Reaction Weekend

Review – Mixing up Mozart at Southbank Centre

Review: Love and Duty, performed by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Southbank Centre

BY James Hardie | jejhardie   /  8 February 2019

Always one to question received wisdom, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment decided to question Mozart’s on Monday evening. Rather than playing his Symphony No. 40 all the way through in a oner, it was split up over the course of the evening, with arias by Gluck, Haydn and Mozart interspersed.

This was inspired by the miscellany-style concerts of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which would be made up of a few choice arias, a couple of overtures, and perhaps a concerto. Was this Mozart symphony suitable for such treatment? The late scholar-conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt suggested that Mozart composed his final three symphonies (which Wolfgang Amadeus wrote in a period of just six weeks, with No. 40 being the middle one) as one big work, and recorded them as such in 2014. So, perhaps not. But I’m all for experimenting.

If it was going to work, it was with this crack group of artists. Conductor Giovanni Antonini cuts a diminutive, wiry figure on the podium, but one that explodes with positive energy.