Mozart peppered his Symphony in D Major (KV 297) with crowd-pleasing effects for a performance in Paris in 1778. And yesterday at the Museum Concert in Frankfurt's Alte Oper opera house, Giancarlo Guerrero set the rapid scale passages alight like Mannheim Rockets, his pleasure clear for all to see. Together with the Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra, the South American guest conductor, who is currently Music Director of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, interpreted this lively work with a light and elegant touch, providing vivid and clear direction that demonstrated a true feel for the style of the piece. The symphony was excellently matched by Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in E-flat Major (KV 365), performed in perfect harmony by soloists Christina and Michelle Naughton. The American twins played the turbulent outer movements of this bright piece with a motor-like drive and a sense of pure joy.
The program, which at first glance seemed somewhat arbitrary, proved little by little to be rich in associations. Francis Poulenc echoed Mozart extensively in his 1932 Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in D Minor, in addition to many other styles. The Naughtons held the entire piece skillfully in tragicomic suspense, right from the first movement with its strangely mocking, dismal minor passages in the style of a grotesque danse macabre, with clattering castanets representing the clattering bones of the joyful Grim Reaper. The collage of many styles resulted in a resplendent patchwork of colors. The sisters' movements were perfectly synchronized, and their kinetic energy was boosted further with the addition of a distorted boogie by their compatriot Paul Schoenfield to a breakneck perpetuum mobile.
Ravel's La Valse provided an early example of clever, witty distortion, and this poème chorégraphique from 1919/20 would have been firmly on Poulenc's mind. Giancarlo Guerrero provided a collective, dance-like rhythm in the style of a Viennese waltz, like ironic refractions of the unconscious waves of the Imperial era, which led to the First World War and millions of people being thrown into the abyss. The scene changed sharply from the bliss of the waltzing dynasties to a sense of apocalyptic horror, transforming the circus clown into a monster clown.