Review: Winner of Mozart Concerto Competition in the spotlight

Winner of Mozart Concerto Competition in the spotlight

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer |
November 18, 2011

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A remarkably assured young violinist, a responsive and alert IU Symphony Orchestra and a nurturing Cliff Colnot on the podium were ingredients for an enjoyable concert Wednesday evening in the Musical Arts Center.

The fare came courtesy of Mozart, his G Major Violin Concerto, K.216, and Rimsky-Korsakov, his “Le coq d’or” Suite, in total about an hour’s worth of music presented without intermission. Maestro Colnot says he prefers a shorter event without interruption. As listener, I say: Why not? Let it be so, if what one hears is sufficiently fulfilling.

On Wednesday, the Mozart alone was sufficient. In the solo spotlight was Dechopol Kowintaweewat, a native of Thailand currently studying in the Jacobs School and winner of its recent Mozart Concerto Competition. He had chosen the K.216 Concerto, titled “Strassburg” because a tune Mozart used in the concluding Rondo originated with a song of the day called “The Strassburger.”

Title or not, the concerto is one of the composer’s loveliest, with a lighthearted opening Allegro that features active interplay between the violin and orchestra, made much of by Kowintaweewat, as one happy sparring partner, and Colnot’s orchestra as the other. An Adagio of surpassing radiance follows, and then an engaging Rondo, part courtly and part lusty.

With a couple of exacting cadenzas tossed in, the score holds more than sufficient challenge for the soloist. From the look and sound of things, Kowintaweewat had absolutely no problems with any of it. Quite the contrary, he seemed in absolute command, and comfortably so. His performance was pristine, both buoyant and elegant, and commendably restrained. This Mozart concerto is not meant for drama; it calls for serenity, an all’s-right-with-the-world ambiance. Kowintaweewat caught that. So did Colnot and his players. Their collaboration worked just right.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s four-section “Le coq d’or” Suite, with music taken from his opera of that name, or “The Golden Cockerel” in English, can be described as exotic, richly colored and at least suggestive of the opera’s story, about the life and death of a tsar named Dodon. Themes come and go. So do rhythms, sometimes introduced competitively in twos. Instruments must produce tones natural for them and not so. Soloists from within the orchestra face technical gauntlets. There are extremes in dynamics that can shift on a dime from deafening burst to near silence.

In other words, for the IU Symphony, there were 25 minutes of tests and trials. Conductor Colnot had made sure they would be comprehended and conquered, and they were. If this listener responded with somewhat less enthusiasm than on several other recent symphonic outings, and he did, that had nothing to do with the performance. The cause: Rimsky-Korsakov, who often was a far more inspired orchestrator than creator of musical substance. He was here. Consequently, the “how” of performance for me exceeded the “what” or content, and “how” can only go partway up on my satisfaction meter.


Copyright: 2011

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