• Mahler Chamber Orchestra
  • Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Program Books/Mahler Chamber Orchestra; Mitsuko Uchida, piano and director

Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Mitsuko Uchida, piano and director
Mark Steinberg, concertmaster and leader

Sunday, March 27, 2022, 3pm
Zellerbach Hall

Mitsuko Uchida is managed by Kathryn Enticott at Enticott Music Management in partnership with Alexander Monsey at IMG Artists.

This performance is made possible, in part, by Patron Sponsor Nadine Tang.

From the Executive and Artistic Director

Jeremy Geffen

One of the many impressive traits of <a href=”https://calperformances.org/events/2021-22/chamber-music-orchestra/mahler-chamber-orchestra-mitsuko-uchida-2122/”><strong>Mitsuko Uchida</strong></a> is that her sonar is always on. Her awareness of the musical decisions made by those around her is at once instinctive and informed, and seems to feed into the larger portrait of the artistic sensibilities of those with whom she collaborates. To watch Mitsuko at the Marlboro Music Festival, of which she is co-artistic director and at which she works with countless young artists at the most formative stages of their careers, is to see someone completely engaged with those around her. There, she will read chamber music with every participant, in a search to understand what truly motivates each musician. In the process she gently shapes the development of so many, though she insists that she does not—and will not—teach individuals.

<!–more–>

The membership of the <a href=”https://calperformances.org/events/2021-22/chamber-music-orchestra/mahler-chamber-orchestra-mitsuko-uchida-2122/”><strong>Mahler Chamber Orchestra</strong></a> includes many instrumentalists who have felt her musical influence, which is perhaps one of the reasons the partnership they share is so extraordinary. Though all are aware that they are on stage and are keenly attuned to giving “a performance,” none seek to promote themselves over the music itself. I believe that this interest is pure, and that it gives them—and especially her—the energy needed for their astounding performances. We’re fortunate, indeed, to welcome these extraordinary artists to Zellerbach Hall on Sunday afternoon.

And I mustn’t forget to mention Saturday’s Zellerbach Playhouse concert with the singular <a href=”https://calperformances.org/events/2021-22/jazz/matthew-whitaker-2122/”><strong>Matthew Whitaker</strong></a> (like Mitsuko, a hit last year on <em>Cal Performances at Home</em>), a true jazz prodigy still in the early years of what promises to be a legendary career. Whitaker arrives in Berkeley for his Cal Performances live-concert debut, hot on the heals of the recent release of his third album, the brilliant <em>Connections</em> (Resilience Music Alliance). I can’t wait to hear him again!

March and April finds Cal Performances operating at full speed as we approach the April 20 announcement date for our brilliant 2022–23 season. (We just released our beautiful new 42-page season brochure to the printer; I can’t wait to share it with you!) From now through the beginning of May, the remainder of our current season is filled with adventurous programming. You won’t want to miss…
<ul>
<li>the <a href=”https://calperformances.org/events/2021-22/dance/alvin-ailey-american-dance-theater-2122/”><strong>Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater</strong></a> (Mar 29 – Apr 3), returning to Zellerbach Hall for the first time since the initial pandemic shutdown in 2020; this year’s Ailey programs feature more than a dozen works from the company’s legendary repertory</li>
<li>the renowned <a href=”https://calperformances.org/events/2021-22/chamber-music-orchestra/english-baroque-soloists-2122/”><strong>English Baroque Soloists</strong></a> with conductor <strong>Sir John Eliot Gardiner</strong> in a transfixing program of works by Mozart and Haydn (Apr 10)</li>
<li><strong>Angélique Kidjo</strong>, our 2021–22 artist-in-residence, in her new music-theater piece <a href=”https://calperformances.org/events/2021-22/theater/angelique-kidjo-yemandja-2122/”><em>Yemandja</em></a> (a much-anticipated Cal Performances co-commission and <em>Illuminations</em> event, Apr 23).</li>
<li>highly anticipated concerts with superb classical artists including Germany’s <a href=”https://calperformances.org/events/2021-22/chamber-music-orchestra/tetzlaff-quartet-2122/”><strong>Tetzlaff Quartet</strong></a> (Apr 23), another favorite from last season’s <em>Cal Performances at Home</em>; pianist <a href=”https://calperformances.org/events/2021-22/recital/daniil-trifonov-2122/”><strong>Daniil Trifonov</strong></a> (Apr 28), making his Cal Performances solo debut; and the <a href=”https://calperformances.org/events/2021-22/chamber-music-orchestra/danish-string-quartet-apr-29-2122/”><strong>Danish String Quartet </strong></a>(Apr 29)—a particular favorite of our chamber music audience—delivering the next installment in its ongoing Doppelgänger Project, a series of concerts that pairs late Schubert string quartets with newly commissioned works (on this occasion, a new quartet by the fascinating Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski).</li>
</ul>
Fasten your seatbelts; we have all of this—and more—in store before the season ends!

I know you join us in looking forward to what lies ahead, and to coming together—as we do today and have done so often in the past—to encounter the life-changing experiences that only the live performing arts deliver. We can’t wait to share it all with you!

Jeremy Geffen
Executive and Artistic Director, Cal Performances

Jeremy GeffenOne of the many impressive traits of Mitsuko Uchida is that her sonar is always on. Her awareness of the musical decisions made by those around her is at once instinctive and informed, and seems to feed into the larger portrait of the artistic sensibilities of those with whom she collaborates. To watch Mitsuko at the Marlboro Music Festival, of which she is co-artistic director and at which she works with countless young artists at the most formative stages of their careers, is to see someone completely engaged with those around her. There, she will read chamber music with every participant, in a search to understand what truly motivates each musician. In the process she gently shapes the development of so many, though she insists that she does not—and will not—teach individuals.

The membership of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra includes many instrumentalists who have felt her musical influence, which is perhaps one of the reasons the partnership they share is so extraordinary. Though all are aware that they are on stage and are keenly attuned to giving “a performance,” none seek to promote themselves over the music itself. I believe that this interest is pure, and that it gives them—and especially her—the energy needed for their astounding performances. We’re fortunate, indeed, to welcome these extraordinary artists to Zellerbach Hall on Sunday afternoon.

And I mustn’t forget to mention Saturday’s Zellerbach Playhouse concert with the singular Matthew Whitaker (like Mitsuko, a hit last year on Cal Performances at Home), a true jazz prodigy still in the early years of what promises to be a legendary career. Whitaker arrives in Berkeley for his Cal Performances live-concert debut, hot on the heals of the recent release of his third album, the brilliant Connections (Resilience Music Alliance). I can’t wait to hear him again!

March and April finds Cal Performances operating at full speed as we approach the April 20 announcement date for our brilliant 2022–23 season. (We just released our beautiful new 42-page season brochure to the printer; I can’t wait to share it with you!) From now through the beginning of May, the remainder of our current season is filled with adventurous programming. You won’t want to miss…

  • the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Mar 29 – Apr 3), returning to Zellerbach Hall for the first time since the initial pandemic shutdown in 2020; this year’s Ailey programs feature more than a dozen works from the company’s legendary repertory
  • the renowned English Baroque Soloists with conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner in a transfixing program of works by Mozart and Haydn (Apr 10)
  • Angélique Kidjo, our 2021–22 artist-in-residence, in her new music-theater piece Yemandja (a much-anticipated Cal Performances co-commission and Illuminations event, Apr 23).
  • highly anticipated concerts with superb classical artists including Germany’s Tetzlaff Quartet (Apr 23), another favorite from last season’s Cal Performances at Home; pianist Daniil Trifonov (Apr 28), making his Cal Performances solo debut; and the Danish String Quartet (Apr 29)—a particular favorite of our chamber music audience—delivering the next installment in its ongoing Doppelgänger Project, a series of concerts that pairs late Schubert string quartets with newly commissioned works (on this occasion, a new quartet by the fascinating Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski).

Fasten your seatbelts; we have all of this—and more—in store before the season ends!

I know you join us in looking forward to what lies ahead, and to coming together—as we do today and have done so often in the past—to encounter the life-changing experiences that only the live performing arts deliver. We can’t wait to share it all with you!

Jeremy Geffen
Executive and Artistic Director, Cal Performances

About the Program

Iphigenia
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488

“Mozart essentially invented the classical piano concerto and then elaborated the concerto’s potentialities of form and expression in a series of highly individual masterpieces. He unveiled a universe and then devoted himself to populating it with the most diverse creations.”

—Maynard Solomon in Mozart: A Life

Maynard Solomon here eloquently sums up Mozart’s extraordinary contribution to the development of the piano concerto, epitomized by the 12 keyboard masterpieces he wrote between 1784 and 1786. Each is a world unto itself, and one of the loveliest and most refined of these worlds is that of Piano Concerto No. 23, completed on March 2, 1786.

Sounding like an intimate conversation between close friends, the A-major is also one of the most vocal of the concertos. This is not surprising, for simultaneously Mozart was completing his vivacious comic opera, Le nozze di Figaro. Busy creating arias and ensembles for a castle-full of characters, Mozart apparently had plenty of melodic ideas left over, for this concerto is propelled by its melodies, some high-spirited, some heart-wrenching. Here the soloist is asked not so much to display her digital dexterity as to play the great opera singer, especially in the sublime slow movement.

As in most of the late concertos, the pianist also must share the spotlight with the orchestra’s woodwind section. Mozart became more and more intrigued with how woodwind colors could blend and contrast with the piano, and for this concerto he had a pair of his favorite wind instruments, the round-toned, fruity clarinets, to exploit.

Concerto No. 23 is also filled with an emotional quality very characteristic of Mozart: the mood of smiling through tears. This is heard best in the first movement, which sounds outwardly serene, but immediately disturbs that atmosphere at the second chord with its dissonant note troubling the A-major harmony. “The light of the movement is one of a March day—the month in which it was composed—when a pale sun shines unconvincingly through fleeting showers,” is how Mozart scholar Cuth­bert Girdlestone poetically described it. The second theme, introduced by the violins, is rather melancholy and grows more so as a bassoon and flute join in. As the exposition section closes, listen for a quiet, chin-up closing theme in the strings; from it Mozart will build an expressive development section.

Smiles give way to tears for the slow movement, one of Mozart’s greatest and his only one in the key of F-sharp minor. The soloist opens with a poignant melody featuring large intervals in the manner of a virtuosic 18th-century diva. The orchestra answers with a more anguished melody, with achingly beautiful dissonances created by its clashing contrapuntal lines. Flutes and clarinets try to brighten the mood in the middle section. But the tears persist as the opening music returns and is capped by a heartbreaking closing coda.

The brilliant rondo finale at last dries all tears. And finally the pianist can play the virtuoso as she leads off with the sparkling rondo theme. But this is just one of a quiver-full of melodies Mozart has ready, and he keeps on shooting fresh musical arrows at us in a movement of nonstop vivacity and invention.

—Janet E. Bedell © 2022

Henry Purcell
Selected Fantasias

Purcell’s Fantasias serve as a great, final hurrah capping the fertile era of viol consort music. The ensemble had already fallen out of fashion at the time these works were penned, having ceded popularity to the instruments of the violin family and their greater carrying power. This represents a great loss in the history of musical performance, as the reedy, plaintive voice of the viols evinces poignant flexibility of nuance, the blend of consort instruments offering unparalleled, unctuous richness. Often the opening of the chest of viols was an invitation to an evening of music-making amongst friends, convivial and intimate. In spirit and perhaps in timbre the closest modern institution to the consort is the string quartet. A translation of these works into a version for the expanded string quartet of the string orchestra seems apt, beautiful and potent, collaborating with the resonance of the concert hall without ceding the sense of close rapport. We aim to draw our audience into the parlor, to invite our listeners to consort with us.

Clearly the viol consort ignited the young Purcell’s heart and imagination. These pieces are, as the title indicates, filled with fantasy, with mercurial shifts of mood. They both lament and frolic, wail and playfully scurry. They seem to explore the boundary between private and public music, now on this side, now on that, slipping from one to the other with guileless naturalness. At times the seamless blending of the parts into an iridescent tapestry offers luxurious comfort; at others, confrontations between parts provoke a visceral thrill. Particularly exciting are the wild dissonances that blossom in the texture, each with its own special frisson. There are moments when a pleading dissonance, poised to resolve, instead slips into one even more spicy and anguished. In the spirit of a great massage, these harmonies hurt in the most delicious way and give us a sense of the physicality of musical discourse. Imitations and reflections abound; the music delights in intimate intertwinings, a sense of sensuality cloaked in geometry. Conversation and collision, friendliness and frictions. The world of the viol consort is replete with wit, melancholic sighs, dance and despair, and, above all, the pleasures of keeping company with kindred souls.

Mark Steinberg

 

Mozart
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491

Even in the midst of its glorious partners, Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C minor reduces sober analysts to awe—and superlatives. Bee­thoven loved this concerto and took inspiration from it for his own Third Piano Concerto, also in C minor. At a performance of the work, he exclaimed to a colleague, “Oh, my friend, we shall never get any idea like this!” The British scholar Sir Donald Francis Tovey called this concerto “perhaps the most sublime of all Mozart’s instrumental works.”

Minor keys seemed to have held a powerful personal meaning for Mozart, and he used them to explore his inner demons: grief, anger, frustration, the specter of death. Yet despite its frequently disturbing tone, K. 491 was written at a time of great artistic and professional success. It was completed on March 24, 1786, just three weeks after the Mozart composed Con­certo No. 23, and while he was finishing his ebullient operatic comedy Le nozze di Figaro. Yet with Mozart’s art there always seemed to be a delicate balancing act between laughter and tears, and after so much joyous music, perhaps he felt a need to explore life’s darker side.

What could be more disturbing than the stark unison theme opening the first movement? In just 11 bars, Mozart traverses all 12 tones of the chromatic scale: an act of harmonic daring extraordinary indeed for 1786! Against the intensity of the orchestra’s exposition, the piano enters with a gentler, more diatonic theme, though soon the soloist is caught up in the chromatic turbulence.

After the customary solo cadenza near the movement’s end comes a haunting closing coda, in which, unusually, the pianist continues to play with the orchestra. The richness of the orchestral writing throughout marks this concerto’s greatness in the Mozart pantheon.

The second movement, in E-flat major, provides an island of peace in this sea of turbulence. In a straightforward rondo form, it features a refrain theme of naive simplicity. Woodwinds dominate the two episodes between the returns of the refrain; blessed with a full wind complement of flute, and pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns, Mozart gives us his most colorful, intricate woodwind writing.

A lightweight rondo finale would not have served Mozart’s big vision for this concerto; instead, he chose an imposing theme-and-variations form, with eight variations of superb inventiveness and contrast. The theme is oddly ambiguous; Cuthbert Girdlestone suggests it is both “a march and a hymn.” Mozart used both aspects as inspiration. Variation 3 exploits the march in an assertively martial treatment worthy of Beethoven. Variation 4, on the other hand, suggests Bach in the soloist’s elegant four-part counterpoint. A marvelous dialogue of oboes, bassoons, and flute distinguishes Vari­­ation 5. After another solo cadenza, Mozart switches to a bouncing meter for his final variation, but refuses to give us the expected “happy ending” in C major. The tragic vision persists to the end, with stinging chromatic writing for the soloist and a heroic close that awards victory to C minor.

—Janet E. Bedell © 2022

Janet E. Bedell is a program annotator and feature writer who writes for Carnegie Hall, the Met­ro­politan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Cara­moor Festival of the Arts, and other musical organizations.

Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Mitsuko Uchida, piano and director
Mark Steinberg, concertmaster and leader

VIOLIN I
Mark Steinberg (USA) **
May Kunstovny (Austria)
Hildegard Niebuhr (Germany)
Alexandra Preucil (USA)
Geoffroy Schied (France)
Timothy Summers (USA)
Elvira van Groningen (Netherlands)
Hayley Wolfe (USA)

VIOLIN II
Johannes Lörstad (Sweden) *
Michiel Commandeur (Netherlands)
Christian Heubes (Germany)
Mette Tjaerby Korneliusen (Denmark)
Katarzyna Wozniakowska (Poland)
Stephanie Baubin (Austria)
Fjodor Selzer (Germany)

VIOLA
Joel Hunter (United Kingdom) *
Maite Abasolo Candamio (Spain)
Justin Caulley (USA)
Yannick Dondelinger (United Kingdom)
Benjamin Newton (United Kingdom)

CELLO
Philip Higham (United Kingdom) *
Stefan Faludi (Germany)
Christophe Morin (France)
David Drost (Germany)

DOUBLE BASS
Christoph Anacker (Germany) *
Johane Gonzalez Seijas (Spain)
Lars Radloff (Germany)

FLUTE
Chiara Tonelli (Italy)

OBOE
Clément Noël (France)
Julian Scott (United Kingdom)

CLARINET
Vicente Alberola (Spain)
Jaan Bossier (Belgium)

BASSOON
Higinio Arrue Fortea (Spain)
Chiara Santi (Italy)

HORN
Peter Erdei (Hungary)
Tobias Heimann (Germany)

TRUMPET
Christopher Dicken (United Kingdom)
Noémi Makkos (Hungary)

TIMPANI & PERCUSSION
Martin Piechotta (Germany)

** Concertmaster
* Section Leader

About Cal Performances

Beyond the Stage

Need Help?