Nickel for Your Thoughts: Mozart’s Prague and Prokofiev

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In his own words, 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.

Happy New Year! I hope everyone has some optimism brewing for 2021. I am so excited about this week’s program, especially because we welcome back the sensational cellist, Joshua Roman. This is Joshua’s third time with the Symphony; he performed Elgar’s Cello Concerto in January 2017, and Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto in April 2019. As a musician he wields complete control of his cello, able to impart the warmest of lyrical lines with a tone that sounds like velvet or rip off a stunningly virtuosic cadenza. That’s what makes him ideal for this week’s program featuring Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante. This piece places huge demands on the soloist, as Prokofiev navigates an immense range of emotion, conflict, and ultimately comfort. But this isn’t like some concertos where the soloist does all of the heavy lifting on top of a light orchestral accompaniment, it’s a piece where Prokofiev weaves substantial content into the orchestra; Courtney and the musicians will certainly have a lot to dig their teeth into with this one.  

Mozart’s Symphony No. 38, nicknamed the “Prague Symphony,” hardly needs much introduction. It’s one of the last four symphonies he wrote, when he was at the absolute height of his already immense prowessHe had just completed one of the greatest operas ever written: The Marriage of Figaro, a huge hit in Prague despite a less resounding reception in Vienna. It marks the front end of what could be considered his highest period of composition, with Symphonies 39-41Cosi fan tutteDon Giovanni, and The Magic Flute all to come in the ensuing five years. It’s these later works that makes it inevitable to wonder what might have been had he lived beyond age 35. Add up the early retirements of Gehrig, Jordan (the first time), and Barry Sanders, and multiply that by a hundred, and that’s probably close to what we’re missing out on.  

If you still need more incentive to attend this weekend’s performances or tune in to the livestream, consider this: not only is Joshua a world-class cellist, he’s also one of the most fashionable artists on the circuit. I told him he’s set a high bar, so we’re all expecting a thoroughly stylish mask for the performances. 

By Tony Nickle, Artistic Administrator

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