Two Brothers, Two Composers And Pretty Much One Sound

Period-instrument flutist Marc Hantaï and his brother Jérôme, below, on fortepiano, performed Mozart and Haydn at the Library of Congress.
Period-instrument flutist Marc Hantaï and his brother Jérôme, below, on fortepiano, performed Mozart and Haydn at the Library of Congress. (Library Of Congress Photos)

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Monday, February 26, 2007

The Bach family tree branched out over 90 musicians in Germany. Neighboring France claimed its own dynasties with the Couperins and Forquerays. These days Paris has another musical family, the Hantaï brothers -- Pierre, Marc and Jérôme. Friday at the Library of Congress Marc and Jérôme Hantaï and friends offered a symmetrically designed program of Mozart and Haydn played on period instruments.

In each half of the concert a Mozart violin sonata was sandwiched between two Haydn flute trios. The concept looked better on paper than it sounded.

In the sonatas, violinist Alessandro Moccia and fortepianist Jérôme Hantaï had their hearts in the right place, but not all of their notes. Hantaï's strummed chords opening K. 379 were exquisitely articulated, leading to Moccia's beautifully placed double-stops that unfolded the music like a slowly blossoming flower. But in other spots, notably the closing set of variations (and the Adagio of Sonata K. 481), the playing was far less secure. It was a treat, however, to see Mozart's original messy manuscript of K. 379 on display at Coolidge Auditorium.

Perhaps the best playing of the evening came from flutist Marc Hantaï, whose effortless, rounded tones saved Haydn's four flute trios from being seen as merely house music composed for amateurs. The group tapped into Haydn's unique mix of wit and elegance, especially in the Trio in G (Hob. XV:15).

But for all of Hantaï's handsome playing (well supported by cellist Alix Verzier), the Haydn pieces were a little too similar, providing perhaps too much of a good thing.

-- Tom Huizenga


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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