REVIEW: Mozart played with Guzzo

Posted on October 1, 2010

Mozart in Stafford – Played with Guzzo.  Chris Ramsden reviews Camerata’s concert at The Stafford Gatehouse.

“It’s getting hard to keep up with Manchester’s music scene. Just as Gianandrea Noseda steps down from the BBC Philharmonic (see Farewell Symphony), Douglas Boyd leaves the Manchester Camerata (though he comes to Stafford next May for his farewell concert). Mark Elder over at the Hallé must be getting a bit restless.

And with the Camerata, it’s not just the conductor who’s changing; there’s also a new leader, Giovanni Guzzo.

The Camerata obviously decided we might be overwhelmed if we had to cope with two new people at once. So last night in Stafford we were introduced to Giovanni Guzzo as he gave his first concert as leader; the new conductor comes later.

  Violinist Giovanni Guzzo

Giovanni Guzzo was not content, however, just to lead the Camerata. He brought a programme of early Mozart to the Gatehouse so that he could conduct from the leader’s chair — and he also played the violin while conducting Mozart’s third violin concerto.There was no doubting who was in charge and controlling events.

Giovanni Guzzo, though of Italian origin, was lucky enough to be born in what is clearly one of the most musical countries in the world, Venezuela (home of El Sistema and Gustav Dudamel). He got a first at the Royal Academy of Music in London and has played for the Queen, world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and last night, for the good people of Stafford. He’s just 24 years old.

Mind you, Mozart was just 15 when he wrote the Divertimento in F, K 138, which opened the concert, 19 when he wrote the third violin concerto, and 18 when he wrote the symphony no. 29 which came after the interval.

The works came in ascending order of genius.

Giovanni Guzzo played throughout without written music, and he was plainly well inside the eighteenth century idiom, clean and incisive but not lacking in expression. His team threw off the outer movements of the Divertimento as if they were indeed diverted, but made every note of the big tune in the slow movement count.

The leader was plainly in his element in Mozart’s third violin concerto. It was a performance to make you think you had maybe underestimated this early work.

After the interval, an octet played Last Round by Osvaldo Golijov, apparently in memory of the great Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla. It was, frankly, at the edge of my comfort zone, but I’d have loved them to have played some actual Piazzolla.

The orchestra ended with Mozart’s 29th symphony, one of his early masterpieces, and for this they played standing up. Is this a new trend? And why didn’t they stand for the Divertimento? Anyway, if it was intended to increase the orchestra’s projection and focus, it seemed to me to work just fine.

The musicians applauded Guzzo almost as much as we did. Plainly, this will be a winning combination.

I must admit that I had been wondering if Stafford’s relationship with the Camerata was souring.

It looked as if the Camerata’s appearances in the New Year were reduced to two duos — violin and piano on February 3 and cello and piano a month later. In fact, these are just delightful extras — held in the new Met area — just to keep the music playing while the Stafford Gatehouse is done up. There’s actually finance for two more years.

The Camerata is back in full swing in April and May. There’s also a Family Creativity Day on Sunday, November 14 (it sounds such fun I think I’ll adopt a child between 7 and 11 so I can attend), Sarah Whittingham is taking on the role of Stafford’s musician in residence giving informal recitals and talks all over the place (is that her busking in the town centre?) and there’s a special invite to the Camerata’s home, the Bridgewater Hall, in January, to see the end of the group’s acclaimed romp through the symphonies of Beethoven”.

Read the whole of Chris Ramsden’s Blog

Visit Manchester Camerata’s Blog

Details of Camerata’s events in Stafford