Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sonata for Keyboard and Violin No. 35 in A Major, K. 526
Nathanaël Gouin: Piano
Sayaka Shoji: Violin
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Improvisations
Thomas Ehnco: Piano
The first concert of the Saoû chante Mozart festival over, we took advantage of the wonderful estate just outside the castle to have a very French picnic—I would seriously attend any kind of festival if it comes with the opportunity to eat pâté en croûte among lavender fields during the golden hour—and compare notes, which were all overwhelmingly enthusiastic. After also pondering why the rest of the audience had apparently gone into the village of Saoû instead of taking advantage of the gorgeous setting and how the couple of small local restaurants would be able to manage the onslaught, we turned our attention to the second concert.
Although everything would revolve around Mozart, there would a twist to it, which was that the second part would be all improvisations inspired by some of Mozart’s biggest hits as well as hidden gems. Moreover, a second twist had been added to it a couple of days before when Yvan Cassar, the pianist who had been tapped for that second half, had suddenly become indisposed and young, but already tireless globe-trotter and Saoû chante Mozart veteran, Thomas Ehnco was called to save the night. From what we could overhear among the connoisseurs, this was actually not a bad deal at all. And at least one thing was for sure: After a late opening of the doors and a subsequent chaotic settling by the audience, I found myself in an amazing seat, and definitely in the mood for more Mozart.
Originally written for piano and violin, the Piano Sonata No. 17 in B-flat Major eventually would be performed only on piano, and while it may not be one of Mozart’s most dazzling works—Lets’ face it, the competition is dreadfully fierce—, it still has enough solid qualities, especially in the deliciously bubbly Allegretto, to have a legitimate place on concert programs. On top of it, when a musician as prepared and capable as Nathanaël Gouin takes a hold of it, it brings it to a whole other level, and that’s just what happened on Friday night.
On the other hand, a composition of Mozart’s for piano and violin that stayed that way is Mozart’s Sonata for Keyboard and Violin No. 35 in A Major, for which Gouin was joined by violinist Sayaka Shoji. This is the last sonata the composer would ever write, but then again, once you have come up with such a well-rounded masterwork, there’s pretty much nowhere else to go. Book-ending the serene Andante with two unabashedly sunny movements, Mozart took pains to focus equally on the two instruments. Accordingly, the two musicians got equal share of the spotlight, even if the piano at times sounded ready to take over the violin.
Mozart was still very much on our minds and in our ears when a seemingly energy-filled Thomas Ehnco climbed up onto the stage, sat at the piano, and started playing a spontaneous-sounding mix of classical and jazz and whatnots with the effortless skills, knowledge and aplomb of a true virtuoso. By then darkness had slowly but surely descended upon our surroundings, discreet mood-setting lights had appeared, and everything was in place for a magical summer night under the stars.
After taking a quick break to catch his breath, acknowledge our thunderous applause and introduce himself, Ehnco was back digging into the bottomless treasure chest that is Mozart’s œuvre and repeatedly came up with special treats in a wide range of different flavors. As the night went on, we got to enjoy truly exciting, multifold variations of The Requiem’s Lacrimosa, Ehnco limiting himself to the eight bars that are indisputably Mozart’s, Don Giovanni’s ever-popular “La ci darem la mano”, which he played with septuple rhythms, the all-time favorite Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the 40th symphony’s formard-looking Finale, and the unusual dissonances of the String Quartet No. 19. And those were just the most well-known excerpts.
And just like that, I was already done with the Saoû chante Mozart festival for this year, and I could not have ended it on a higher note.