This Wednesday night I have the opportunity to perform the Mozart Piano Quintet and the Poulenc Sextet for Piano and Winds. Both are works I’ve done before, and both are absolute favorites of mine.
The Mozart Quintet in Eb is simply unarguable. Gorgeously, perfectly written, great tunes, perfect textures, satisfying harmonies. The difficulty with performing Mozart always is that the music is just so perfect. Any imperfection on the part of the performers is audible to the listeners, and I feel personally at fault if I play a bit out of tune or lean on the wrong part of the cadence. Mozart deserves better than me, is what I think. If I could only play this more perfectly, the world would be perfect. In other Mozart works – the oboe quartet leaps to mind – I don’t feel so much intimidating personal responsibility – but this quintet is just so good. I don’t want to be the one to wreck it for everyone. And that said, it’s a treat to get to play it – and then to be allowed to let loose in the Poulenc.
The Poulenc Sextet is uproarious. Every biography I read about the composer stresses the time and place of his coming of age – Paris in the 1920’s – and with good reason. This piece reflects the busy street scenes, clubs, and music halls that Poulenc would have visited as a young man, and uses the colors of the wind instruments in a delightfully irreverent way. Right from the beginning, as the piano and horn sweep the curtains up, the composer telegraphs to us that we are in for a heightened, overdramatic work of burlesque and cheerful music hall shenanigans. He breaks the giddiness up with episodes of lovely melodic writing for all of our instruments, but never really allows the audience to get comfortable there. The first movement is fast-slow-fast, the second slow-fast-slow. The third movement allows some huge melodic gestures in the horn to sneak in over the top of the busy scampering we all do – then stops abruptly and ends slowly, dramatically, and with unexpected grandeur. It’s a FUN piece to play, and it leaves listeners smiling.
So come out and join us tomorrow night! We’ll be the ones having a blast on the stage, you’ll be the ones enjoying yourselves enormously in the seats. Details HERE.