BEHIND THE MUSIC

As Mozart was composing the Requiem, death was in sight. The commission came to Mozart from a nameless messenger in the Summer of 1791 before his health would begin to fail him. Even in his weakest state, Mozart pushed forward with the composition as simply waiting for his death proved more exhausting than continuing his work. Low strings slowly plod forward in the opening moments of the Requiem as if a funeral march looms in the distance. This was no coincidence as this piece became his last great obsession–he was convinced he was writing the music for his funeral. His swan song trembles with divine and powerful cries from the choir displaying the inspired and otherworldly beauty born from the final breaths of one of the most influential composers to ever live.

As those close to Mozart looked back at his life and his career, Piano Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major emerged as a clear turning point for his writing. It was time to leave the title of child prodigy behind and display the full force of his compositional voice. Playful orchestral interludes, virtuosic piano melodies, and unexpected dialog between these two voices push the boundaries of convention and fill the piece with dramatic tension and energy.

I know from what I feel that the hour is striking; I am on the point of death; I have finished before I could enjoy my talent…thus I must finish my funeral song, which I must not leave incomplete.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1756-1791

History

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Requiem in D minor, K. 626

The commission for this piece came from a nameless messenger during the summer of 1791. This messenger was later found to be sent by Count Franz von Walsegg. After putting the composition aside to complete his final two operas, Mozart returned to the Requiem in the final days of his life. What little strength the composer had was put towards its completion. While it was commissioned for the purpose of commemorating the death of Walsegg’s wife, the piece quickly became Mozart’s obsession as he came to terms with his approaching death and felt he was writing the music for his own funeral. In his failing health, Mozart was only able to complete the Requiem and Kyrie sections before his death.  On December 5th, 1791 having completed only a few measures of the Lacrymosa, Mozart passed away.

Constanze Mozart, the composer’s now widow, saw that the work be completed partly out of fear that the commissioning fee would be lost if it were found out that the Requiem was unfinished at the time of Mozart’s death. She recruited the help of composers Joseph Eybler and Franz Süssmayr to finish the piece to the detailed specifications that Mozart had left. The music was completed, recopied so it look as if only one hand had penned the work, and delivered to Walsegg who, with musical aspirations of his own, immediately took credit for the work. It was Constanze who convinced Walsegg to disclosed the true composer of the Requiem as she published the work in her late-husband’s name and closed the saga of Mozart’s farewell piece.

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Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major, K. 271

The concerto dates to January of 1777 as Mozart was turning 21-years-old. The young composer had been dubbed a child prodigy from an early age, but his music was consistently being lumped with many other respected composers who, like Mozart, were producing scores at an increasingly fast pace. Many believe this 9th piano concerto is the piece that separated Mozart from the pack; his first true masterpiece.

While scored for a relatively traditional orchestra, Piano Concerto No. 9 is set apart by the novel and imaginative writing for strings and winds combined with a noticeably challenging piano part. It can be considered rather experimental for the period when Mozart wrote this concerto. Most concertos of this time opened with the orchestra laying out the themes of the piece. Mozart chooses for the orchestra and piano to share the opening spotlight. This serves as an early signal of unconventional uses of form and harmony Mozart implements for the duration of this seminal work.

Alon Goldstein, piano

"Stylish and Spirited Playing." -Chicago Tribune

Alon Goldstein returns to the Ann Arbor Symphony by popular demand to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major.

Alon Goldstein is one of the most original and sensitive artists of his generation, admired for his musical intelligence and dynamic personality. Alon’s artistic vision and innovative programming have made him a favorite with audiences and critics alike throughout the United States, Europe, and Israel. Mr. Goldstein has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Philadelphia Orchestra; the San Francisco, Baltimore, St. Louis, Houston, Vancouver, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and North Carolina Symphonies; and orchestras on tour in Paris, Russia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Among many memorable recent experiences was the premiere Lost Souls with the Kansas City Symphony and Michael Stern written for him by the noted young Israel composer Avner Dorman; his successful debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski playing Mendelssohn Concerto No. 1, a return to the IRIS Orchestra for Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 2 with Michael Stern, performances of Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 with Jaime Laredo and the Vermont Symphony and Concerto No. 2 with the Toronto Symphony. He has appeared at the Gilmore, Santa Fe, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Marlboro, Seattle, and Steamboat festivals in the United States as well as Prussia Cove the Verbier Festival and Klavier Festival in Rühr. He performed at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Millennium Park in Chicago with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra.

He serves as the Artistic Director for The Distinguished Artists Concert & Lecture Series in Santa Cruz, CA and was recently named the Artistic Director for the Mt. Angel Abbey Bach Festival in Oregon, starting in 2019.

He is the winner of numerous competitions, among them the Arianne Katcz Piano Competition in Tel Aviv, Nena Wideman Competition in the US and the Francois Shapira competition in Israel. He is also the recipient of the 2004 Salon di Virtuosi Career Grant and the America Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarships. The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC chose a live recording of one of Mr. Goldstein’s recitals there for its first CD release.  Other recordings include solo recital programs through the Jerusalem Music Center “Mishkenot Sha’ananim” and the Israeli Music Institute featuring works by Israeli composers.

www.alongoldstein.com

Further listening

Mozart is born

Requiem Duration (minutes)

Piano Concerto No. 9 Duration (minutes)

SEE YOU AT THE SYMPHONY!

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