Conductor: Leon Fleisher
Mozart: Symphony No. 1 in E-flat Major, K. 16
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414
Leon Fleisher: Piano
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551
After some fabulous vacation busily mixing music, food and wine in the south of France – It sure is hard to go wrong with that combo – and a hectic but eventually successful return trip, I have been getting back to my New York routine the only way I know how, by getting to my New York routine. Unsurprisingly, said routine includes live music, even if I almost missed the first concert on my calendar due to a treacherous combination of jet lag and over-confidence in my memory.
Needless to say, I would have been heart-broken if I had unwittingly passed on People’s Symphony Orchestra’s all-Mozart feast performed by the graduate and upper-division students of the Peabody Chamber Orchestra and conducted by 90-year-young living legend Leon Fleisher at the historical Town Hall. That also gave me the opportunity to catch up with my friend Paula, a fellow music lover and the outing instigator, on my first weekend back.
So that’s how early on Sunday afternoon, I expectantly headed to Midtown, the trip being uncharacteristically taken by subway since after two days of stunning summer weather that almost felt like an extension of my vacation, Mother Nature had apparently decided to give us another taste of winter.
As its name indicates, Mozart’s Symphony No. 1 was the first symphony he ever wrote; it is therefore a bona fide curiosity, if not exactly a masterpiece. What the name does not indicate though, is that the wunderkind was eight years old at the time, which is a ridiculously precocious age even for a child prodigy.
The piece turned out to be an endearing little composition, pleasantly light and delightfully melodic, and it got a radiant and energetic treatment from the orchestra under maestro Fleisher’s watchful baton. Even Paula, who is not a fan of juvenilia, to say the least, admitted that it was better than she had feared.
Watching Leon Fleisher conduct was fun, but let’s face it, we were all there to hear him play the piano, and that’s just what he did for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12. Written when the composer had reached the ripe age of twenty-six, it shows a remarkable command of his craft, most particularly his famous knack for elegance and complexity. Myriads of wonderful tiny details can be found in the seemingly modest structure, and Leon Fleisher brought them all out with assurance, expertise and a lot of heart in an unhurried, organically beautiful performance.
Coming full circle, the concert ended in grand style with an irrepressibly glowing Jupiter, Mozart’s last masterpiece, which is incidentally also one of my favorite symphonies ever. Starting with one of the sexiest come-ons in music history, it is bold and noble, refined and majestic, and so emotionally powerful that it sweeps the audience right into the Romantic territory that lies just around the corner. A stunning swan song for a composer who was probably not even at the top of his game yet when he sadly left us (Sigh). And a much appreciated welcome back gift for me.