KSO This Week: Mozart, Richard Strauss, Higdon, and Prokofiev

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Masterworks
Guest conductor: Eckart Preu — Pianist Alon Goldstein
Richard Strauss: Don Juan
Mozart: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 20 in D minor, K. 466
Higdon: blue cathedral
Prokofiev: Selections from Romeo and Juliet, Suites 1 and 2
Thursday and Friday evenings, February 18 and 19, 7:30 p.m.
Tennessee Theatre, 604 S. Gay Street, Downtown Knoxville
Tickets start at $15. Ticket information


It had snowed earlier in the week, but all that remained of it this evening in late January were big dirty piles of it against the curbs, icy spots on the sidewalk, and those notorious New York City slush puddles. I took my time walking south on Broadway against a chilly wind, hopping over the puddles at each intersection, the sanctity of my shoes and dry feet being a major concern. Walking had seemed like a noble idea at first, but by the time I reached Alice Tully Hall, I was seriously second-guessing my decision to venture out at the last minute for a chamber orchestra concert. The warmth of the hall made my face burn, and I wondered if it showed as I made my way to my seat. If it did, it oddly felt like a badge of honor.

Slowly, though, the burn subsided, turning to what I hoped was a ruddy glow. I settled deeper into my seat, waiting for the work that had drawn me out of my apartment—Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20. I seem to remember the pianist was Garrick Ohlsson, but I’m not really sure after so many years. What I do remember most was that sublime second movement Romance. Its simultaneous simplicity and complexity worked its way deep inside me and created a tremendous sense of elation. Ever since that cold January night, I have associated the Mozart D minor piano concerto with winter and snow, not for the discomfort of weather, but for the ineffable joy of Mozart. I wouldn’t be surprised if others feel the same.

The Romance movement was also used to great (and heartbreaking) effect in the final scene of Milos Forman’s film Amadeus, a film that single-handedly created a re-awakened interest in Mozart’s music in a mass audience.

In this week’s Knoxville Symphony Orchestra performance of the Mozart concerto, the pianist will be Alon Goldstein, who was last heard by KSO audiences in September, 2011, in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor.

The guest conductor for the evening will be Eckart Preu, the fourth of six conductors vying for the vacant KSO music director position. Preu has also selected the Richard Strauss tone poem, Don Juan. (Prepare yourself for those horn passages.) Preu is filling out the concert with Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral. Word has it that Ms. Higdon will be in attendance.

Wrapping up the evening will be Prokofiev and selections from suites No. 1 and No. 2 from Romeo and Juliet.