Thursday's Haydn and Mozart from the Oxford Philharmonic was notable not only for the presence of trumpeter Paul Merkelo, but for the unusual featuring of a work from Mozart père. The two movements of Leopold Mozart's 1762 Trumpet Concerto in D major are not a great deal more than a fragment, but the piece is attractively tuneful and a welcome inclusion in this programme when, say, the Hummel Trumpet Concerto might have been the expected choice. Scored for just trumpet, twin horns and strings, the opening is a decorated scale before the entry of the solo trumpet.
Paul Merkelo, hailing from Illinois USA, has been called ‘the new Maurice André’ - praise indeed - and his day job is Principal with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. He's now firmly on the Oxford Philharmonic's radar, and has just now recorded with it on the Sony label.
The Mozart was something of an hors d'oeuvre prior to Haydn’s 1796 Trumpet Concerto in E flat major. Haydn gives his soloist a chance to warm up with a blast or two during the orchestral exposition, before his entry with the principal subject, later developed, and returning in recapitulation. During his brief rests and while the strings section played, Merkelo jogged slightly on the spot in time to the music. The virtuoso cadenza was handled by him with deceptively casual brio, and the fanfares of the Rondo, smoothly but energetically produced, brought us to a triumphant conclusion.
Having decided to award Haydn an honorary doctorate,
Hannah Schneider, the Orchestra's assistant conductor and
Mozart's 'Prague' Symphony is one of my favourite of his symphonies, with that initial, massive D that conductor Marios Papadopoulos instantly suppressed, and then four curt phrases that sounded like a giant clearing his throat. The succeeding Pastorale was here given delicately to us as a sort of cradle-song, and later the sympathetic playing of paired notes by the violins made me think of birdsong. Both conductors in their rendering of their respective symphonies put such feeling into the music that their pleasure ran around the Sheldonian like a bush fire.