It's a dodgy business, trying to sell a programme on jazz influences. Seeing the half-full hall, you could reflect that the audience for jazz is smaller than that for classical music. Or that the public soon rumbles composers who put on borrowed clothes and otherwise stay themselves.
What makes Leonard Bernstein's Fancy Free such a strong score isn't the blue notes and honky-tonk piano, it's the typical Bernstein oddball rhythms and acid tunes getting a first breezy workout and in the process inventing a cosmopolitan musical image of New York that has coloured perceptions of the place ever since.
Fancy Free rounded off a programme by the BBC Concert Orchestra notable for unfussy playing and for the conductor Charles Hazlewood's preachy spoken introductions. His take on jazz history, airbrushing out its pre-American roots, came surprisingly from the founder of an opera company in Africa, from which mezzo Pauline Malefane dropped in to give hypnotic performances of Kurt Weill excerpts.
George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue appeared in its theatre-orchestra version, full of poster-bright period colours and extra chunks of piano writing much relished by the rhythmically persuasive soloist Kevin Cole. Like the pill in the sugar, a BBC commission had its premiere midway through. Dai Fujikura's Crushing Twister splits the orchestra in two and sets them at each other in music of an unremitting density that perversely detracts from its composer's striking instrumental imagination.
The Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra drew a bigger crowd for the season's prime Mozartfest. This mid-sized group offered big-hearted, energetic and nuanced playing with a selection of period features in an essentially mainstream style. Finales in two symphonies, 34 and 38, went with fizz, fire and delicacy; slow music had the right amount of animation, and opening movements, oddly, suffered a little from fussy phrasing between robust full outbursts.
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