A Belated Happy Birthday, Dear Wolfgang!

Morning glory. © Charles Thibo

My dear Wolfgang,

I am awfully sorry. I forgot your birthday.  I was busy this week digesting all the bad news coming from the New World, but this is no excuse. Actually, to counter my growing desperation, I  listened to quite a number of pieces you wrote, like the wonderful Clarinet Concerto in A Major and your Piano Concerto in F Major. Your music always cheers me up. But it did not occur to me yesterday that 261 years ago, you saw the light in Salzburg. Will you forgive me? I hope so. And please forgive me the clumsiness of my writing, I wrote this on a fly.

To mend things I decided to promote your music a little, something that you will certainly approve of. You were so fond of your talent, your genius and quite a bit cocky. Do you remember the year 1782? You had moved to Vienne and you were eager to please, to conquer the favour of patrons and the general audience alike. You started to write one piano concerto after the other excelling in brilliance, wit, luminosity, and it is fair to say that through your incredible creativity you established this genre in Vienna.

Admiring the sunrise

So far for the birthday laudatio. Now to the music. When I got up today I saw a beautifully coloured sky as the sun rose. I think you would have liked it too. And I said to myself: This will be a glorious day because I will make it a glorious day. I needed to do a little housekeeping, but I had my mind set on my piano practice – a lovely piece by a man you can’t possibly know, the Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky – and on spending some time with my family.  Glorious does not necessarily mean extravagant.

In 1782/83 you wrote a piece that I would call glorious though not extravagant. I am speaking about the Piano Concerto No. 13 in C, K.415. Pleasant, comforting, light, luminous and you refrained from excesses of any sort. It is very well-balanced, the piano is not too dominant, but a discrete companion and friend to the orchestra. It doesn’t hide, but it doesn’t stand out too much while on the other hand the orchestra does not try to drown the pianist. They keep each other good company, they form a partnership, the meet on an equal footing. Again and again I can listen to the recording by the NDR Sinfonieorchester and Arturo Benedetti Michelangelo and every time it rejoices me. And since the concerto has an overall festive touch – here’s to you, Wolfgang: Happy Birthday!

© Charles Thibo

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de Chareli

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