Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Next week I am going to hear a performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major by Piotr Anderszewski, whose work I find, with few exceptions, instructive. I am preparing as I might prepare to meet W.H.Auden for tea. A few things you need to know:

- I do not go chasing Mozart concerto's. I find them, for the most part, troubling, not just to play (they are not simple) but also to listen to. Despite their popularity and the fact that "everyone" plays them they often leave me puzzled.

- I recently bought the full scores of all the concerto's, determined to figure out why I am so puzzled by them.

- You cannot believe my disappointment that he is to play in G major.

That's where the story starts.

Why am I disappointed?

After finally purchasing a ticket -- I had been delaying making the commitment - I began playing from the score. A flood of memories came over me.

G major is an easy key, isn't it? Perhaps to play; not to hear. It is one of the tonalities that is skewed on the piano because of the relative strength of black key pitch compared to white keys. That pesky F# makes the third note of the scale a highly sensitive tone, thus skewing all the relationships using B.

As a child I was troubled to an unbelievable extent by the sound of Mozart's only piano sonata in G major. As a tonality it fares much better - and completely differently - when accompanied by strings. Interesting that the early piano / violin sonatas are designated as being for the piano accompanied by a violin. The strings temper the resonances within the key because they do not have the same mechanical / acoustical values so specific to the piano alone.

I was reluctant to encounter, again, my feeling of complete ignorance in the face of such powerful impressions as those in this most exposed key.

It turns out to be filled with references to that early G major sonata, as well as to other great works in G major and minor.

Here is another instance in the long list of pieces that require affirmation of their actual sound. In the case of Mozart's oeuvre, most of them are among the "easy" pieces.