The Boise Baroque Orchestra has immense talent behind its 20-plus ensemble-members play with the Boise Philharmonic, Langroise Trio and Darkwood Consort-but just 11 prior performances to its credit in this its second season, before a June 17 performance at Albertson College. The group's professionalism was tried by a peculiar turn of events. They came through splendidly.
The draw of Friday's performance: The Boise Baroque Orchestra would present Mozart's violin concertos Nos. 2, 3 and 5, with special guest soloist Geoffrey Trabichoff on a Stradivarius violin.
Our audience of appreciative laypeople was especially excited to hear the talented Trabichoff play the 300-year-old Stradivarius. In a turn of events worthy of the Muir Mackenzie Strad's colorful history, the performance didn't happen as planned. Trabichoff, conductor Richard Roller and the orchestra learned minutes before showtime that the Strad was waylaid in Vienna, Austria (visiting a prospective buyer, promised to be returned in time). Backstage, disappointment was palpable and a similar audience reaction likely.
With nothing else to be done, Roller and Trabichoff joined the orchestra onstage and wordlessly began Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major. The audience was given no hint that anything was up, and it wasn't evident from the performance. From the playful Allegro, to the rending Adagio through the Rondeau, Trabichoff's violin sang over a beautiful foundation set by the orchestra.
Only after the standing ovation following the first piece was there any mention of the absent Stradivarius. Roller made a short, light and stoical announcement. From an audience perspective, this seemed a wise move, allowing people to purely enjoy the beauty of Mozart's composition and the virtuosity of playing, unclouded by disappointment. We were delightfully tricked into enjoying the show anyway. As Roller quipped, Trabichoff's virtuosity would shine through if he played a violin crafted last Thursday. Before resuming, Trabichoff also said a few words, some about his own violin, a wonderful instrument after the Stradivarius model.
Moving past the Strad tragedy, Roller gave some history about the evening's program. Written when Mozart was 19 and the concertmaster of the Salzburg Orchestra, the concerti demonstrate, as Roller put it, the young prodigy's "Eddie Haskell" side-prankishness getting the better of his court manners in these musically aggressive pieces. Concerto No. 5 in particular, defying the accepted style, was determined to shock. This explanation added a dimension to the performance, deepening our listening, understanding and enjoyment of the music we heard.
After Concerto No. 3 and the announcement, we were treated to Violin Concerto No 2 in D Major. There was a brief intermission, then the orchestra closed the evening with Concerto No. 5 in A Major, which given the history Roller provided, warranted a particularly attentive listen, trying to hear Mozart's youthful tricks in the notes.
Another particularly interesting feature of the performance were the cadenzas (solos that "show the virtuosity of the player," in Roller's words) improvised in each concerto, fascinating to hear Trabichoff coax from his instrument. Equally fascinating was the intuition of the conductor in bringing soloist and orchestra back together.
The final note of No. 5 came not with fireworks, but a breath-and the music seemed to float away. The fireworks came with the thunderous standing ovation. The Stradivarius was by then beside the point-with or without it, the evening's performance was truly beautiful and thoroughly enjoyed.