The Kennedy Center's Mostly Mozart Festival concluded Saturday night with a concert apparently typical of what has been proclaimed the finest of its five years of festivals here.
It was actually all Mozart, except for the lovely Weber works in the "preconcert recital," with the evening's soloists, pianist Garrick Ohlsson and clarinetist David Shifrin.
Mozart continues to be box office magic this year, for the obvious reasons, and Saturday night was standing-room-only. It was a satisfyingly proper climax to this visit by Mostly Mozart, from New York's Lincoln Center.
The Mostly Mozart Orchestra, now under the direction of Gerard Schwarz but conducted Saturday by Raymond Leppard, is now playing less like an expert pickup band (the members are so skilled they can coast at that level) and more like a real orchestra. There was great finesse from players who perform together only about two months a year.
It came most from the winds. In the Piano Concerto in B-flat, K. 456, the doubled oboes in the jaunty second theme of the first movement were just perfection. And throughout, when Loren Glickman's bassoon was doubling with other instruments, the timbres were especially lovely.
Winds are the next most important thing to the solo instrument itself in the 27 Mozart concertos, because they are so often in dialogue. In this one, for some odd reason the least often heard of the later concertos, the winds and Ohlsson just kept getting better and better. They seemed to be feeding on each other. Articulation was particularly precise; a triplet phrase in the last movement was not blurred once -- a rare occurrence. Ohlsson had the concerto exactly in scale dynamically, no mean feat in a concerto that suffers from being overplayed, and its harmonic development was always assured.
Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, which Shifrin played on a basset clarinet made especially for him (to provide low notes not always available on the standard), is an even finer work.
The first movement was smooth -- less sharply articulated than this listener would prefer. But the dreamy second movement, in which Shifrin's soft tone and his remarkable breath control were awfully impressive, made you forget the first movement. The rapt sound with which Shifrin brought back the opening theme was just gorgeous.
There were two symphonies. The famous one was the "Linz," the 36th in C major, K. 425. Until Mozart got to the "Jupiter," this was his most majestic symphony. Leppard conducted it briskly, with light inflections. Because it has such rich sonic textures, this listener prefers it done more intensely, but that's just a matter of taste.
There was also the Symphony No. 21 in A, K. 134. It's elegant, charming, and in an occasional theme -- like the second one in the first movement -- foreshadows the musical giant yet to come.