Review of Manchester Camerata’s livestreamed ‘Mozart in Motion’ concert at the Stoller Hall

Mozart played by Manchester Camerata is always a treat, and in addition to their recent public concert at the Stoller Hall with Gábor Takács-Nagy and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet they did another one last Thursday in the same hall – this time empty of people in the auditorium but live-streamed as ‘Mozart in Motion’.

Dimitri Sitkovetsky shared the direction with Bavouzet, as each appeared as director-and-soloist, and Sitkovetsky directed the ‘Jupiter’ symphony, from the leader’s position (and jumping up out of it, too), for good measure. Caroline Pether was alongside him as ever-alert leader in the first two items: the Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola (with Timothy Ridout as viola soloist) and Piano Concerto no. 9 (the Jenamy, or ‘Jeunehomme’ as it’s long been called).

Nicely presented in the hands of Apple & Biscuit Productions, with Camerata principal flute Amina Hussain filmed in the hall stalls doing a brief introduction and later talking to Jean-Efflam Bavouzet about the concerto, and Caroline Pether ushering in the symphony, it was an extraordinarily good night of music-making.

The string Sinfonia Concertante (K364) is one of those pieces of youthful Mozart that’s pure pleasure from start to finish. Sitkovetsky and Ridout faced the orchestra from the front of the stage (why turn away from them with no one in the audience seats?) and were a superbly matched duo, neither stealing the limelight but both bringing lyrical beauty and eloquence to their role. The Camerata players followed suit, with suave and graceful playing that was also neatly pointed where necessary and had real weight and attack in its crescendi – and could turn sombre on a sixpence, too. The slow movement had a lovely lilt and long, smooth phrasing, and the finale was great fun, perky and playful.

For the piano concerto (K272), Bavouzet, too, could face the orchestra, and his performance had all the distinction I remember from their concert performance of it together in September 2019. The piece reached depths of expression in the slow movement that he’s explored so well before, and the finale had all its pace and exuberance again.  The piano (it’s got a big tone anyway) was pretty closely mic’d for Mozart – it may sound like that to performers in a ‘normal’ concert, but the on-screen experience should, I think, match that of an audience sitting at a distance as we usually do.

The Symphony no. 41 (K551) is a winner is any circumstances and was given exemplary treatment under Sitkovetsky, the wind players as ever providing much of the distinction to the sound. That amazing finale bubbled and bounced – it never fails to lift the spirits.