opening movement based on the English folk song “A-Roving.” The third movement, beautifully built upon “O Waly Waly (The Water Is Wide),” was extremely touching, with its undulating sub-textures.
But the main course of the evening came last, with Franz Schubert’s brilliantly intense String Quartet in D minor, D. 810 “Death and the Maiden” as arranged for chamber orchestra by Gustav Mahler. The first movement in itself was epic, Schubert’s fertile imagination effortlessly spinning theme upon theme with great dramatic contrasts and breathtaking false endings. This is one of the great works that seems to express all facets of life, and SBCO excelled at carrying us through dark and light.