Concerts of 2008
The First Concerts at All Saints'

The first concert on the 20th January 2008 was a performance of two Mozart piano concertos - but with the difference of the church organ taking the part of the orchestra. This is the result of the collaboration of Mine Dogantan Dack and Michael Frith.

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Michael Frith (organ) with Mine Dogantan Dack (piano)

The Music of Mozart
 (1756-1791)

Introduction.

There is a long and honourable tradition of transcribing orchestral music for the organ, including the accompaniments of large-scale choral works. However, there are very few precedents for using the organ for the accompaniment of piano concertos.
 

Quite apart from the pleasure it gives the performers, presentation of concertos in this form makes it possible to perform them in small venues, and electronic technology has done a similar service for the piano: the electric piano is not a poor substitute for a Steinway, and in any case today’s concert grand pianos bear little resemblance to the pianos that Mozart knew.

Piano Concerto No. 11 in F major, K.413.

 Allegro – Larghetto – Tempo di Menuetto  (Cadenzas by Mozart).

‘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. There are passages here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why.’.

Thus Mozart wrote from Vienna on 28th December, 1782, to reassure his worried father that his headstrong son, who had recently rushed into marriage, was certain of success in his new freelance career in the Austrian capital. The three concertos referred to reflect Mozart’s concern to appeal to an unknown audience; he hoped that the nobility, recently returned from the country for the ‘season’, would not only flock to his subscription concerts and buy copies of the concertos when they were published, but also produce many pupils who would be his major source of income. Hence the style, particularly of this first concerto of the set, marks an apparent simplification after the new-found sophistication of his last Salzburg concertos: the solo part could be managed by an accomplished pupil, and the orchestra has only a few optional wind instruments in addition to the strings; it could therefore be played at home as a quintet. The themes may be conventional in character, but the manner of their working out and the subtle interplay of piano and orchestra are unfailingly inventive.

Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K.466

Allegro – Romanza – Allegro assai  (Cadenzas by Beethoven).

No special pleading is necessary for this concerto, completed in February, 1785. Its proto-romanticism made it an immediate success and it remained firmly in the standard repertoire throughout the Nineteenth Century. Concertos in minor keys were not altogether unprecedented in the Eighteenth Century, but they were unusual in a genre normally associated with easy-going entertainment, and the almost unremittingly intense mood of tragic foreboding (which we should beware of equating with Mozart’s own immediate emotions) is entirely new. The solo part is technically demanding, there are constant surprises in the dramatic dialogue between piano and orchestra, and the woodwind and brass of the orchestra – here we lose much in a transcription – have important parts, often totally independent from the strings.

Throughout we are made aware of the theatrical side of Mozart – the composer of supremely great operas. This is particularly apparent at the end; a minor-key final movement of a concerto was almost unheard of, and Mozart’s only concession to the taste of his audience was a comic-opera-like coda in which tragedy is suddenly averted by an unforeseen, arbitrary twist of the plot: one can almost see ensembles of happily reunited lovers swooning in delight, the on-looking chorus interjecting with ecstatic enthusiasm, while a cynical observer makes asides to the audience in detached amusement

 

 
     


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