For the first concert of its 30th season, the Louisiana Sinfonietta, conducted by its music director Dinos Constantinides, performed a characteristically diverse program of Baroque, classical and 20th-century music Sunday afternoon at the intimate LSU School of Music Recital Hall.
Also in typical Sinfonietta style, five soloists joined conductor and ensemble for concertos by Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Constantinides. Also on the program was a single-movement piece by the late, prolific American composer, Alan Hovhaness.
The Sinfonietta often performs the music of Vivaldi during its concerts. Sunday’s performance of the Italian Baroque master’s Concerto in C for Two Trumpets featured soloists Brian Shaw and James West playing piccolo trumpets. Much smaller than full-sized trumpets, they might be described as child-sized.
Piccolo trumpets can make the performance of higher-end Baroque trumpet parts composed by the likes of J.S. Bach, George Frideric Handel and Vivaldi easier. But many concertgoers likely noticed little or no difference between trumpets and piccolo trumpets. Shaw and West playing the diminutive brass instruments produced a mostly visual effect.
Played by the Sinfonietta’s small string orchestra and a period-appropriate harpsichord, Vivaldi’s bright, major-key concerto held no surprises. Even casual classical music followers know the fast-slow-fast formula, but there’s also plenty of light and life of the kind that seemingly flowed from the composer.
Brass dominated the concert’s first half. Following the trumpets, trombonist and LSU graduate John Metcalf took the stage for Hovhaness’ Overture Op. 76, No. 1.
Hovhaness gave his overture two distinct sections: the first is a reverie containing long, lyrical trombone notes and lines and even lengthier lines for the strings. The second section shifts pleasingly to a faster tempo and musical style that pleasingly suggests the pre-Baroque music of Renaissance Europe.
Sunday’s program also held two Mozart concertos, the first with guest violinist Espen Lilleslatten. An associate professor of violin at LSU and former concertmaster of Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Lilleslatten stood in the solo spot for Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, K. 219. Playing from memory, he walked an apropos line between classical formalism and Romantic expression.
Guest pianist Maria Asteriadou, a native of Greece, did double duty in the concert’s second half. First up was Mozart’s Piano Concerto in No. 12 in A, K. 414. Mozart wrote the piece during his early years in Vienna for his performances. Melodically pleasing, Mozart designed the piece to be music that would impress his audiences but not tax them.
Asteriadou clearly articulated the pleasant tunes and tricky melodic turns in the concerto’s first movement but then overdid the pedaling in the solemn second movement. The final movement, an allegretto rondo, naturally ended the piece with rapidly played panache plus some especially effective, though brief, minor-key modulation.
Asteriadou returned for the world premiere of Constantinides’ Piano Concerto No. 2, a piece composed for the Sinfonietta’s 30th anniversary and dedicated to Asteriadou. Constantinides, a native of Greece, based the concerto on a Greek folk song.
Piano Concerto No. 2 mixes the heroic and the tragic. Highly energetic, dancelike and dynamic, it’s easily one of the most engaging of Constantinides’ compositions to be played during the Sinfonietta’s past several seasons.