Dramatic Mozart: A Mozart Celebration

Diana Carroll

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra springs into 2018 with a superb celebration of the genius that was Mozart.
Dramatic Mozart: A Mozart Celebration

Image: SSO's Dramatic Mozart Concerto. Pictured David Robertson and Emanuel Ax with the SSO. Photo (c) Daniela Testa.

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra is launching into 2018 with a wonderful series of performances celebrating the music of the incomparable Wolfgang Mozart.  Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, David Robertson, has drawn on his twenty-year association with the great pianist Emanuel Ax to produce these four concerts named Dramatic Mozart, Seductive Mozart, Magnificent Mozart, and Mozart and the French Connection

Each concert features four pieces chosen to highlight a particular aspect of the Mozart repertoire.  And what a repertoire there is to choose from, with a total of some 769 compositions across symphonies, operas and operettas, concerti, sonatas, and many more musical forms. 

The Dramatic Mozart program opened with the Overture from Don Giovanni, offering a rousing start to the concert.  Often regarded as one of the greatest operas of all time, it is hard to believe that Mozart took just two weeks for its composition.

The glorious Steinway Grand was then opened to the gods as pianist Emanuel Ax joined the Orchestra on stage for the Piano Concerto No 14 in E Flat. Ax is a masterful Mozartian and displayed a fine touch throughout the performance.  Never showy or elaborate, the 68-year-old Ax plays with cunning ease and a fine empathy for the conductor and players.  And he can be robust when it is required, but never heavy-handed or overly dramatic.

After the break, Ax was back on stage for the wonderful Piano Concerto No 20 in D Minor.  The opening movement, Allegro Vivace, had David Robertson conducting with sweeping strokes as he skipped from one foot to the other.  Robertson’s obvious pleasure in conducting always makes him a delight to watch.

The audience showed their warm appreciation for the exceptional pianism of the soloist with rousing applause and many calls of ‘Bravo’.  Ax rewarded them with a delightful encore before leaving the stage with a fond wave.

Robertson and the SSO wrapped up the evening’s celebration with a delightful reading of the Symphony No 40 in G Minor.  From its familiar opening notes to its delicately mournful soul, this is a glorious example of Mozart’s depth and emotional range.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Dramatic Mozart

Sydney Symphony Orchestra 
David Robertson – Conductor
Emanuel Ax – Piano
Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Don Giovanni: Overture
Piano Concerto No.14 in E flat, K449
Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor, K466
Symphony No.40
The Mozart Series continues at the Sydney Opera House until 10 February 2018
Mozart and the French Connection is at the City Recital Hall on 22-23 February 2018

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Sydney. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.