shades of gray

if pdx had to choose a piano king, i’m pretty sure harold gray would win the crown.  in addition to playing, teaching, and writing about everyone’s favorite eighty-eight-key machine, mr. gray successfully launched *portland piano international 35 years ago (!) and has been bringing superhuman keyboardists to stumplandia ever since for one outrageous recital after another.  beginning this saturday night, piano god garrick ohlsson will join the oregon symphony to play mozart’s so-called “jeunehomme” concerto.  to prepare for this stellar event, the beaver decided to ask harold for his two cents, and he was kind enough to make the following deposit…

In 2004, the story behind the nickname of this concerto was finally revealed.  The work was written not for “Jeunehomme” but for Louise Victoire Jenamy, the daughter of one of Mozart’s friends.  She must have been a fine pianist, for the sparkling writing in this concerto requires an advanced technique.  This youthful work of Mozart, probably his first published piano concerto, was written when the composer was only twenty-one.  It retains the classical style of the period but also looks to the future in several important ways.  I’m sure eighteenth century audiences were shocked to hear the pianist interrupt the orchestra with an outburst after only one measure.  For the piano to enter so close to the beginning of a concerto was unheard of in 1777.  Another unusual moment occurs in the finale of the concerto when the joyous presto comes to a sudden stop and is replaced by a flowing minuet with four variations that provides some of the most elegant writing in the entire work.  The middle movement is in a minor key, yet another unconventional practice for the time.  This exceptional work is one of Mozart’s most beautiful, and evokes feelings ranging from ecstasy to agony.  It demonstrates that the child prodigy was already a mature composer at the ripe old age of twenty-one.

wow, big thanks to mr. gray for getting this rodent even more stoked for the show… can.  not.  wait.  and big thanks as well to all those who have already cast their vote for the classical beaver in the national blogger challenge now under way… yee-haw!  um, what’s that?  you haven’t voted yet?!  well, *click here and get ‘er dun.  remember: a vote for ol’ beavey is a vote for freedom and apple pie (in that order).


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