The original score of Mozart’s “Coronation” Concerto (1788) leaves out large parts of the left hand of the piano part. Composer and pianist Timothy Andres (b. 1985) completes it in ways that are alternatively dissonant, dissolving, and dreamy. The cadenza of the 1st movement is stunning:

The NY Times review of this performance is titled “Lending Mozart a Left Hand,” which reminds me of what the left-handed Pantelis Polychronidis does some times in his performances — lending composers a left hand.

What does Andres’ work represent – a completion?  a reconstruction?  a reconfiguration?

It is a question often raised when composers try to complete Berg’s Lulu, Mahler’s 10th, Mozart’s Requiem, or Schubert’s 10th. (It is also a question that makes me wonder why poets do not try to complete the unfinished/fragmentary work of canonical figures.)

Andres calls his 2010 piece “re-composition” and comments:

“Mozart notated only a few sections of the left-hand part (intending to improvise it in performance) which I decided to replace entirely, in addition to writing new cadenzas. I approached the piece not from a scholarly or editorial perspective, but more as a sprawling playground for pianistic invention and virtuosity, taking cues from the composer-pianist tradition Mozart helped to crystallize.

The house style of ‘my’ Mozart concerto results from a several combined strategies. The left hand gets an extended catalogue of gestures (no more tasteful, 18th-century Alberti bass). It uses imitation, counter-melodies, and canonic interplay to participate in the musical drama of the right hand (sometimes even leaping above it in register). Harmonically, new chords both thicken and undermine the existing progressions, adding allusions to music after Mozart’s time (Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Prokofiev, Ives, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, and Bartók all make appearances). The result is an almost entirely new-sounding piece, which I hope will be an antidote to the studied blandness of most existing completions.”

June 28, 2014

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