Music Review: Nashville Symphony scores big in a program of Mozart masterpieces.

Seaman2A suave and sophisticated British-born maestro is leading the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in its classical series concerts this weekend at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Christopher Seaman, the director emeritus of upstate New York’s Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, is conducting a program devoted entirely to Mozart masterpieces. Seaman is an outstanding interpreter of this music, and his conducting on Friday night was remarkable for its grace, taste and Old World elegance. The program repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26 at the Schermerhorn.

Friday’s concert opened with one of Mozart’s most familiar early works, the Symphony No. 25 in G minor. This spirited piece, best known today as the opening music from Milos Forman’s film Amadeus, is one of the composer’s most dramatic symphonies. Seaman and the NSO performed it with just the right amount of storm and stress.

Seaman underscored in bold the symphony’s most dramatic elements. Accents sounded like hammer blows, and shifts between loud and soft playing were often startling. There was plenty of color in the performance, especially in the energetic “Menuetto,” and there was elegance and charm in the slow second movement.

The terrific Italian pianist Benedetto Lupo joined Seaman and the NSO in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major. Lupo, a medalist in the 1989 Cliburn International Competition, boasts a commanding technique, and on Friday he gave a bracing account of the Mozart.

He played the concerto’s dramatic sections with fire, performing quicksilver scales and arpeggios with pearl-like perfection. His heartfelt playing all but stopped time in the ethereal slow movement. In the finale, he engaged the orchestra in an animated musical dialogue. Seaman, for his part, provided nuanced accompaniment from beginning to end. Standing ovations are fairly commonplace in Nashville, but the thunderous cheers that greeted Lupo at the end of his performance seemed to surprise even the veteran members of the NSO.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C major, which closed the concert, is known as the “Jupiter” both because of its noble character and its pride of place as the 18th century’s greatest symphony. Seaman and the NSO gave it a worthy rendition, playing fast movements with power and sweep and slow sections with expressive nuance.

There was much to admire throughout this reading, but Seaman and his musicians outdid themselves in the finale, performing Mozart’s complex, interweaving strands of melody with clarity and polished perfection. The “Jupiter” Symphony demands a virtuoso orchestra, and that’s what it got on Friday night.

IF YOU GO

The Nashville Symphony under the direction of guest conductor Christopher Seaman presents an all-Mozart concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26 at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Tickets are $23 to $143.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.