Review: Chicago Symphony’s winds return for virtual Mozart “Gran Partita”

Posted on: April 15, 2021

“For orchestras around the world this past year, strings have been the thing,” writes Lawrence A. Johnson in Wednesday’s (4/14) Chicago Classical Review. “Unlike their brass and woodwind colleagues, string players can perform while masked. Happily, the latest episode (No. 17) in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s streaming CSO Sessions series provides some variety [with] Serenade in B flat, K. 361/370a, the ‘Gran Partita.’ … The ‘Gran Partita’ … scored for 13 instruments … is Mozart’s largest work for wind ensemble … spanning seven movements…. Production values were first class. The recorded performance was introduced by CSO section oboist Lora Schaefer and proved visually striking with the dozen winds arranged in a circle on the stage of an empty Orchestra Hall (double-bass player Robert Kassinger sat outside). Despite the unorthodox setup, the instrumental colors emerged clearly and cohesively as did the blended tutti sound in the final mix…. It was wonderful to hear (and see) such front-desk stalwarts as oboist William Welter, clarinetist Stephen Williamson, and bassoonist Keith Buncke playing Mozart with apt grace and sensitivity…. All the players brought jaunty swagger to the second Menuetto’s main theme and the inward lyricism of the Romanze was deftly contrasted with the bumptious trios.”