Grand finale


On Sunday afternoon the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra sat, instruments at the ready, on the Mandel Hall stage, poised to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth by performing his final three symphonies. But first University of Chicago Presents director Marna Seltzer introduced the group’s third, and final, concert of the season by listing all the other ways the orchestra, in the first of a three-year residency program, had enriched musical life in Hyde Park: coaching and teaching master classes, playing the works of composition students, performing in the public schools. Seltzer promised “more of the same—and more” for the 2006–07 season.

Then conductor Roberto Abaddo brought down the baton on Symphony No. 39, the least known of the trio, composed in summer 1788. As he led clarinets and bassoons, horns and trumpets, strings, timpani, and flute through the score’s twists and turns, Abaddo drew some phrases out like taffy, snapped others off minutely, sometimes leaning into the players, sometimes standing back, hand to his side, listening. There was no place for standing back in Symphony No. 40—hands flew and heads nodded as conductor and musicians moved through the four movements. “Beautiful sound, beautiful sound,” said an audience member through appreciative applause.

Beautiful sound continued after intermission with Symphony No. 41, the “Jupiter” symphony. The gods, or at least Apollo, seemed to be smiling on the performance, as afternoon sunlight moved center stage, spotlighting Abaddo (at the end of the first movement, he grinned and mimed the need for sunglasses). Again Mozart’s music took over the room, leaving the audience wanting more.


His hands floated and flashed as conductor Roberto Abaddo (top) led the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (bottom) through their final Chicago Presents concert of the year—the first of a three-year artists-in-residence program. Photos courtesy the SPCO.

April 24, 2006