Mozart and Prokofiev

by Tom Ingram

Yesterday’s concert was billed as a Valentine’s Day extravaganza because of the presence of extracts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet on the program. The real main attraction, though, was Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Major, K.503, one of the finest pieces of music ever written. The soloist, Angela Cheng, played with delicacy and ease. One might object to the character, which was floating and detached the whole way through—this was pure Apollonian Mozart, and I think there are at least a couple points where emotional release is warranted. But it was a satisfying performance overall.

The Prokofiev, which consisted of selections from all the R&J suites arranged to roughly follow the story of the play, hits that sweet spot period in musical history where orchestras were big and harmonies rich but the perverse tendencies of classical composers hadn’t yet completely taken over. The WSO was fortified with several extra musicians, including an oboe, a clarinet, a flute, two percussionists, two extra violinists, two keyboardists, a contrabassoon, and a tenor saxophone. This last was a very nice touch. The sound of saxophone and orchestra is really quite beautiful, and it’s a shame that so few composers have taken advantage of it.

The music draws on a broad expressive palette and was sensitively played all around. In particular the percussion was very good. This year has been a bit rocky, perhaps, but this concert is redemptive. Definitely one of the top two of the year.