THE LEADER, SUNY Fredonia
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The Western New York Chamber Orchestra presented its first performance of the 2014-15 Classic Series Season this past Sunday afternoon with an “All Amadeus” program.
Since Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music is such a large portion of the repertoire available for chamber orchestras, WNYCO presents an exclusively-Mozart program biannually. This year’s “All Amadeus” program featured guest artists Dmitri Novgorodsky, Laura Noack and the Fredonia Chamber Choir, as they shared four works composed during contrasting periods of Mozart’s life.
“I thought it would be interesting to give the audience a leap through time to see what Mozart was doing as a very young composer in Salzburg and what he was doing in his more mature phase when he was in Vienna,” conductor Glen Cortese explained.
The program opened with Mozart’s “Regina Coeli,” performed by soprano soloist Laura Noack, a Fredonia alumna, the Fredonia Chamber Choir and the orchestra.
“Regina Coeli” (Queen of Heaven) is a sacred Latin text that is part of the ancient Catholic liturgy, intended to be sung five weeks after Easter. Mozart composed three settings of “Regina Coeli” for the Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg, Austria, when he was only 15 and 16 years old, yet they both reveal amazing musical sophistication. Two of Mozart’s settings were performed on Sunday, and though composed only one year apart, both settings articulated notable differences.
K.108 (in C major) is a beautiful setting of the “Regina Coeli” text and has an Italian opera influence, as it was composed just after Mozart had visited Italy. This is apparent in the enormous vocal range and delicate but precise coloratura (or ornamentation of the melody through leaps, runs and trills) that Noack so simply executed as the choir accompanied her with refrains of “Allelujah.”
K.127 (in B-flat major) was composed after Mozart returned to Salzburg, influencing the setting to be more contrapuntal and to have more of a church music style. Elements of this setting, such as the layering choir sections, more complex melodies and coloratura, and trilling in the string section are what made this setting the more majestic of the two.
It was interesting to recognize how differently Mozart viewed the same text only one year later.
Between the two settings was a piece Mozart composed nine years after “Regina Coeli,” Mozart’s best-liked piano concerto, Concerto No. 12 in A major, K.414, sometimes known as “little A major.”
In a letter Mozart wrote to his father while in Vienna, he gave a perfectly fitting description of the work.
Mozart wrote, “[The concerto] is a happy medium between too easy and too-difficult; it is very brilliant, pleasing to the ear and natural without being dull.” That is exactly what the concerto was.
The piece abounds with beautiful melodic ideas that express Mozart’s nature entirely. Soloist Dmitri Novgorodsky, an assistant piano professor at Fredonia, performed the joyful concerto in such a way that even the most dispirited of listeners were filled with joy.
Novgorodsky appeared incredibly comfortable performing the concerto. There were a number of times he played without looking at the keys. He performed with a sort of graceful energy that allowed him to transfer from tranquility to ferocity in a matter of seconds, a characteristic that made many audience members look to their neighbor in amazement.
Mozart treasured K.414 so much that he wrote out the cadenzas (musical ornamentation that displays virtuosity, usually in “free” rhythm), which is unusual, as Mozart himself would often improvise the cadenzas during performances and leave the performer of the day with the freedom to improvise the cadenzas himself.
“The cadenzas [Mozart had written out] are quite technically demanding,” Novgorodsky explained. “But what makes the concerto stand out is, rather, its musical features: the orchestra coming in on the soloist’s cadenza in the final movement, the lyricism of the slow movement’s middle section and generally the abundance of great operatic tunes and characters scattered throughout the cycle.”
That said, Mozart’s level of musical sophistication in the concerto had abundantly increased, since it was composed nearly a decade after “Regina Coeli.” This was apparent throughout all three movements.