Nickel for Your Thoughts: Mozart’s Dream

Nickel for Your Thoughts, Program Spotlight, Tony Nickle

In his own words, Vice President & Artistic Administrator Tony Nickle shares what he believes to be the high points of the program, but with a little edge and humor for good measure.

This week’s program features our second Mozart piano concerto of the season, nestled in between two pieces by Czech composers: Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák. Mozart’s connection to Prague ran deep in the latter half of the 1780s, beginning a very successful run of his opera The Abduction from the Seraglio in 1783, and really launched to fame when The Marriage of Figaro came to town in late 1786. Urban legend or not, it’s said that Mozart would remark, “my Praguers understand me.” And understand him they did; his work found much greater appreciation and success there than in Vienna in his final years.

It’s this period right around The Marriage of Figaro that Mozart wrote all five of the piano concertos we’re performing this season. This week’s – Concerto No. 21 in C major (aka K. 467) – was completed in 1785, and so clearly bears the sounds of Figaro throughout. The very opening of the concerto has the same simple buoyancy of the opening of the opera as Figaro is measuring his chamber for what will be his and Susannah’s wedding bed (“Cinque…dieci…venti…trenta”). The middle movement, probably the concerto’s most well-known music, has the deeply personal and haunting character of The Contessa’s “Dove sono;” it’s at once beautifully vulnerable and supremely longing. The third movement is simply pure sunshine.

I can assure you, you don’t want to miss hearing the brilliant Alessio Bax play this concerto this weekend. His range of expressivity is outstanding yet always within the elegance and effortlessness that Mozart’s music demands. His playing is always saying something meaningful. One of Courtney’s and my goals in programming these five concertos this season was to make each one a completely unique experience for the audience. Each concerto has it’s own distinct personality, and we were sure to engage five pianists who each approach the piano with spectacularly unique voices. Each one will be a very different ride, and this weekend’s with Alessio Bax will unquestionably be filled with tender emotion and joyful light. I hope to see you in Jacoby Symphony Hall Friday or Saturday!

Learn more about the Mozart’s Dream: Piano Concerto No. 21 performances here.

By Tony Nickle, Vice President & Artistic Administrator