Remembering Classics 1 - "Elegance meets Storm"
by WPA Artistic Director, Erin Freeman
As Hurricane Joaquin threatens to bring storms to the region, dumping many inches of rain throughout Virginia, we throwback to a storm from this summer. No - not a dramatic weather incident, but a musical storm, rife with rhythmic strings, foreboding timpani, and a brooding minor key. I speak, of course, of our performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20, a piece revered by the Romantics and reflective of the turmoil found in Mozart's other late works (namely his Requiem and Don Giovanni). Played brilliantly by pianist Winston Choi and conducted by Victor Yampolsky, this performance brought the audience to its feet.
What struck me in this summer's rendition was Mozart's voice. So many times, I've heard this concerto overdone - with the pianist pounding on the piano for extra dramatic effect and the conductor allowing himself/herself rhythmic liberty to add to the "emotion." Maestro Yampolsky and Mr. Choi, however, delivered a performance that was true to what Mozart actually wrote - no extra dynamics or tempo changes and no histrionics. Just pure Mozart! It was a clear embodiment of something Maestro Yampolsky had told the Academy conducting students earlier in the week: "Interpretation is 99% composer." (Paraphrased, of course, but ultimately meaning that most of what we do as interpreters of music is honoring what the composer wrote.)
After intermission, the orchestra once again brought the audience to its feet with a thrilling and charming rendition of Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony. One audience member even audibly gasped with excitement four measures into the last movement!
Now, hunker down, charge your phones, buy your peanut butter, and enjoy a bit of audio of the performance. Here is the first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, performed by Winston Choi and the Wintergreen Festival Orchestra, under the direction of Victor Yampolsky. (Saturday night performance.)