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When is the last time that you attended a concert of classical music that attracted thirty people under the age of eighteen? Young people side-by-side with the usual fifty or so much older concert attendees? For me, it was the all-Mozart concert Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. Sponsoring the event was the Asheville Chopin Club, a recently formed organization dedicated to new forms of communicating classical music to a wider audience. The format for this event included a brief discussion of each piece by the performer, followed by the performance itself. The focus was on four solo piano works (one fantasy and three sonatas), but also included were two movements performed on flute and piano. The four pianists are all local piano teachers while the flautist is a recent conservatory graduate.
The organizer of the Asheville Chopin Club is Dr. Hwa-Jin Kim, who began the afternoon with comments on the important Fantasy in C minor, K. 475 (1785) that she would play and the Sonata in C minor, K. 457 (1784) that would conclude the concert. Kim pointed out that the two works were related in their thematic material, but separated by their form. The fantasy is one movement, with five sections separated by tempo and mood changes. She illustrated the moods with examples that invoked chocolate in its different forms, and then performed the C minor Fantasy. A dedicated educator, she broke with normal concert etiquette to half-turn and hold up a finger to the audience signaling the first quick switch from Adagio to Allegro.
Grace Kim just graduated from Vanderbilt University where she majored in flute performance. She will enter UNC-Chapel Hill law school in the fall. Along with her mother Hwa-Jin Kim, Grace Kim played the Andante for Flute and Orchestra (K. 315) in C, written by Mozart in 1778. The mother-daughter duo then played an arrangement for flute and piano of the Rondo alla Turca, the third movement of Piano Sonata in A, K. 331. Grace Kim's intonation, tone production and ornaments made me wish she would stay in music, but I suppose we also need more lawyers, particularly ones with this much sensitivity.
Leslie Downs played Mozart's Piano Sonata in A minor, K. 310 (1778). He preceded his performance with comments on how to him (and to me also) this work appears orchestral in its construction. The high point of Downs' performance was the second movement, Andante cantabile con espressione, during which he skillfully used articulation and accents to embrace the mood.
Dr. Elizabeth Child played the only major-key piano work on the program, Sonata in E-flat, K. 282 (1775). In her remarks, Child pointed out that this youthful work was completed in the same year as the nineteen-year-old Mozart finished his eighth opera, a farce. She remarked to the many rapid dynamic changes (p-f) in the sonata that she believes reflected his operatic writing.
Dr. Grace Lee was the fourth, and final, pianist on the program, and her remarks about the Sonata in C minor, K. 457 (1784) focused on the passages which ten to fifteen years later became models for Beethoven in his early piano sonatas. Lee used declamatory passages in the Adagio, a delayed resolution of the final cadence of that movement, and operatic treatment in the Allegro assai to convince me that this was the best performance of the day. The format allowed these four well-educated music educators to discuss their views of Mozart with the audience, in addition to playing his music. I believe all in the audience – old as well as young – were left more thoughtful and appreciative of one of music's great composers. For my part, the afternoon reinforced my belief that when Mozart had something serious to convey in a work for solo piano, he used the minor keys.