Saturday, October 14, 2006

This must have been what hearing Mozart play was like


It was Friday, the 13th.

I went mostly because to hook up with friends and because I liked the restaurant they were meeting at before the concert.

I did not, in short, expect much from the Gothenburg Orchestra (Sweden's National Symphony) performing Mozart and Sibelius at the National Theater last night. The Mozart was written for clarinet, not my favorite instrument. But wow. How wrong I was. I thought it was only Madama Butterfly or Tosca that made me cry. Some pieces during this performance were transcendent -- and the SRO audience knew it and showed their approval -- which is the chemistry that makes for exciting concert-going.

The featured soloist was Martin Frost, a skinny, blonde Swedish kid who used that clarinet as if it were part of his body. Reviews of his performances -- I've spent a morning on Internet looking them up -- all talk about how he sways and bends and almost dances with his instrument while playing, which might seem affected, but we were sitting in the right balcony directly in front of him and you could see how he was just suffused with that music. He was channeling it.

I thought about how much Mozart the boy virtuoso would love hearing this kid playing his piece.

The audience went wild when he took his bows, so he returned to the stage and blew their minds away first by telling them, "Puno hvala!" thanks in Bosnian, and then by playing a short, stunningly complex atonal improvisation that could not have been further from Mozart musically.

He was bravo-ed back onstage again. He walked out to the front of the stage, stopping short of the soloist's usual spot and began playing slowly and softly Bach's Ava Maria.

After a few measures the first cellist joined. Then the first violinist, then the second.

It's a short, exquisite piece anyway, but this was so extraordinarily beautiful I felt lucky to have heard it.

After the intermission, Frost came out into the audience from a side door dressed in a polo shirt and slacks, his tuxedo in a ball under his arm, and sidled into the middle of a back row to listen to the rest of the concert. As he moved to his seat, people recognized him and began applauding him again.

Martin Frost. Remember that name. See the CDs on Amazon. com.

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