Overture Magazine - 2018-19 Season BSO_Overture_JanFeb_19 | Page 12
LEON FLEISHER PERFORMS MOZART
and in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.
and San Francisco.
Leon Fleisher last appeared with the BSO in
January 2016, performing Prokofiev’s Piano
Concerto No. 4, Marin Alsop, conductor.
About the Concert
PIANO CONCERTO NO. 12 IN A MAJOR
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Born in Salzburg, Austria, January 27, 1756;
died in Vienna, Austria December 5, 1791
In 1781, Mozart abandoned the stifling
atmosphere of the Archbishop of Salzburg’s
court and launched his career as a free-lance
musician in Vienna. This was a daring move
in the late-18 th century, as most musicians
made their living through a steady
appointment at a princely court. Without
this security, Mozart was proposing to make
his way much as today’s performers do: by
securing many engagements as a pianist and
gradually building himself a following.
In his first three piano concertos for
Vienna, he was careful to create music that
would woo a diverse audience. As he wrote
to his father: “These concertos are a happy
medium between what is too easy and too
difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to
the ear and natural, without being vapid.
Mozart had additional pressure to please
when he composed the Piano Concerto
in A Major in the fall of 1782: he had just
married Constanze Weber a few months
before, and their first child was on the way.
The opening theme of the first movement
is Mozart at his most charming. Pay
close attention to this rising-and-falling
theme; you will hear it again in the second
movement in a very different guise.
The second movement begins with a
richly harmonized hymn-like theme in
the strings based on a melody by Johann
Christian Bach, youngest son of Johann
Sebastian, and a composer Mozart revered
and emulated from the time he was only
eight. Immediately following this hymn
tune is a phrase in the violins that should
sound familiar. J.C. Bach had died on
January 1, 1782, and this seems to be
Mozart’s very personal tribute: a quotation
from Bach followed by a mournful quote
OV E R T U R E / BSOmusic.org
from himself. Later, the soloist takes a little
rocking phrase that closes the exposition
section and develops it though a series of
minor keys into a meditative passage
of extraordinary depth and beauty.
For his rondo finale, Mozart gives us
a two-part refrain: the first a flippant,
trilling theme, the second a mock-ominous
descending tune in the strings’ low register.
This movement is particularly engaging
in that Mozart playfully blocks the final
return of the rondo refrain and the piece’s
conclusion. He even throws a solo cadenza
at us when we least expect it.
Instrumentation: Two oboes, two horns
SYMPHONY NO. 2 IN D MAJOR
Born in Hamburg, Germany, May 7, 1833;
died in Vienna, Austria, April 3, 1897
Johannes Brahms’ composing retreat
during the summer of 1877 played an
important role in the character of his
richly melodious Second Symphony. This
was the picturesque mountain resort
of Pörtschach on the Wörtersee lake in
southern Austria. By the time he reached
middle age, Brahms — busy the rest of
the year in Vienna with performances and
publishing his music — did most of his
composing during the summer months.
Finding a place conducive to creativity
became all-important to him.
Many commentators, comparing Brahms’
pairing of a heroic symphony in C minor
and a lighter successor symphony with
Beethoven’s similarly contrasting Fifth
(also in C minor) and Sixth Symphonies,
have called Brahms’ Second Symphony
“Pastoral”: a nature symphony full of
sunshine. However, such comparisons can
be misleading. Although it has Brahms’
most joyous finale, the Second Symphony
is still a densely constructed, rather serious
work with a strong undercurrent of
introspection and melancholy.
The symphony grows like a mighty oak
from the seeds of its first three notes heard
in the cellos and basses. From this seed
motive, will sprout many of the themes in
all four movements. The warmly Romantic
timbre of the horns lends the opening
theme an autumnal glow. More ardent is
an arching, soaring melody for the violins
built from the three-note seed. But this
movement’s most famous tune is the second
subject a stately, mellow waltz sung by the
cellos and violas.
Brahms shows off his formidable
contrapuntal skills in the development
section with a powerful, fugal treatment
of the horns’ opening theme. The violins’
arching theme also is worked out while the
three-note seed motive is tossed continually
from instrument to instrument. After the
recapitulation, Brahms lightens the mood
briefly for a rhythmically playful coda.
Immediately the music darkens again
for the brooding second movement with
its magnificent long melody for the cellos
full of yearning. The meter then switches to
12/8 for a rhythmically halting, frustrated
theme for the woodwinds. A turbulent
developmental section subsides into reveries
of the main cello theme, followed by a full
return of that melody.
While the first two movements wander
mostly in the shadows, the third and fourth
movements dwell in sunshine. The third
movement is a charming intermezzo. The
oboes present the principal theme, derived
from the three-note seed motive. It returns
twice more with two exuberant dance
episodes led by strings in between. Despite
their different meters and fast tempos, they
are actually variations of the oboes’ melody.
The finale’s mysterious, rhythmically
vague opening hardly prepares us for
the true mood of this movement, but
it soon explodes in a fortissimo blaze
of sound. The second theme is full of
mature contentment, offered by the
strings in their deepest, richest register.
The coda is an outburst of utterly
uninhibited joy with the mellow theme
ultimately sped up and blazing forth in
triumph from the trumpets.
Instrumentation: Two flutes, two oboes,
two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns,
two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani
Notes by Janet E. Bedell, © 2019