The Mito Chamber Orchestra (MCO) is domiciled in the Japanese city of Mito, administrative seat of the Ibaraki Prefecture, about 140 kilometers northeast of Tokyo. There the MCO plays as a house orchestra in the 680-visitors concert hall in the Art Tower (ATM), a futuristic-looking building, whose facade of steel tetrahedrons screws up for 100 meters in the form of a helix. For the acoustics of the concert hall the same Yasuhisa Toyota has taken responsibility, who has impressed his acoustic fingerprint to the recently opened Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. The basically slender and transparent hall acoustics of the Great Concert Hall of the Elbphilharmonie can be found in the concert hall of the ATM, as can be heard from the present album.
The MCO consists of 26 mainly Japanese musicians, who, if not gathered for the not so numerous concerts at the ATM, are playing in orchestras all over the world. As general director and occasional conductor, the renowned Seiji Ozawa, formerly a long-time chief of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has taken the baton once again after a long illness-related absence from the international classic concert business at the tender age of 80 years to successfully demonstrate that the eightieth lifetime of the conductor is almost a second spring. From the musical life experience of the best sense seasoned Seiji Ozawa, the symphonically staffed Japanese Saito Kinen Orchestra benefits as well as the small but fine MOC.
This album documents a life concert. This fact is probably due to the rather uncommon, if not unique, combination of the Mozart clarinet concerto with Beethoven's Fifth on one and the same sound carrier. In any case, the musical mood could not be more different than in this Mozart-Beethoven confrontation. However, the fact that this contrast bath is ultimately very attractive is due to the soloist as well as to the chamber music ensemble and the exciting interpretation of Beethoven's Fifth, which is often driven to death by the big sound of symphonic performances. Secondary lines and instrumentation not seldom get lost due to over-dimensioned castings. Not so in the chamber music formation of the MCO, whose minimal string formation assigns the brass and reed choir its proper position. By the way, the casting of the chamber orchestra with 26 musicians is likely to relate exclusively to the strings, if the recording technique did not trick, what would be unusual in the case of a live performance. The low reverberation time of the concert hall, just beyond dry studio acoustics, enhances the tremendous audibility of the composition and ensures that the listener does not lose track of the instrumentation even in fortissimo passages. This juvenile, freshly evocative Fifth, carefully crafted from Ozawa to the smallest detail, occupies a top position in the almost confusing jungle of recordings that have been made over more than 100 years, the first of which is by none other than Arthur Nikisch. The unbridled emphatic applause of the in principle rather civilized, reserved Japanese audience is justified.
For the Mozart concerto, Ricardo Morales, extremely successful as first clarinetist of the Met Opera Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra for many years, and today mainly active as a teacher at the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute could be won. He is best known to the Japanese audience also as a soloist with the Saito Kinen Orchestra. The tone generation and the legato of the clarinetist are unearthly and allow him to make the soloist voice of the Mozart composition shine in all colors in the outer movements. The brilliant acoustics of the concert hall of the Mito Art Tower set the icing on the cake for the clarinetist’s performance. The slow inner movement of the concert, which gives the deep-rooted aura to Out of Africa, reflects the morbid beauty of deep consolation in the interpretation of Ricardo Morales, and conveys the optimistic Christian message that death does not come to an end.
This high-quality audio-download is a must for anyone who appreciate the deep truths of Mozart's music and who are interested in a deep insight into the structure of Beethoven's destiny.
Ricardo Morales, clarinet
Mito Chamber Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor