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2015年6月14日 星期日

Two innovators in the same concert: Mozart & Beethoven (一音樂會內二革新者:莫扎特與貝多芬)

The HKPO concert at the Cultural Centre last night is unique: in one concert, we had two courageous innovators who made musical history, both in E flat. The first is Mozart with his Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat K 272 ("Jeunehomme" or "Young Man") in Allegro, Andantino, Rondo: presto and the other is Beethoven's Symphony No.3 in E Flat, ("Eroica" or "Heroic") in Allegro con brio, Marcia funebre: Adagio assai, Scherzo: Allegro vivace and Finale in Allegro molto.  But that's not where their similarity ends. I found, though I'm not sure if that's merely coincidental, even a particular compositional device which is used by both composer: the sudden but brief burst of piano notes in the middle of the orchestral introduction in Mozart's piano concerto and the introduction of two apparently "dissonant" notes forcefully played right at the start of the symphonic  movement, as if they were totally unconnected with the main theme which started off the Eroica, something totally unprecedented in musical history. Mozart pulled the stunt when he was 21 and Beethoven when he was 32.

As with all innovators, it's always difficult to tell if they are still within the relevant tradition within which they work which they have brought to perhaps its peak so that there's very little else they can do within it any more except to break through to a new mode. So in a sense, one could say Beethoven was still working within the so-called "classical" model when he still stuck to the 4-movement structure of fast sonata, slow sonata, minuet, fast sonata of the traditional symphony. But Beethoven had to put his personal stamp on to this traditional form. He put in a Scherzo instead of a minuet in the third movement.  No wonder the programme note quoted the musical historian Gerard Abraham that it was with the Eroica that Beethoven "set a new standard of musical logic, of symphonic thought...its suggestion of an implied emotional programme."

To play the piano for us in the concerto was one of my favourite pianists,  the very talented Yuja Wang, who displayed not only consummate skill with her fingers, but exuded a remarkable sensitivity to the nuances of the moods of the young Mozart and who poured her heart into the music, something which made the soul of Mozart come alive for us. As expected, the applauses were thunderous. She appeared touched and rewarded us with two pieces which showcase her technical brilliance and the versatility of her complex musical personality, first a variation of a quite familiar theme in Bizet's  Carmen and then a jazzed up version one of one familiar piano pieces whose name I have forgotten perhaps the Turkish March(?) in the manner of a Franz Litzst who converted all of Beethoven's 9 symphonies into the form of piano compositions which of course, he played. I don't expect I'll be disappointed in the two other concerts by her which I already booked for next week. .






The second half of the concert was Van Zweden's Eroica, a piece which Beethoven wrote in honor of the son of the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte who set Europe ablaze with his revolutionary slogans of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity but who tore the title page of the symphony when Napoleon declared himself emperor. in 1804 after a plebiscite.  It was first performed in Vienna in 1805. Amongst other things, it was the two assertive chords which replaced the customary introduction in the first movement which made the symphony so "revolutionary". Van Zweden gave us a very energetic No.3, the music was full of drive, verve and power completely in line with Beethoven's celebratory intention. A totally exhilarating, exciting and uplifting performance!