In an imaginative whim of programming, Jane Glover and the Music of the Baroque orchestra mined Haydn’s very early career and Mozart’s maturing phase to cobble together “From Dawn to Dusk,” an evening of music making at the Harris Theater that centered on periods within a single day. The result was a performance that allowed this extremely talented ensemble to shine bright, although it didn’t quite work as a program.
The highlights of the evening were three of Haydn’s earliest symphonies, known by the names “Morning,” “Afternoon,” and “Evening,” Number 6 in D-major (Le Matin), Number 7 in C-major (Le Midi), and Number 8 in G-major (Le Soir). Haydn wrote these pieces upon the start of his employment at the Esterhazy Estate in modern-day Hungary. Clearly impressed by the talent of the players at his disposal, Haydn embedded intricate and difficult solos, duets, trios, and other ensemble writing into the symphonies’ movements to create concerto grosso like settings which, in Jane Glover’s firm hands, marvelously highlighted the deep talent of the Music of the Baroque orchestra.
Much of the heavy lifting was done by concertmaster and principal violinist Kathleen Brauer, who found herself paired with cellist Barbara Haffner, or part of a quartet that also included principal second violinist Sharon Polifrone, and bassoonist William Buchman. At other times, Haydn’s score called for principal string bassist Collins Trier to team up with Buchman and principal violist Elizabeth Hagen. Several passages featured delicate woodwind chorales, which passed musical themes back and forth with the strings. Haydn also included several calls by a pair of French Horns, as well as airy statements by the flutes. In each case, the playing was nearly flawless, with only an occasional stumble that, in the overall scheme of things, seemed completely alright.
While not masterpieces, these delightful symphonies offered more than mere glimpses into the budding genius that Haydn would ultimately become while writing nearly 100 additional symphonies. They also showcased his ability to establish musical visualizations that foreshadowed what is arguably his single greatest work, The Creation oratorio, which Haydn would write forty years later. (Music of the Baroque offered a marvelous rendition of The Creation in 2014.)
The Creation imagery came right from the start with a sunrise that opened the first piece. Employing the perfect tempo, Jane Glover built an affect that made this sunshine seem real and ever present. It was an excellent contrast to the light and airy melodicism that pervaded the remainder of the opening movement.
Concluding the three symphonies was a rain shower that also foreshadowed The Creation. Beginning with rapid notes played by the violins, the presto movement perfectly recreated the feeling of precipitation in the evening; while not as thunderous as the rainy images in The Creation, it worked nevertheless, especially when performed by these players.
The first half of the program featured Haydn’s Symphony Nos. 6 and 7. In keeping with the daytime theme, Glover started the second half with Mozart’s Serenata notturna, the Serenade Number 6 in D Major, K. 239, before playing the third Haydn Symphony, Number 8.
Although Mozart wrote serenades to be lighthearted background music for parties and gatherings, he still gave them his typical flare and creativity. This particular piece featured a quartet comprising the principal first violinist Brauer, second violinist Polifrone, violist Hagen, and the string bassist Trier, backed up by strings and timpani. The melodies in each of the three movements were charming, and it all ended with a humorous interplay between the timpani, rendered by Douglas Waddell, and the first violin.
By itself, Serenata Notturna is fine. In this context, however, it jarred with the Haydn and simply didn’t belong sandwiched amongst these symphonies. Although I love Haydn and consider his music woefully underperformed, Mozart usually overshadows him, but not this time. While I applaud Music of the Baroque for performing these works, better would have been to start the concert with the Mozart, or to have found a different piece to conclude.
Notwithstanding this odd bit of programming, the music making was top notch from start to finish, leaving a strongly favorable impression.