Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 3, 2018

SSO: Mozart Piano Concerto

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
January 20, 2018
by Michael J. Moran

For the fourth concert in the SSO’s 74th season and his own 17th season as their music director, Kevin Rhodes notes in his “Rhodes’ Reflections” column in the program book, he chose three musical pieces whose “power, drama, and turbulence” reflect the revolutionary politics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in which they were written by the three greatest composers of the day.

Haydn’s symphonies and string quartets are staples of the classical repertoire, but his twenty-plus operas are almost never performed. So it was a rare pleasure to hear as the evening’s opener the overture to his opera “The Desert Island,” in which two sisters are stranded for 13 years on a deserted island before they’re rescued. The brief but tempestuous score received an aptly dramatic reading from Rhodes and the SSO.

Diane Walsh
Seasoned American pianist Diane Walsh next made her SSO debut in Mozart’s tumultuous twentieth piano concerto. She echoed the almost frightening power of the orchestral introduction with the force of her opening solo in the “Allegro” first movement, then rendered the contrasting radiance of the “Romance” with lyrical breadth, and the dark energy of the closing “Rondo” with brilliant urgency. The stunned audience rose to its feet in appreciation not only of Walsh’s virtuosity but for the equally impassioned playing of the SSO and leadership of Rhodes.     

The program closed after intermission with a visceral account of Beethoven’s third, or “Eroica” (Heroic), symphony, revolutionary for its new harmonies and unprecedented scale (twice as long as most earlier symphonies). From the brisk opening notes through the somber “Funeral March,” the scintillating scherzo, to the triumphant theme and variations of the finale, Rhodes and the orchestra inflected the music with shifting but always forward moving tempos that hammered home the still shattering impact of this two-hundred-year-old masterpiece. 

In a tradition continued from the start of this season, Rhodes announced that audience members in the balcony could again receive “real time notes” about the Eroica on their cell phones while the music played. The large number of young people present seemed delighted.