The National League Championship Series cost the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra serious ticket sales for Friday’s opening concert of the weekend’s all-Mozart program.
The good news is that the SLSO didn’t take nearly as long to produce a winner.
The weekend’s conductor and soloist is British violinist Anthony Marwood. He brought what’s known as HIP — historically informed performance — style to Powell Symphony Hall, with zippy tempos and lean textures that make the music-making feel more urgent.
Marwood led the small orchestra with his instrument, standing in either the concertmaster’s spot or, in the two violin concertos, in the center of a horseshoe. The other musicians stood to play as well, with the exception of the bassoons and cellos, in the approved early music manner. Standing to perform seems to add to the players’ energy, and reduce the number of spike heels worn on stage.
The program opened with the 8-year-old Mozart’s Symphony No. 1 in E-flat major, a brief but charming work. His promise was already clear. The strings were on top of things from the start; the horns had to warm up.
That led to the lovely, tuneful Violin Concerto No. 2, given a bright, spare reading. Marwood isn’t a flashy player, but he’s technically superb, and his playing is beautifully virtuosic.
In the Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, Marwood got the orchestra started with a few hand gestures to set the tempo, then let them go, for a smooth, thoroughly enjoyable reading. Everyone seemed completely attuned to both Mozart and to each other, for a performance that rose well above the everyday.
The program concluded with the familiar Symphony No. 35 in D major, the “Haffner,” bringing the program full circle from the child to the mature master at the peak of his powers. The sound was excellent through most of it, but with some muddying near the end.
The audience may have been smaller than anticipated, but everyone there was enthusiastic, rewarding Marwood and his players with whoops and heavy applause at the end of each work.