Performance Review: Mozart’s Groundbreaker
The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra presented “Mozart’s Groundbreaker: Piano Concerto No. 25,” a generous program featuring two Austro-Germanic symphonic classics bookending a contemporary work.
“Symphony No. 95,” by Franz Joseph Haydn
The concert kicked off with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 95 in C minor. Music Director Courtney Lewis launched into the work with confidence and poise, and the players responded playing with verve and crisp accuracy. Tempos and dynamics were well considered, and the warmth and intonation we have come to expect from the Jacksonville Symphony string section was very much in evidence. Of particular note was the cello solo in the Menuet movement, which was rendered with just the right amount of Haydn-esque wit by Principal Cellist Alexei Romanenko.
“Raï,” by Tarik O’Regan
Next on the program was “Raï” by British-American composer Tarik O’Regan. An exuberant and engaging piece that seeks to fuse together myriad musical styles, “Raï” draws from the composer’s multi-ethnic heritage to include musical influences as diverse as European Classical, North African, Middle Eastern, Jazz, Folk, and Pop. One could at turns discern echoes of composers such as Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. ”Raï” is highly rhythmic, and employs some percussion instruments not often seen in conventional symphonic orchestrations. To emphasize this, the Symphony was physically arranged in an unusual way, with the percussion section situated in the center of the stage in front of the woodwinds. This not only gave the audience a clearer view of the percussion section, but it served to provide a better aural balance as well given the particular instrumentation of this work and the central role of the percussion. The overall effect was a delightful counterpoint to the “capital-C” Classical Haydn opening.
“Piano Concerto No. 25,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Concluding the evening was W. A. Mozart’s monumental Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major. Universally regarded as one of the very finest of Mozart’s twenty-seven numbered piano concertos, this work makes great technical and musical demands on soloist and orchestra alike. Guest artist Jonathan Biss and the Jacksonville Symphony proved to be more than up to the task, rendering the work with a rare combination of control and spontaneity. Tempos were forward-moving but never rushed, and balance between piano and orchestra was consistently well judged. Jonathan Biss sculpted Mozart’s phrases with great care, and, particularly in the second movement, demonstrated just how much Mozart can say in each individual note. He had fire and virtuosity in spades, and his cadenza in the first movement gave the distinct impression of a spontaneous improvisation. Courtney Lewis was as ever the deft accompanist, responding to the soloist with sensitivity and leading the orchestra in a performance that managed to successfully achieve that elusive synthesis of freedom and form to which classical musicians continually strive.
Creative and Effective
“Mozart’s Groundbreaker: Piano Concerto No. 25,” was another example of the Jacksonville Symphony’s creative and effective concert programming, as well as the latest installment in the David M. Hicks Mozart Piano Concerto Series.
Tim Tuller is the Canon for Music at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville, Florida. Tuller formerly wrote for the Florida Times-Union as classical music reviewer.
Watch and Listen
If this type of creative and effective programming interests you, please visit our 21/22 season page to find upcoming Florida Blue Classical Series performances. Additional content for this performance includes a Q&A with composer Tarik O’Regan, a Nickel for your Thoughts blog post, an episode of Insight and a full set of Program Notes. Purchase tickets for the next Florida Blue Classical Series or re-watch the live-stream of “Mozart’s Groundbreaker” on our YouTube channel.
The Jacksonville Symphony would like to give special thanks to Florida Blue for sponsoring the Classical Series and Mayo Clinic for sponsoring the Mozart Piano Concerto Live Stream Series. Additional thanks are given to Tim Tuller for attending the performance and writing this performance review: Mozart’s Groundbreaker.