On January 23, conductor David Robertson and pianist Orli Shaham will join the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for their eighth virtual concert of the 2020/2021 Season.
THE STORY BEHIND: Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds
Title: Quintet in E♭ major for Piano and Winds, K. 452
Composer: Wolfgang A. Mozart (1770-1827)
Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: This is a RI Philharmonic Premiere
Orchestration: This piece is scored for one each of piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon.
On April 10, 1784, Mozart wrote to his father:
. . . The concert that I gave in the theater was most successful. I composed two grand concertos [K. 450 and 451] and then a quintet [K. 452], which called forth the very greatest applause. I myself consider it to be the best work I have ever composed.
Mozart’s Lenten concert in the Imperial and National Court Theater in Vienna had taken place on April 1. Mozart had completed the quintet only two days before that. The assessment of his own work may have been correct, for the Quintet in E-flat is an indisputable masterpiece. Beethoven felt keenly that way, for in 1796 he composed a piano-wind quintet for precisely the same instrumentation and in the same key. Beethoven rarely competed with Mozart, but the K. 452 quintet was for him an irresistible model.
The warmth of Mozart’s opening Largo, in fact, somewhat anticipates Beethoven’s early style. This section leads to what Alfred Einstein describes as the “pastoral” Allegro moderato. It is a sonata form with only a brief development section. The wind instruments have rare solos, and the movement comes off somewhat like a chamber concerto for piano.
The Larghetto, on the other hand, gives the winds freer rein. In fact, there is a fine balance between the instruments. Even the horn has its own eloquent moments. The majestic placidness of this sonata movement is disturbed only as its development section reaches a climax in a passage that moves from nocturnal mysteriousness to general agitation.
The “royally high-spirited theme” (Einstein) of the rondo finale sets the tone for a grand conclusion. Again, the piano becomes more predominant, but not entirely so. Just before the final coda, Mozart places a “Cadenza in tempo” for all the players that includes a featured moment for each wind instrument. Then, he returns to the truer chamber spirit for a big, concerted finish.
Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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