Fort Worth — Unconventional arrangements of familiar music can have two effects: sometimes, there is an immediate sense of wrongness. Other times, though, there is a happy sense that we are hearing a piece we’ve heard all too often with fresh ears. The piano quintet arrangements of three of Mozart’s piano concerti performed by Alon Goldstein and the Harrington String Quartet Saturday night at the PianoTexas Festival mostly fall into the latter category.
The quintet performed Concerto No. 11 in F major, K. 413, and two of Mozart’s best-known piano concerti, No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, and No. 21 in C major, K. 467. Each of these three concerti was arranged by a different person. No. 11 was arranged by Mozart himself, and is in fact most amenable to such an arrangement, because the original instrumentation is the sparsest: just strings plus two oboes, two bassoons, and two horns. The later concerti both have original instrumentation of strings plus flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, and timpani. The quintet arrangements of these concerti are both by 19th-century musicians. These arrangements are thus trickier and perhaps inevitably less satisfying, because so much more is lost in translation.
After Saturday’s performance, Goldstein and the quartet held a question-and-answer session in lieu of an encore, and Goldstein revealed that he and the quartet had made some adjustments to the arrangements. He noted, for example, that in the well-known opening of the second movement of the Concerto No. 21, the “Elvira Madigan” theme, the arrangement lacked the pizzicato that’s a hallmark of this piece. So the ensemble added it.
The playing Saturday night was uneven; the Harrington, the quartet-in-residence at West Texas A&M University, has all the hallmarks of a group accustomed to performing together often—tight ensemble and shared musical ideas. Goldstein integrated into the group reasonably well. However, although the style was characteristically Mozartean—not an easy feat, as most any musician will be quick to point out—each member of the group had individual issues that distracted a bit from the overall effect. Pitch was too often an issue for first violinist Rossitza Goza, in particular, though she was not the only offender, while second violinist Keith Redpath and violist Vessilin Todorov tended to lose the core of their sound in softer dynamic ranges, and cellist Emmanuel Lopez sometimes had trouble projecting. Pianist Goldstein occasionally missed notes at particularly inopportune times, such as in the opening theme to the second movement of the Concerto No. 21 (“Elvira Madigan”). On the other hand, Goza was unafraid to dig in during the passionate first movement of the Concerto No. 20—many players are wary of the rough sound they can get in the lower register of the violin, so they’ll opt for caution. Goza wisely opted for ferocity over caution here. Also, shaping was skillful: phrase endings were lovingly rounded throughout, and Goldstein in particular created effective musical lines.
The evening’s musical offerings were not flawless, but they were musical, which ultimately is more important than technical perfection, and they gave listeners a welcome new look at old favorites.
» Here is the remaining schedule of public performances at the PianoTexas Festival. All events are at Texas Christian University's PepsiCo Recital Hall, except for the concert with an asterisk, which is in Ed Landreth Auditorium. Look for reviews of these concerts on TheaterJones:
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 17: Alexander Shtarkman
*7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 21: Benefit Concert with Joyce Yang and the Fort Worth Symphony
7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 22: Paul Badura-Skoda
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 24: TCU Faculty Chamber Music Concert
7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 28: Chen Hung-Kuan
7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 29: Young Artists Concerto Evening with the Fort Worth Symphony