On April 10, conductor Leonard Slatkin and pianist Jon Kimura Parker will join the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for their twelfth concert of the 2020/2021 Season.
THE STORY BEHIND: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21 (Elvira Madigan)
Title: Piano Concerto No.21, K.467, C major (Elvira Madigan)
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: Last performed February 21, 2015 with Larry Rachleff conducting and soloist Joyce Yang. This piece is scored for solo piano, flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings.
On Thursday, 10 March 1785, Kapellmeister Mozart will have the honor of giving at the I[mperial] & R[oyal] National Court Theater a Grand Musical Concert for his benefit, at which not only a new, just finished Forte piano Concerto will be played by him, but also. . .
So began the handbill announcing the premiere of the C Major Concerto. Concert life as we know it was only in its infancy then, and we have such events to thank for several of Mozart’s symphonies, concert arias, piano sonatas and, notably, the last 17 piano concertos.
In the C Major Piano Concerto, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart marks the first movement Allegro maestoso. Yet it is a comic opera-style maestoso, with a dominating main theme that foreshadows Don Giovanni’s Leporello character. Two graceful themes follow and are interwoven with the first. After a brief introduction by the piano, the main theme returns. Here the piano blends with the orchestra to set forth a whole new set of themes. The main theme is not forgotten but generally appears as support for the piano’s decorative filigree. The piano’s entrance in the central section announces an entirely new theme, pathetic in character but rhythmically derived from the main theme. Following this is a lengthy section of passagework, the harmony of which Alfred Einstein described as “modulations through darkness into light.” The light finally bursts out in a reprise that combines both rosters of themes. Like a character from the commedia dell’arte, the ubiquitous main theme keeps popping up, both before and after the solo piano cadenza.
The Andante contains a magical quality that only muted strings will allow. Over an accompaniment of “quivering triplets” (Einstein), the leisurely cantilena unfolds, first in the strings and then in the piano. (This theme became popular through the soundtrack to the 1967 Swedish film, Elvira Madigan.) The middle section of the movement is based loosely on fragments of this “ideal aria.” When the full theme returns, it is in a somewhat distant key, but Mozart deftly returns to the home key in the final pages of the movement.
In the finale, Mozart returns to the spirit of opera buffa, but this time the scene is a peasant round dance. The piano first joins in with a short solo cadenza and a brief statement of the rollicking rondo theme. Soon, however, the soloist takes a more commanding role, while contrasting episodes playfully alternate with the main theme. Mozart has saved most of his virtuosic writing for this movement, which calls for a full solo cadenza just before the final wrap-up.
Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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