Philomusica Quartet + Mathieu Dufour
Mozart’s Quartets in C and D for Flute and Strings are well-made trifles. Mozart composed them on commission from a musical amateur, and they are about delight in the doing rather than virtuosity.
But that didn’t stop flutist Mathieu Dufour and the Philomusica Quartet from making real music of them Monday evening at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. Dufour is the principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and he commands interest among flute connoisseurs and orchestra musicians in general. The conservatory’s intimate recital hall was packed.
Dufour, violinist Jeanyi Kim, violist Nathan Hackett and cellist Adrien Zitoun conveyed that infectious sense of delight, which makes these pieces worth doing. They communicated well and picked up on one another’s phrasing in a collegial way.
Dufour raised the level in Mozart’s D-major quartet, the more ambitious of the two. The first movement rolls along, amiable and civilized, through the exposition. Suddenly, at the outset of the development, DuFour and Mozart launched into a minor-key episode with startling emotional power. After that, you couldn’t dismiss they piece as stock, Classical-period hausmusik. The energy Dufour brought to that moment encouraged us to bear down, to fully appreciate, for example, the charm of the rain-drop pizzicati accompanying the lyric theme of the slow movement, which Dufour rendered with touching simplicity.
Violinist Alexander Mandl rejoined the group for Arthur Foote’s (1853-1937) Nocturne and Scherzo for Flute and Strings. Foote, a Boston composer in Edward MacDowell’s circle, in his Nocturne tied notes over the bar to disguise the beat, in the manner of Brahms. Three themes similar themes wind around extended harmonies. The impression is of dreamy, pleasant drift. The flute has many sustained tones, and Dufour added to the dreaminess by playing straight tone at first and then warming up the pitch with ever more luxurious beguiling vibrato. The skittering, swaggering, syncopated second movement is more jig than Scherzo, and a lively, jolly thing it is. Dufour and the Philomusica, which is in residence at the conservatory, rewarded intense, standing applause with a lively reading of the Badinierie from Bach’s Sonata in B Minor.