Thursday, November 18, 2010

Listen to Mozart's "unfinished" Coronation Concerto with polytonality, plus a new piano concerto (by Timo Andres)

Composer and Pianist Timothy Andres (“Timo”), having redeployed his website (in Beta) with Wordpress (something I am considering seriously), has added a piano directory where visitors can listen to some of his performances at home “free”.

Particularly interesting is his interpretation of the Mozart Piano Concerto #26 in D, the “Coronation”, which you can find at this (website url) link. The performance is with the Metropolis Ensemble at the Angel Orensanz Foundation. On Windows Vista the links work immediately; on XP I had to click an extra time to get the MP3 to play. (Yup, I’m planning on having Windows 7 soon.)

Wikipedia explains the issue of the unfinished piano part clearly here. “As can be seen in the Dover Publications facsimile, large stretches of the solo part simply have nothing at all for the left hand, including the opening solo (movement 1, measures 81–99) and the whole of the second movement.[6] There is in fact no other Mozart piano concerto of which so much of the solo part was left unfinished by the composer” Check this link.

Since the Concerto (as did most in that period) starts with an orchestral ritornelle (of the Exposition), the polytonality of his interpretation of the piano part comes as quite a “shock” when it starts. The 1st Movement cadenza is definitely interesting, more like Andres’s own music in “Shy and Mighty” (especially “Flirtations”). There’s another substantial cadenza in the playful Rondo finale. The whole experience comes across as more neo-classical or Stravinsky-like than Mozart’s own experiments into modernism: in the slow movement of his D Major Quintet, and later in his F Major Quartet finale (development section), he seems to get into outright atonality, and its still the 18th Century. But the sound is Viennese, Mahleresque, expressionistic, not neoclassical. (By way of comparison, Mahler experimented with polytonality in his enormous Rondo in the 7th Symphony, but the effect is still emotive.)

I guess that this "transcription" (or whatever) is what copyright law considers a "derivative work" (although Mozart is certainly long since in the public domain).

That webpage also links to a performance of Andres’s own Piano Concerto (in one movement with “about” four sections, like Liszt) titled “Home Stretch”. The work starts in slow tempo with orchestra effects that sound rather sci-fi-movie like (reminding me of Christopher Nolan and Inception). But even in slow tempo, the piano writing, with some stops and starts, sounds toccata-like. As the tempo picks up, the music takes on a Gershwin-like character, with some Copland thrown in. Then another slow section comes, with sound effects of “summer in the City” perhaps (a little quarter-toning in the orchestra, begging for an Imax movie to be playing). The music again gains speed, but ends abruptly in the solo piano. (Dominik Maican ended one of his quartets very suddenly, too.) I didn’t time it exactly but it seemed to run about 18 minutes.

By the way, note the Metropolis Ensemble website (link  ) and the upcoming event in NYC “It takes a long time to become a good composer.” Also check the Orensanz Foundation here.

Timothy Andres does have a brief article on Wikipedia.

This is a good time to have a first name of “Timothy”. If you met Andres and Lincecum simulataneously and didn’t know them, you might think Andres had been the World Series pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and guess that Lincecum was the musician.  I still don’t know how it’s physically possible for Tim L to throw 95 mph fastballs and totally dominate baseball.  And Tim A.'s piano style is certainly athletic in nature, with outbursts and constant momentum.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. photo of the Mozart score.

(Nov. 22: Indexed posting title has a spelling typo, just caught; that's OK.)

Update: Feb. 9, 2012

Here's a review (WCF Courrier) of Timo's performance of the recomposition in Iowa, link.  One comment: the age is one year too high.  ("Being young....")

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