In Peter Shaffer's wildly fanciful play "Amadeus," the mediocre and oh-so jealous composer Salieri describes the moment he realized the genius of his nemesis — hearing a phrase in Mozart's Serenade for Winds that was "filled with such longing … it had me trembling."
Any Mozart fan is bound to have a similar example, some little moment of Mozart that seems impossibly beautiful, unusually affecting. For me, it comes in the Adagio of the Clarinet Concerto, when the soloist begins a tender descending melody that gets gently answered by the orchestra.
That poignant passage sounded more transfixing than ever Thursday night at Meyerhoff Hall in a superb performance of the Clarinet Concerto during the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's all-Mozart program.
The soloist, Anthony McGill, who is principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and a Peabody Conservatory faculty member, spun out a tone of such gossamer delicacy that it seemed to emerge from some other world.
Throughout the concerto, he offered an exquisite combination of technical refinement and expressive radiance, shaping lines like a masterful Mozart singer. The BSO, sensitively conducted by Marin Alsop, responded to the clarinetist's inspired playing with considerable care and nuance.
The program held other rewards. Although I would have welcomed more individualistic touches here and there, Alsop led persuasive accounts of two Mozart symphonies.
In No. 29, she consistently brought out telling dynamic contrasts, coaxing lovely pianissimo sounds from the orchestra in the Andante. The outer movements had an appealing rhythmic drive; the bursts of color at the close of the finale cut through effectively. A few rough patches aside, the BSO did sturdy, vibrant work.
Things were even more impressive in Mozart's last symphony, No. 41. Alsop took the first and fourth movements at a bracing clip that did not obscure subtle details, and she gave the Andante room to breathe. The orchestra again delivered; the strings, in particular, made shining contributions.
At the start of the concert's second half, Alsop turned the podium over to the BSO-Peabody Conducting Fellow, Alexandra Arrieche, who confidently led the ensemble in a sturdy account of the Overture to "The Magic Flute."