How do you follow a season-opening concert of big, passionate 19th-century Romantic-era music?
You step back into the 18th century and instead of the big seduction, you play a string of musical pearls, with a smaller, Baroque- and Classical-era orchestra.
That’s what the Redlands Symphony Orchestra did Saturday night for the second concert of the season. And it was exactly the right answer.
The Redlands Symphony and its conductor and music director Jon Robertson get an A for playing a jewel of a concert of clear, polished music.
As we move into the holiday season when the word seems to be more, more, more, this concert was a refreshing reminder that less can be more, in music as in other areas of life.
That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of beautiful music in Saturday’s concert.
The program opened with George Frideric Handel’s “Water Music No. 1,” music that was first performed July 17, 1717, on a barge accompanying England’s King George I up the Thames.
The “Water Music” was followed by the crown jewel of the concert, Georg Philipp Telemann’s Trumpet Concerto in D major, also written in the early 1700s. And making that jewel shine its brightest was soloist David Scott, principal trumpet player with the Redlands Symphony. More fanfare for Scott later.
Balancing those two Baroque pieces, the concert concluded with Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter,” written in 1788, in the midst of the Classical period and near the end of Mozart’s 35-year life.
The combination of Handel, Telemann and Mozart made for an evening of limpid, liquid elegance floating through the University of Redlands Memorial Chapel.
As for floating, there’s hardly any better music for a day on the Thames than Handel’s “Water Music.” This suite of 10 pieces dances and lilts through the orchestra, and carries the audience along on a musical pleasure trip.
The Baroque-size ensemble for the “Water Music” is considerably smaller than the stage-filling orchestra needed for Wagner or Brahms. It’s so small that the conductor directs while playing the harpsichord.
That harpsichord underpinning sometimes disappeared into the fabric of the orchestra Saturday night, but the harpsichord is not intended to be a solo instrument in this music.
I’ve heard Handel’s “Water Music” many times and thoroughly enjoyed one more trip up the Thames Saturday night.
For the Telemann Trumpet Concerto, Robertson continued to conduct from his seat at the harpsichord. And for this piece, the oboists, horn players and bassoonist who played in the “Water Music” left the stage, leaving only strings and harpsichord — and soloist David Scott with his piccolo trumpet.
During Robertson’s preconcert talk, Scott demonstrated the smaller trumpet and emphasized that smaller is not easier.
And before showing what the piccolo trumpet can do, Scott wowed those who came for the preconcert talk with a look at and a listen to a circular Baroque trumpet.
In the concert, Scott made the Telemann Trumpet Concerto sing with clear, sweet, liquid notes. It may not have been easy, but Scott made it sound as easy as running your finger over a smooth string of pearls.
Scott, who is not only the Redlands Symphony’s principal trumpet but is also on the University of Redlands School of Music faculty, was greeted with cheers before the concerto, and received well-deserved cheers and applause after his performance. Some of those cheers — and the presentation of flowers — came from young people wearing shirts printed with the message “I (heart symbol) Dr. Scott.”
After the Telemann Trumpet Concerto, I think everyone in Memorial Chapel agreed with the T-shirt message.
After intermission, the small Baroque ensemble grew a bit, adding a few woodwinds, horns, trumpets and timpani for Mozart’s 41st Symphony, and Robertson exchanged the harpsichord for baton and podium.
The orchestra was still not Wagner-sized, but Mozart’s 41st Symphony is definitely big in power and drama.
In his preconcert remarks, Robertson pointed out that Symphony No. 41 was Mozart’s last symphony, one of a sequence of three. Robertson said Mozart’s 39th and 40th symphonies are great, but that the 41st is “off the charts.”
It has all the Mozartean elegance, lyricism and drama and it is not only Mozart’s last symphony, but also his largest.
It’s one of those pieces of music that makes me wonder what Mozart’s 45th or 50th symphony might have sounded like, if Mozart had lived long enough to write them.
That’s something I will never know, but I do know I am thankful for all the music Mozart did write.
And let’s give the Redlands Symphony Orchestra and David Scott a plateful of thanks for a concert of good things in smaller packages.