Mozart triumphs at Torlonia with Jonathan Ferrucci -Pietro Fresa -Sieva Borzak with encore at Teatro Vespasiano in Rieti

Sabato 30 ottobre ore 20 Teatro Torlonia
Concerto per pianoforte e orchestra n. 17 in sol maggiore K 453
Jonathan Ferrucci, pianoforte
Concerto per pianoforte e orchestra n. 27 in si bemolle maggiore K 595
Pietro Fresa, pianoforte
Roma Tre Orchestra
Sieva Borzak, direttore
Guido Barbieri, narrazione

An evening of sublime music at Teatro Torlonia with two of the finest pianists of the younger generation playing two of Mozart’s most perfect creations : the concerto in G K453 and K595.Two young musicians brought together by the enlightened artistic director of Roma 3 orchestra ,Valerio Vicari with brief introductions by one of the most knowledgeable journalists in Italy,Guido Barbieri.

Guido Barbieri

A voice well known to listeners of Rai 3 La stanza della musica and someone whose articles in the Messaggero were sought out eagerly in the good old days for unusually informed criticism.He also invited pianists from the Keyboard Trust to perform all the Rachmaninov concertos for the Amici della Musica of Ancona.And on another occasion he invited other pianists of the Keyboard Trust to bring joy and comfort to the people of Aquila stricken so cruelly by an earthquake some years ago.

As Valerio Vicari explains in the programme of ‘La musica è una cosa meravigliosa’ each of the four concerts is enriched by an expert introduction that describes the world of the composer,the sense of the works in the programme and their part in the evolution of music.Well Guido not only did all that but he also amused and enlightened us with letters of the time describing the reaction that the works had produced. Jonathan had opened this important season at Torlonia with a performance of the Goldberg Variations introduced by another celebrated musicologist Sandro Cappelletti.He went on to repeat that performance again ,at the beginning of the week,in the same collaboration with the KCT in Florence in the Harold Acton Library.

The Piano Concerto No. 17 K.453,according to the date that the composer himself noted on the score was completed on April 12, 1784.The date of the premiere is uncertain though but Mozart probably performed it in his concert on 29 April 1784 at the Kärntnertortheater.

\relative a' {
\set Staff.midiInstrument = #"recorder"
\set Score.tempoHideNote = ##t
\tempo 4 = 145
\key g \major
\time 2/2
\partial 4
b8 c
d4 d d \tempo 4 = 45 g\fermata \tempo 4 = 145 fis fis gis gis a a a8 b c a b2 }
The music Mozart jotted down in his expense book is fairly close to the opening bars of the third movement of the concerto K 453, which Mozart had completed a few weeks earlier (12 April). Presumably Mozart taught the bird to sing this tune in the pet store, or wherever it was that he bought it.

The finale is a variation movement whose theme was sung by Mozart’s starling that the composer’s pet and is remembered for the anecdote of how Mozart came to purchase it, for the funeral commemorations Mozart provided for it, and as an example of the composer’s affection in general for birds The first record of the starling is the entry Mozart made in his expense book when he bought it on 27 May 1784. When the bird died, on 4th June 1787 he arranged a funeral procession, in which everyone who could sing had to join in, heavily veiled – made a sort of requiem, epitaph in verse

Jonathan in prova K 453

The Piano Concerto No. 27 K.595 was first performed early in 1791, the year of Mozart’s death and is one of his most perfect creations.Although all three movements are in a major key ,minor keys are suggested, as is evident from the second theme of the first movement (in the dominant minor), as well as the presence of a remote minor key in the early development and of the tonic minor in the middle of the Larghetto.Another interesting characteristic of the work is its rather strong thematic integration of the movements, which would become ever more important in the nineteenth century.The principal theme of the Larghetto, for instance, is revived as the second theme of the final movement.The principal theme for the finale was also used in Mozart’s song “Sehnsucht nach dem Frühling” (also called “Komm, lieber Mai”), K. 596, which immediately follows this concerto in the Kochel catalogue.

Pietro in prova with Sieva Borzak in K595

Two young pianists with completely different characters brought together by the genial Sieva Borzak.He had immediately resolved problems of acoustic in the rehearsal as he brought the piano as close to the edge of the stage as possible allowing the wind players to be able to have a more chamber music rapport with the piano which is so fundamental in these mature concertos of Mozart.

Perlemuter who made his debut in Italy at the Ghione theatre in 1984 at the age of 81 and went on to play every year and give Masterclasses until his final concert there in 1991

It was my old teacher Vlado Perlemuter who,making his debut in Italy in the Ghione theatre in Rome at the age of 81,insisted much to our alarm that the piano be less under the proscenium as possible at the extreme limit of the stage.Perlemuter,who had known Ravel and Fauré had a lifetime of experience of playing in theatres that were not specifically designed for instrumental music.

Sieva with many less years than Perlemuter immediately diagnosed the problem and like all great professionals found a simple solution.The orchestra under his hands were able to give all the dramatic contrasts and operatic energy to the earlier G major concerto together with the sublime legato and serenity of the B flat concerto.Leaving the important dialogue between wind and piano to a chamber music participation between the pianist and the instrumentalists that was extremely moving.A fine ensemble that Valerio Vicari and Roberto Pujia have been promoting for the past sixteen years giving a much needed platform to many remarkable young musicians at the beginning of their careers.

Jonathan appeared on stage in a striking green silk shirt like a painter before his canvas.From the very first notes there was a luminosity to the sound that integrated so well with the orchestra as a chamber music rapport was immediately instilled.Some very discreet ornamentation was added with such style and good taste with the same knowledge of his mentor Robert Levin.He even wrote his own cadenzas that like the ornamentation just illuminated Mozart’s own thoughts without imposing any unwanted external intrusion which is so often the case in lesser hands.

A little knowledge can in fact be a dangerous thing as we see from that other sublime concerto -Beethoven fourth – often played these days with ornamentation and rolled chords ad nauseam just because it was mentioned in letters of the period.It is a strange state of affairs because Beethoven was quite capable of writing these things down as in other of his works.The instruments of the period too did not have the sustaining power of todays !Mention should also be made of Mauro Buccitti the master craftsman who has turned this very discreet Yamaha piano into an instrument of such beauty and colour that the miracle of Mozart could mesmerise a full hall.An audience too that despite the complete block of a city under siege for the G 20 summit managed to get to this concert punctually filling every seat in this most beautiful of halls.

Jonathan looking directly at the wind players as he accompanied them with ravishing scales so delicately played followed by the question and answer between them as they brought such character to the purity and innocence of this concerto.Mozart had written the cadenzas for this concerto but Jonathan’s were so much in style and with a sense of invention and discreet showmanship the same that Mozart himself must have often improvised in public.Instead of being invasive and out of style they were so well integrated that they just shed light on a much loved work that was truly reborn under this young man’s dedicated fingers.The Andante was from the very opening played with ravishing sound and an ornamentation that seemed to shed light and bring to life the final notes of the opening cadence with almost operatic finesse.In the sublime middle section in minor key Jonathan brought a stillness that was very moving leading to his own cadenza again of style and invention that like the first movement seemed to bring this work vividly to life.I found the Allegretto a little slow at the beginning but as it progressed it became completely convincing as the melody of the second section seemed to grow out of the original ‘starling’ melody.Played by Jonathan with startling clarity and some ornaments that just added to the fun they were all having.The final operatic presto was played with a great injection of rhythmic energy by the orchestra and taken up by the soloist in an exhilarating ending of charm and character.

Pietro Fresa in sombre mood for Mozart’s last Concerto that was first performed in the last year of Mozart’s short life

Pietro Fresa on the other hand in a much more sombre dark suit as befitted the dark and subtle beauty of the B flat Concerto.The sublime opening barely a whisper from an orchestra where exhilaration and rhythmic excitement had been transformed into a serene meditative atmosphere.And Mozart’s sense of energy of almost operatic proportions was played with great precision and contrasts by an orchestra following so attentively the ‘Giulinian’ shaping from Sieva’s expressive hands.The scene was set for the mellow simplicity of Pietro Fresa’s opening statement.Played with a purity of sound almost chiselled as it penetrated to the very back of the hall with extraordinary clarity.Injecting the delicate passage work with the romantic fervour of a young man on a voyage of discovery.Some very personal touches gave great character to the continual dialogue with the orchestra.The gradual build up in the development section was beautifully integrated into the orchestra and led to a sublime outpouring of melodic invention before the gradual return to the recapitulation.The precision of his articulation was remarkable in its clarity and shape and led to Mozart’s own cadenza that was played with great style.It brought the same question and answer that we had heard earlier with the orchestra but now alone played with even more delicacy and character.

The Larghetto was played with a childlike simplicity at the opening where Pietro’s minute attention to Mozart’s phrasing brought such shape to this seemingly innocent melody.The absolute simplicity of the melodic line was delicately embellished and added to the sublime beauty of this movement.The opening melody’s final statement occurs as a shadowy whisper, the piano, flute and violins sharing the melody and creating an almost ghostly sonority played with real chamber music intensity by Pietro.The final Allegro was played with a beguiling sense of rhythm as Pietro took turns to dialogue with the orchestra bringing such buoyancy and energy to this seemingly innocent bucolic movement.Sometimes overdoing the contrasts though as a young man exhilarated by the masterpiece under is agile fingers.Always returning though to sublime beauty as the end of Mozart’s cadenza dissolves into the magical last appearance of the main theme.The entry of the strings underneath creates one of those sublime moments that is the genius of Mozart and leads to the simple final flourishes of Mozart’s last great piano concerto.

Sieva Borzak -Valerio Vicari -Pietro Fresa -Jonathan Ferrucci -Roberto Pujia

Encore at the Reate Festival at Teatro Vespasiano in Rieti just 60km from Rome.Not only the two piano concertos as before but also the Symphony n.40 in G minor K 550

Jonathan Ferrucci in sombre attire in Rieti giving a ravishing performance of K 453

The date of completion of this symphony is known exactly since Mozart in his mature years kept a full catalog of his completed works; he entered the 40th Symphony into it on 25 July 1788.Work on the symphony occupied an exceptionally productive period of just a few weeks during which time he also completed the 39 and 41 symphonies (26 June and 10 August, respectively).Nikolaus Harnoncourt conjectured that Mozart composed the three symphonies as a unified work, pointing, among other things, to the fact that the Symphony No. 40, as the middle work, has no introduction (unlike No. 39) and does not have a finale of the scale of No. 41’s Jupiter .A final great trilogy.The 40th symphony exists in two versions and the autograph score of both versions were acquired in the 1860s by Brahms who later donated the manuscripts to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.

Pietro Fresa being rapturously received after K595

The orchestra were allowed free reign under Sieva Borzak who conducting without the score was free to let the music flow so naturally and with such character.

Sieva Borzak living Mozart G minor with his superb players

From the whispered urgency of the Molto Allegro and the deeply expressive contrapuntal Andante.Complimented by a rather militaristic Menuetto (that I found a little on the fast side ) with a Trio that had to be slowed down quite considerably.It did though give great contrast with the burning intensity of the Allegro assai Finale.Some very fine playing from this ensemble who applauded Sieva Borzak at the end for taking them into a realm of magnificent music making together.

An ovation for a superb performance of Mozart G minor
Teatro Vespasiano – Rieti

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