Never one to shirk a responsibility, Sir Neville Marriner, founder of the archetypical chamber orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, will conduct the upcoming CAMA-presented concert of his band at the Arlington Theatre, with the gifted young pianist, Yuja Wang, as soloist.
This performance, part of the academy’s 11-city U.S. tour through April 9, was to have been conducted, from the podium or keyboard, by the accomplished Murray Perahia. But Perahia developed a skin infection grave enough to cause his doctors to urge he suspend all performances during the period of his treatment. Marriner had already engaged to conduct the Zagreb Philharmonic, but that orchestra has graciously released him from this obligation and he will be directing the academy throughout the tour. Doubtless, it will seem as if he never left.
The concert begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The change of conductor/soloist has perforce occasioned some changes in program. The academy will still open with Wolfgang Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297, called the “Paris.” But where Perahia would have continued with two concerted works, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467 — sometimes called the “Elvira Madigan,” for its use on the soundtrack of that film — and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1054, the academy and Wang, under Marriner’s baton, will perform only one — but what a one! — Mozart’s majestic Piano Concerto No. 24 in c minor, K. 491. Marriner has then added Felix Mendelssohn’s youthful Sinfonia No. 10 in b minor. Marriner’s program concludes, as Perahia’s would have, with Franz Josef Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 in D Major, “London.”
Writing about another of Mozart’s 27 piano concertos, the great musicologist Robert Craft called it “just another perfect mansion in the kingdom of Mozart.” No. 24 is all that and more. With this one work, Mozart leaps out of the 18th century into the 19th. It anticipates both Byron and Beethoven — indeed, Beethoven’s own Piano Concerto No. 3, also in c minor, sounds virtually a copy of K. 491 in mood, structure and theme. When it is dark, it is very dark; when it looks up, the radiance is blinding; when it concludes, all is joy.
Haydn’s “London” Symphony is another kind of miracle. You might suppose, since Haydn more or less invented the symphony and wrote 104 of them, that the early ones would be too embryonic to be of anything but scholarly interest, and that the latter ones would be showing signs of the master running out of steam. Both suppositions would be very wide of the mark. From first to last, every single Haydn symphony is a complete, fully formed masterpiece. But the last, the “London” is something special, even in this series. If the final movement doesn’t leave you happy and exhilarated, you are beyond redemption.
Tickets to the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields concert sponsored by the Community Arts Music Association are $35, $45, $60 and $75. Click here to order online or call the Arlington Theatre Box Office at 805.963.4408.