A Delightful Lesson in Classical Piano: Rudolf Golez presents Mozart’s influence on Mendelssohn, Chopin and Gershwin
Upon the invitation of our Cagayan de Oro City Tourism Council colleague Owen Jaen, some lucky members of the CTC were treated to a night of world-class classical piano through the March 20 concert of Kagay-anon Virtuoso Rudolf Golez, dubbed “Mostly Mozart” at Liceo de Cagayan University’s iconic Rodelsa Hall.
The solo concert was the university’s joint celebration of National Arts Month and Liceo University’s 62nd Founding Anniversary, for the benefit of the Rodolfo N. Pelaez Foundation Scholarship Program.
As Rudolf explained before the first part of the concert: “The program is designed to show the interplay between major and minor tonalities. Major chords have a bright and therefore happy quality: while the minor chords seem to have a dark and there sad or morose quality.”
“The mostly Mozart programme is a theme that is well loved and celebrated yearly in many countries all over the world. As the title suggests, it is a concert or series of concerts that feature Mozart works in 51% of the items in the programme.”
“Interestingly, among his 17 sonatas for piano, Mozart only wrote two that is in the minor tonality, and I will play both, namely, the A minor and C minor. But the question is, does Mozart’s use of minor depict the typical sadness that was theoretically generalized?”
“You as the audience can now experience and judge for yourselves, If Mozart’s minor works are typically sad pieces, if not, how would you describe them, and what of their interface with the major? I chose the C major 545 Sonata to end the Mozart section of this mostly Mozart program, to show how the major tonality will sound after the two sonatas in the minor key.”
“So listen actively, and you might discover something in your listening that might be against what is written in the books.”
Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310/300d is the first of only two Mozart piano sonatas in a minor key (the other being No. 14 in C minor, K. 457 ). It was composed in the summer of 1778 around the time of his mothers death, one of the most tragic times of his life.
Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K. 457, was published in December 1785 together with the Fantasy in C minor, K. 475, as Opus 11 by the publishing firm Artaria, Mozart’s main Viennese publisher.
The sonata was composed during the 10-year period of Mozart’s life as a freelance artist in Vienna after he removed himself from the patronage of the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1781. It is one of the earliest of only six sonatas composed during the Vienna years, and was probably written either as a teaching tool or for personal use. Sonatas during this time were generally written for a local audience – as opposed to a symphony or concerto, which were designed to convey ideas in a small, intimate setting.
As the finale of the concert’s Mostly Mozart programme, Rudolf played the Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545, described by Mozart himself in his own thematic catalogue as “for beginners”, and sometimes known as the Sonata facile or Sonata semplice (Rossen, 1997)
For the second part of the night’s programme, Golez featured Mendelssohn, Chopin and Gershwin. “One can safely say that, to a certain extent, Mozart’s influence extends to these three composers.”
Felix Mendelssohn Rondo Capriccioso for solo piano started off the second part of the concert.
The classicizing influence of Haydn and Mozart manifests itself in his preference for clearly balanced themes and phrase structure, and impeccable formal control; after hearing the Piano Trio in D minor Op.49, Robert Schumann declared that Mendelssohn was the Mozart of the 19th century.
In his review titled, “If Mostly Becomes Merely,” James R. Oestereich wrote: “In the Year of the Overriding Theme at the Mostly Mozart Festival in Avery Fisher Hall, Mozart’s relationships with other composers are being explored, and Mendelssohn shared the spotlight during the first week.”
“But as Paul Schiavo points out in a keynote essay in Stagebill, “Mozart as Muse,” the Mendelssohn works presented on Friday and Saturday evenings, the Violin Concerto in E minor and the Lobgesang Symphony (No. 2), “bespeak more the Romantic aspect of Mendelssohn’s personality” than the influence of Mozart. The same might be said of the Mendelssohn piano works: six Songs Without Words (Op. 67) and the Rondo Capriccioso (Op. 14).”
“Thematic programs and series are suddenly the rage, and with good reason. If listeners can be given something larger to chew on than the qualities of individual pieces and the quality of the performances, so much the better. The problem is that unless the theme is patently obvious, it is not likely to emerge without considerable explication.”
“The middle ground between the trivial and the arcane is elusive. Didacticism lies close at hand, and a simple, unadorned misfire may be preferable.” (Oestereich, 1993)
For his next item, Golez played Chopin’s Scherzo in B-flat No. 2. As to Mozart’s influences on Chopin, we gleaned the following from the web:
“Although there were numerous great composers before Chopin, the two composers who had impacted him the most were J.S. Bach and W.A. Mozart. Many of Chopin’s works are involved with reworking of forms, procedures and materials drawn from earlier masters, and especially from the Bach and Viennese Classical composer-Mozart.” (Park, Eui-Hyuk)
“Are there any indications that Chopin considered these 2 pieces by Mozart to be particularly influential for him: When I hear Chopin’s 3rd Ballade, I think of Mozart’s A Major Sonata K331;
The mysterious Rondo in A Minor K511, was Chopin before Chopin. (www.talkclassical.com/Aurelian)
Mozart was one of Chopin’s favorite composers (remember his Variations on La ci darem de mano), so it’s no surprise to find Mozartian influences in his music.
Finally, it was time for the fitting finale, one of my all time favorites: George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”.
Rhapsody in Blue premiered in an afternoon concert on Tuesday, February 12, 1924, held by Paul Whiteman and his band Palais Royal Orchestra, entitled An Experiment in Modern Music, which took place in Aeolian Hall in New York City. Had this concert been held earlier, it would have been a fitting tribute celebrating the 93rd anniversary of this American musical landmark.
Paul Whiteman had asked Gershwin to write a “jazz concerto”, which became the Rhapsody in Blue; like a concerto, the piece is written for solo piano with orchestra: a rhapsody differs from a concerto in that it features one extended movement instead of separate movements.
Rhapsodies often incorporate passages of an improvisatory nature (although written out in a score), and are irregular in form, with heightened contrasts and emotional exuberance.
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is typical in that it certainly has large contrasts in musical texture, style, and color. The music ranges from intensely rhythmic piano solos to slow, broad, and richly orchestrated sections.
It was the first time I’ve ever heard it played by a solo piano and a text inquiry to the maestro on the arrangement confirmed that it was indeed the solo piano arrangement as written originally by Whiteman’s arranger Ferde Grofé.
You could hear a pin drop as Golez went through the demanding 17-minute masterpiece, and the audience jumped to its feet with incessant applause for a encore, which the prodigy responded to promising “this will only take a minute!”
Popularly known as the Minute Waltz (in the sense of “very small”), is a piano waltz composed by Frédéric Chopin. Long known as the “Minute” (accent on the first syllable) Waltz, its nickname was intended to mean “small” in the sense of a “miniature” waltz, given by its publisher.
Golez performs the same program for a one night concert Manila Pianos in Paseo de Magallanes, Makati this coming February 26, 2017 at four o’clock in the afternoon.
To get to know more about Rudolf Golez and his upcoming performances, log on to his web page – rudolfgolez.weebly.com.