Mozart and Strauss – Bethany Hensel

Just a little heads up: the "J" in Marek Janowski's last name isn't pronounced like the standard "J"; rather, it is given a "Y" pronunciation.  Marek Yanowski.

I didn't know that, so I figured maybe someone else didn't know it either. 🙂

Anyway, yesterday's program lasted almost 2 hours, though it went by incredibly quickly. The first portion of the program, Mozart's famed Piano Concerto No. 22 (which you might recognize as being the music during the scene in the movie Amadeus when Mozart is riding in a carriage to an outdoor performance with his piano literally strapped to the back of the vehicle) was like truffles: light and sweet.  The piece certainly was pleasant, though because it was a piece written by Mozart, was nothing less than virtuosic.  In other words, very pretty package, but man, it packed a punch!

Complex and intricate, pianist Jonathan Biss didn't shy away from the challange.  He made the notes his own and added his own personality.  I very much enjoyed his bravery with the piece…and I wasn't the only one.  He recieved three curtain calls and half the audience was on their feet in ovation. 

The second half of the program was Strauss' Alpine Symphony.  The most obvious obvservation: it was loud!!!  Actually, I amend that statement: most of the time, it was loud, but there were a few very beautiful quiet moments in the 22 movement piece. 

Now, I know 22 movements sounds like a lot, and it is, but some movements were only a minute long and it moved at such a rapid pace that it was diffcult to tell when one began and one ended.  It was definitely an epic piece of music.

It's almost mind-boggling to understannd how on earth one person could juggle so many instruments and compose such a broad piece.  I highly suggest listening to this work sooner rather than later.  It's definitely something to hear before you die.  And, as luck would have it, the Pittsburgh Symphony actually recorded the Alpine Symphony for CD release.  I'm not sure when it will be released, but if it's anything like their last recording, which got amazing AMAZING reviews, then you are in for a very nice treat.

2 thoughts on “Mozart and Strauss – Bethany Hensel”

  • I have to agree, there were a few spots, especially in the middle of the Alpine Symphony, where it was perhaps too loud. Maybe I was too close. I’m hoping the CD will portray these sections better. My hearing is sensitive to something that is too loud. But I would say that the blame goes to Strauss, and not the PSO or Janowski. However, taken as a whole, I’d say it was just right. Apparently others have a perspective on this as well.

  • Bethany,
    Having had previous experiences with the Mozart 22 and the Strauss Alpine, I can only say you came close to being perfect in your descriptions. The Mozart, in particular, is a very deep work, the second movement particularly is quite meditative in nature as is the central portion of the work’s last movement.
    Now, the Alpine Symphony is totally different. Although it is helpful to know the titles of every movement, I have to agree with what William Steinberg said about “Also Sprach Zarathustra”: forget the titles and listen to the music! That is really brash but very true–at least in my case! I could tell you about the High Fidelity magazine letter to the editor from 40 years back about the Mahler 8th but only if you wish to hear it!
    Yours truly,
    Richard Jessen
    PS: Keep up the great work!

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