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Collegium honors `Glory of Mozart'.

Byline: John Zeugner


Worcester Collegium has got the "momentum" - to use the political argot of the moment. The audience for Wednesday night's concert in Mechanics Hall easily had doubled from the group's debut in that venue last November. That number was still far too few given the energy, enthusiasm and professionalism of the ensemble, and the magic tossed off by the featured soloists - Krista Reisner, violin, and Peter Sulski, viola.

The program was titled "The Glory of Mozart," and rather cannily focused on that period in Mozart's life when his compositions, in Maynard Solomon's memorable phrase, gained "the excruciating, surplus quality that transforms loveliness into ecstasy, grace into sublimity, pleasure into rapture." Mozart was probably just about the age as the average of the Worcester Collegium's members when he wrote the Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, and his 29th Symphony in A. Surely ecstasy, sublimity and rapture permeate those pieces. There is a haunting, rapturous quality to the throbbing opening of the Concertante's second movement, and the Symphony's first movement - an almost ominous enveloping that truly verges on the sublime.

Conductor (and Collegium co-founder) Ian Watson pulled a thick, energetic sound out of the young ensemble. Watson clearly likes his minions to crank, and his approach to Mozart is surprisingly muscular and romantic; the effect, especially in the trio segment of the symphony's third movement, stunned the audience into a reverent hush.

Equally stunning, but in a very different way, was the milky sentiment of the interplay between Reisner and Sulski (also a co-founder of the Collegium) in the Concertante. The pick-up and melodic mesh between them was faultless and captivating - their cadenzas spot-on and mesmerizing.

In both offerings the Collegium was complemented by four outside ringers brought in to handle the horn (Jean Jeffries and Chris Hayes) and oboe (Joe Halko and Ron Kaye). Their splendid playing lent both dense heft and piercing sharpness to the Collegium strings.

The concert had begun with a more or less throwaway version of the overture to Mozart's early demi-opera, "Bastien et Bastienne," written when he was about 12 years old, in the merely pleasant, lovely, graceful phase of his genius.

There are two more chances to join the momentum spinning off from this remarkable ensemble, Worcester Collegium, at venerable Mechanics Hall: Feb. 27 for an all-English composition evening featuring Elgar's Serenade; and April 30 for an all-Classical-period concert concluding with Haydn's darkly powerful "Trauer Musik," Symphony No. 44.

Worcester Collegium and its companion, Worcester Chamber Music Society, provides local music-making of the highest order - further astonishing evidence of the innovative arts scene in the new Worcester.
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 1, 2008
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