ALEXANDRA – Mostly Mozart Festival features debut of pianist Steven Osborne

Mostly Mozart Festival features debut of pianist Steven OsborneThe annual Mostly Mozart Festival at New Yorkandrsquos Lincoln Center, one of New York Cityandrsquos most prestigious music institutions since 1966, opened its 2014 summer season on July 25, and it continues through Aug. 23.

By now a New York institution, the festival originally featured only its own in-house ensemble, the Mostly Mozart Festival OrchestraSince then, it has considerably broadened its purview to include other orchestras and ensembles, music of other composers, alongside events and series, film, opera, dance, art installations and artists-in-residence — all of which use a total of seven venues in the giant Lincoln Center complex in Manhattan.On Aug.

1, the festival featured conductor Andrew Manze leading the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in a performance of Haydnandrsquos Symphony No. 104 andldquoLondon,andrdquo with piano soloist Steven Osborne, who made his Mostly Mozart debut in Beethovenandrsquos Piano Concerto No.

5 in E-flat major andldquoEmperorandrdquo Coincidentally, these two works were the last compositions in their respective categories for each composerandldquoThe sketches for the E-flat major concerto are littered with warlike phrases,andrdquo writes music critic David Wright, in his printed program notes for the Aug. 1 festival concert.

Phrases like andldquoAuf zur schlecht Jubelsang! Angriff! Sieg! (Song of exultation in battle! Attack! Victory!).andrdquo Osborne took those notations seriously for his interpretation of the andldquoEmperorandrdquo concerto.

Like a young impetuous soldier anxious to vanquish the enemy, Osborne attacked with fire in the belly. His chordal slices and tidal waves of arpeggios called the musical forces to arms in ways that I hadnandrsquot witnessed before.

Most pianists, in an effort to be more tonally conservative, refrain from the kind of hard-hitting selections Osborne chose for significant sections of that piece. The score was written as a tribute to the Hapsburg Austrian monarchs who were sadly defeated by the invading French armies in 1809.

Wright pointed out that andldquoBeethoven hid from the bombs in his brotherandrsquos cellar, holding cushions over his head.andrdquo Osborneandrsquos approach seemed to channel the composerandrsquos terrorNot all was fortissimo, however His extraordinary dynamic range also telescoped down to a whisper He mined the muted, haunting minor-mode motifs with as much intensity as the steely grandeur and pomp in the outer two movements, and similarly in the tender, almost defeated mood of the pianissimo second movement.

Manzeandrsquos directorial approach employed the early-music performance esthetic of a mixture of crystalline clarity, little vibrato, and ardent tempos. The woodwind section excelled in its precision and intonation.

Even though the Austrians fared so poorly in battle, Beethoven nevertheless created a magnificently heroic concerto that lives on to glorify his Viennese compatriots Manze and Osborne recreated this historic contrast for us that night with a dynamic and luminous performance. And as for Osborneandrsquos debut, perhaps long overdue for this artist who is in the midst of a global career, it was the perfect piece to introduce himself to this audience, who vociferously approved.

Manze and the orchestra followed with Haydnandrsquos andldquoLondon,andrdquo which is a joyous work written in 1795. The 12th of his series of andldquoLondonandrdquo symphonies, No.

104 amuses with dramatic pauses, sudden changes of direction or harmony, rowdy tympani parts, and a zesty folk dance flavor in the fourth movement. Manze took the perfect tempos to highlight all the quirky features of Haydnandrsquos final foray into symphonic writing.

By number 104, Franz Josef had quite outdone himself — and everyone else, too.Steven Osborne channels SchubertAfter his concerto performance at the 8 pm concert, pianist Osborne trotted across the street that same night to perform a 10 pm solo recital, as part of the Mostly Mozart series andldquoA Little Night Musicandrdquo held in the Stanley H Kaplan Penthouse.

Osborneandrsquos all-Schubert program in the intimate room, which felt akin to an erstwhile Viennese salon, began with the relatively unknown andldquoThirteen Variations on a Theme by Anselm Huttenbrenner,andrdquo and continued with four Impromptus from Opus 142, all of which painted an exquisite portrait of the delicacy and spirituality of this composerandrsquos soul — and unfortunately short life — he died at the age of 31.andldquoSchubertandrsquos a very special case,andrdquo Osborne spoke from the stage.

andldquoHis music is genuinely spontaneous expression. He doesnandrsquot have an agenda He touches the most vulnerable parts of us, fluidly shifting from one thing to the next — little half-lights of emotion.

andrdquoThe four Impromptus, especially as interpreted here by Osborne, displayed what draws me to Schubert like a magnet: He never dwells in one key for very long. No matter what key the piece is oriented in, he takes us all over the harmonic universe, andagrave la the 1820s, and much more so than his contemporaries.

Perhaps that relates to his need to escape his earthly ills, andldquoSchubert expresses terror better than anyone,andrdquo stated Osborne in an exclusive interview with Todayandrsquos Zaman. andldquoYou can sense it.

He has more random access to the deepest parts of himself. I donandrsquot know how he does it.

andrdquoI think Osborne has actually figured that out, because itandrsquos a tribute to his recital that it made me think only of Schubert and not Osborne. His encore was another lesser known piece — a discarded sonata movement with a subdued, bittersweet emotional core.

Thatandrsquos the kind of transcendent andldquohalf-lightandrdquo that he bathed us in all night.And how does Osborne intercept all that vulnerability, from both Beethoven and Schubert, or any other composer? Dealing with his own nerves is part of it.

andldquoSome teachers say itandrsquos a good thing to be nervous,andrdquo he explained, andldquobut I think thatandrsquos a crazy rationalization. This is a criminally under-explored subject.

Stage fright is one of the realities of a career Performing is such an incredibly [visceral] thing. What does it mean to be onstage? Itandrsquos more than just getting all the octaves right.

Itandrsquos something much more, something full of joy, and it contains all of life!andrdquo.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman