JWR Articles: Live Event - Lucerne Festival Summer (Conductor: Neville Marriner) - February 10, 2010
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Lucerne Festival Summer

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Written during the 1984 summer Lucerne Festival; rediscovered and published in 2010
Mozart undone

This programme was the most unmusical offering to date. Sir Neville Marriner’s attitude is one of “put the nickel in and it will play itself.” The music failed to breathe and there was no inkling that he had investigated the structure or harmonic plan. The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields played fairly well with some intonation trouble in the woodwinds. They sat in “normal” seating. As to repeats, only the exposition of the first movement and the standard ones on the “Minuet” (taken far too fast) were observed.

The saddest was the orchestra’s tone, coming across in a manner that would have made Beethoven grimace. Marriner’s left-hand technique is non-existent and many of the chord changes and releases were simply not together.

In the Mass, there was some excitement as the scheduled bass soloist (Stephen Roberts) had “lost his voice at 5 o’clock,” so one of the members of the chorus filled in. He turned out to be the best of the bunch. Of the two sopranos (Sylvia McNair and Eiddwen Harrhy), the former had pitch problems while her colleague was decicedly shrill. Tenor Anthony Rolfe-Johnson had little quality and could also have used a replacement from the chorus. The chorus as a whole had the same forced tone as their instrumental colleagues so at least the sound matched.

It appears that Marriner surrounds himself with good players, so at least the notes will be there. He is a good example of a recurring theme these days: Which is more important, the musical ideas or just the sound?

In sum, an evening filled with disappointment on nearly all fronts. JWR

Between Performances

During the 1984 festival’s 24-day span, a wide variety of non-musical activities was available both in Lucerne and surrounding environs. Because of the excellent local and inter-city transportation system, there’s plenty to see and do within a day’s reach and still be back in time for the next performance—Cultural Tourism at its best! The article below is an update from the 2010 experience.

Zentrum Paul Klee, the art museum in Berne is strong on special exhibits (Klee Meets Picasso) and offers a very comprehensive children’s program. Just a quick train and then bus ride from Lucerne, there’s lots of time to take in this wonderful array of art. JWR

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Repertoire:
Symphony No. 41 in C Major - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Grand Mass in C Minor, KV 427 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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