Oxford Philomusica had a trilogy of winners last night: a programme of some of Mozart’s most celebrated works, a world famous soloist and the iconic setting of the Wren designed 1668 Sheldonian Theatre.
How we enjoyed it all! The atmosphere was excited and celebratory. The Oxford Philomusica, conducted by the charismatic, leonine-headed Mario Papadopoulos has a wide and varied repertoire, but never fails to bring out the joy, and so they did last night.
A perfect executed confection of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik put everyone in the mood for a party. Shortly afterwards, the two gleaming Steinways were carefully positioned next to one another, and secured. The appearance of Portuguese pianist, Maria Joao Pires, and her French pupil, Julien Brocal, brought members of the audience to their feet.
The duo’s interpretation of Mozart’s Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra No 10 in E flat major was sparkling: vivacious, fluid and thrilling. This concerto is a composition Mozart favoured himself. He possibly played it with his elder sister Anna in Saltzburg, but he certainly performed it several times in Vienna with other partners.
Pires and Brocal’s deft and confident encore of Grieg’s Anitras’ Dance from Peer Gynt was well received.
The excitement generated by the Symphony No 38 in D Major, K504, ‘Prague’ was palpable. The Philomusica gave a thrilling interpretation of a masterpiece in Mozart’s favourite symphonic key of D. The audience sat rapt. The combination of the orchestra’s verve, and balletic movements of Papadopoulos’ conducting: his expressive face and sensitive mastery of the baton, made for both a ravishing sensory visual and auditory experience.
The only downside of the night was the peculiar airlessness of the upper reaches of the Sheldonian Theatre and the shortness of leg room, which necessitates taking up a tortured sitting position with your legs sideways. Yoga practitioners have an advantage, but we all were transported last night.