Mozart was an accomplished violinist, but in chamber music, he preferred to play viola, so he was intimately familiar with the resources of both instruments showcased in this sparkling work. Composed in 1779 in Salzburg, it calls for an orchestra of two oboes, two horns and strings. Symphonie concertantes are generally lighthearted works, almost always in a major key, that emphasize virtuosic display over expressive profundity.
Joe and I are delighted and honored that Barbara asked us to perform this for you today. It has been a joy getting to know this music, and playing with such a wonderful and accomplished orchestra and music director. My first thought in approaching this concertante was that it needs to sound like two cheerful angels dancing on a cloud—and that is harder than it sounds. Have you ever played the game Operation, with the tweezers and the buzzers? It looks easy, but it’s not. Mozart is like that, his music is so wonderfully woven together, so perfectly crafted, so exposed, it’s easy to forget the sensitivity and complexity involved. At any point when playing Mozart, a string player can ‘get buzzed’ if the bow is too slow or fast, or at the wrong angle, or at the wrong speed, or not synchronized perfectly with the fingers.
I recall my first solo performance of a Mozart concerto. As a young teen it seemed easy, I assumed it was the same as Bach, the notes, the tempo, the phrasing. But I missed the mark, as an observer told me afterwards: I was missing the purpose, the soul, of the music. Not to take away from Bach, but for a string player Bach is like a hearty winter soup of meat and potatoes, fabulous of course, comforting and fulfilling, whereas Mozart is a light spring soup full of herbs and spices and sensitive hints of unknowable flavors: the delightful back and forth between the soloists, and the orchestra…the interplay with the strings and the horns, and the oboes…the simple melodies that repeat, and grow, and mature over time. It’s so delicate and high (on the finger board), and precise and fast (except when it’s slow) and so exposed, but we love it. We are so grateful for this opportunity, and hope you enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed attempting to bring life to what Mozart put on the page in 1779.