Piano-playing Jussen brothers double down on Mozart – and win

04/26/2013 11:23 PM

04/26/2013 11:36 PM

If there were justice in the musical world, the list of popular young blond guys beginning with “J” would include not only Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers but the Jussens.

Alas, the Dutch siblings are old enough now – Lucas is 20, Arthur 16 – to know how the world works, so they couldn’t have expected Belk Theater to be crammed with people waiting to hear Mozart’s Double Piano Concerto Friday night.

But the many who came saw pianists playing with assured, dignified elegance few musicians of their parents’ generation could muster. Their playing recalled Antonin Dvorak’s claim: “Mozart is sunshine,” warming and nourishing.

The evening stayed in light-hearted Austro-German territory all the way, right up to the clap-along encore of Johann Strauss Sr.’s Radetzky March.

Music director Christopher Warren-Green began with Richard Strauss’ “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks” and ended with Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony (which, despite its name, was finished in Berlin). For once, Till really seemed merry, not just snarky; Mendelssohn, buoyed by the vivid flute playing of Elizabeth Landon and Amy Orsinger Whitehead, bobbed along on his unfailing flow of melody.

The Jussens have played only one prior American gig, with the Dallas Symphony in 2010. Warren-Green worked with them in Europe and invited them to play a concerto here that’s a bit of a tough sell but an easy listen in the right hands.

Mozart was about Lucas’ age when he wrote it, probably to play with his sister, Nannerl. It never wanders far in its moods from the delicate, cheerful opening, but the Jussens fully explored its limited range. (You had to wait for their encores to hear them set off fireworks, squeezed onto the same piano bench at one keyboard.)

If they were once prodigies, perhaps somewhat in the mold of the composer himself, they aren’t now: They’re intelligent musicians with valuable things to say and the skill to say them.

P.S. Symphony officials recognized bass trombonist John Driver at the interval. He’ll end his 38-year career at the CSO after the 2013 Summer Pops concerts. He utilized two of his abilities Friday, moving pianos into position for the Jussens – he’s the orchestra’s assistant stage manager – and blowing some of Till’s nose-thumbing blasts in the opening work. He’ll be multiply missed.

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