Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 23 in D,
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E?,
Thamos, König in Ägypten,
K 345 (selections)
Venga pur, minacci e frema
, Mitridate, re di Ponto,
David Greilsammer (pn, cond); Geneva CO;
Lawrence Zazzo (ct)
SONY 88725430252 (66:44)
The conception of Mozart as a man-child, as a divine creature trapped in a psychologically damaged and very human vessel, is well known to lovers of his music, and even by the larger popular culture due to the play and subsequent film by Peter Shaffer,
This delightful and thoughtfully assembled CD explores this topic with far greater insight and accuracy by a powerful and patently obvious means; the music itself.
Israeli pianist and conductor David Greilsammer, a new name to me, has chosen material from the period when Mozart was struggling to emerge from the cocoon of infantile celebrity to a mature and independent genius, eager to fly off on his own path. The centerpiece of this journey is the Piano Concerto No. 9, written when Mozart was 20, arguably his first concerto of greatness. Greilsammer, who is the music director of this sprightly chamber orchestra, stresses the transitional nature of the work by underlining the almost explosive brilliance of the outer movements and the contrast with the probing wistfulness of the slow movement, which seems to bear a deep sadness far beyond the experiences of a young man barely out of his teens.
There is little such introspection in the musical fireworks that is the Symphony No. 23. The brief, three-movement piece flies by in this precise yet wonderfully energetic performance. Greilsammer begins his program here, as if to present Mozart as the blossoming young composer in full command of his technique, but emotionally still in the thrall of a giddy adolescence. The music from
Thamos, King of Egypt
illustrates the truism that Mozart was, above all else, a man of the musical theater, a sensibility that informed even his non-vocal music. His early operas were an essential building block to his career in this sense. Countertenor Lawrence Zazzo sings this material with focused joy.
Greilsammer adds a contemporary musical commentary to his psycho-history with the inclusion of music by Denis Schuler,
, for string quartet and orchestra. The music was commissioned for this project, and here receives its world premiere recording. In his own notes, Greilsammer conceives of the new work “as a contemporary extension of Mozart’s emotional world.” I am not so sure that he needs to be that specific; stylistically, Schuler’s spacey dissonance seems to be from another planet than Mozart’s. But both composers, and any others worth their salt, share the common goal of wanting to craft beautiful sound that others may enjoy. Sounds simple, but if this juxtaposition sheds any light on that axiom, then Greilsammer’s vision has been realized.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser