Community in Harmony – Nada’s performance of Mozart Piano Concerto no. 21

Harmony by its nature provides opportunities for the whole range of skill levels within communities, since simple chords underlie the most elaborate flights of virtuosity.  A fortunate audience witnessed this truth in action Sunday night, November 11, 2018, at the very first performance of the New Albany Community Orchestra, playing with heartfelt enthusiasm at the Kentucky Center.  Novices played alongside seasoned concert veterans, all led ably by conductor Owen Heritage, the concert climaxing with a thrilling collaboration with world class pianist Nada in Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467.

The orchestra warmed up with a piece by a composer well known in his time, but largely forgotten now: Joseph Bologne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges.  A movement from his Symphony in G, Op. 11 No.1 proved to be a playful charmer reminiscent of Haydn, its rocking accompaniment offset by occasional syncopation, all taken in stride by the orchestra.  Mr. Heritage supplemented his spirited conducting with affectionate, humorous and informative remarks to the audience.  His winning personality and obvious love for the laudable task of providing a creative outlet for anyone willing to play were as much a part of the experience as the music itself.  The first half of the program continued with arrangements of excerpts from famous pieces by Mussorgsky, Beethoven, Dvorak, Grieg, Elgar and Sousa.

After the intermission, the courage and ambition of Mr. Heritage and his orchestra were on full display in the complete and original score of Mozart’s concerto, the second movement of which accompanied the award-winning 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan.  Piano soloist Nada brought sparkling clarity, melting tone and lyrical phrasing to the piece.  Her flawless sense of rhythm and superb concentration coaxed the orchestra forward through their occasional moments of hesitation, and the three protagonists, Nada, Mr. Heritage and the brave ensemble emerged triumphant in the end, blending in cascades of joy.

Nada’s approach to Mozart is sensitive and flexible, her tempi elastic and flowing.  She resisted the temptation that one sometimes has while playing with novices to play metronomically, gently insisting on musicality and trusting Mr. Heritage and the orchestra to follow her as she released garlands of sound on the keyboard, her phrasing as natural as breathing.  The radiant pianist ended the evening unforgettably with an encore, a ravishing rendition of the Waltz in A-Flat Major, Op.39 No. 15 by Brahms.

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