Antonio Salieri was a composer of immense accomplishment who rose to positions of great eminence in late-18th century Vienna.
But he was aware that the same city housed a younger man of infinitely greater genius than his own – Mozart – and the legend arose that he poisoned this perceived rival out of jealousy.
Nothing in it, of course, but it made a nice Pushkin play, later turned into an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov, and a blockbuster play and film by Peter Shaffer.
And Salieri’s music? Stylish, well-made, and speaking the same lingua franca as Mozart, but saying much, much less. Salieri’s Italianate D major Symphony made an arresting opening to Orchestra of the Swan’s Sunday afternoon concert, but for all the subtlety of conductor David Curtis’s interpretation, it couldn’t help but sound like a very poor relation of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture.
Mozart himself was represented by a couple of his youthful Salzburg works, beginning with the A major Violin Concerto, K.219. This was a late replacement to the programme, the flautist in the announced Flute and Harp Concerto having succumbed to the germs going around, so Alicja Smietana, already due to play K219 with OOTS in Stratford tonight, was hijacked on her way from Manchester to London, and brought in to save the day.
On one rehearsal this was an impressive performance, if somewhat lacking in personality (that will come after less fraught times). Nevertheless, Curtis and Smietana between them found eloquent depths in the mellifluous slow movement.
David Curtis’s vast chamber-music experience elucidated an account of Mozart’s texturally-rich A major Symphony, K.201 where every line was allowed to make significant contributions whilst never disturbing the balance of the whole.