Academy of St. Martin in the Fields an Impressive Winner

Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Dallas Art Seek

By Olin Chism

The music-lovers of this area don’t get to hear as many major touring groups as those living in some other metropolitan centers do. But occasionally a winner stops by.

This happened Tuesday night, when the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields gave a performance in the Meyerson Symphony Center. It was an all-Mozart concert and it was a delight.

The Academy is, of course, a very well known British chamber orchestra known principally for its extensive discography. It has about 25 members, mostly strings, though two horns and two oboes were added for two of the three pieces played Tuesday night.

In place of a stand-in-front conductor, violinist Kenneth Sillito and pianist Jonathan Biss (an American) led from their playing positions. In view of that, it’s remarkable that the orchestra showed such cohesion in ensemble and unity of artistic expression. This was an evening that was both sophisticated and pleasurable.
The program consisted of Mozart works slightly off the main track — though that doesn’t mean the quality was not very high.

The Divertimento in D Major, K. 136, was a couple of high-spirited romps flanking a lovely andante. It was for strings alone.

The Symphony No. 29 in A (a key that usually promises Mozart in a very lyrical mood) was a songful gem. It includes one of Mozart’s most charming minuets.

Capping the evening was the Piano Concerto No. 9, K. 271 — the first of the really great Mozart piano concertos, though No. 8 has its moments. Biss, partnered smartly by the orchestra, gave a fetching performance in which brisk tempos kept spirits high in the outer movements and the middle andantino contrasted with gorgeous lyrical playing.