Uchida Mozart intro

February 8 – Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
February 9 – Friday at 8:00 p.m.
February 10 – Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

Introducing the Concert

Keyboards & Waterways

Mozart’s piano concertos represent an exceptional body of work, unique in the classical music canon. In writing them, Mozart was working within a general set of expectations (for the musicians and listeners) of do’s and don’ts. Understanding the rules, he gladly and gleefully stepped over the line for perfect effect. And, in writing so many examples, he helped define what a concerto could be. Later composers would embellish and improvise in more personal and obviously emotional directions. But none would write so many perfect gems in this single genre — so clearly filled with passion and crafted in an identifiably Mozartian way.

This weekend’s concerts feature Mozart’s first and last piano concertos, Nos. 5 and 27. (Don’t get confused by the “No. 5” — Nos. 1 through 4 were not really his own, but merely learning exercises in arranging works by earlier composers; that fact wasn’t fully understood when his concertos were officially numbered in the 19th century.)

Mozart wrote No. 5 in 1773 at the age of 17. It is a fresh and inviting work, filled with the energy of youth along with the beginnings of maturity and depth. It is also believed to have remained one of his own favorites, which he continued to play throughout his short lifetime.

At the end of the evening, Mitsuko Uchida and The Cleveland Orchestra play Piano Concerto No. 27, completed and premiered in 1791, just months before Mozart’s death at the age of 35. This majestic and creative work sparkles with understanding, humor, and Classical virtuosity. From first to last, Mozart’s concertos remind us of the composer’s genius, his humanity, his just-right artistry.

In between the concertos, we have a musical suite from Handel’s immensely popular Water Music, led by concertmaster William Preucil. Originally performed in 1717 to entertain King George on a long boat ride along the Thames, this music is nearly irresistible in its sense of energy and interchange — and as a Baroque-era contrast to Classical Mozart, of simpler forms yet lovely details and fun-filled rhythms. How far music has evolved from Mozartian and Handelian times, yet how wonderful the old still speaks to us and fills our ears and hearts with knowledge and wondrous feeling.  —Eric Sellen