January can be a month of concert doldrums after the barrage of holiday music, but not at the Seattle Symphony – where creative programming has been drawing in New Year’s crowds for the past few years. This time the focus is on Mozart, in his birth month (Wolfgang Amadeus was born Jan 27, 1756), and music lovers are taking note: Benaroya Hall was nearly full for Thursday night’s concert of three indisputably great Mozart concertos.
It was an evening of youthful energy, with associate conductor Stilian Kirov on the podium and three soloists. The Ukrainian-born violinist Valeriy Sokolov is 28; clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan, born in Azerbaijan, is 30; and Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki is 19.
Lisiecki is probably the best known of the three to Seattle music lovers, because he gave a powerhouse President’s Piano Series recital at Meany Theater three years ago as a mere 16-year-old, establishing beyond any question that this was a major talent indeed.
This time, Lisiecki was the soloist in one of Mozart’s greatest piano concertos (he wrote 27 of them): the deep and serious No. 20 in D Minor (K.466). Lisiecki’s approach was suitably stormy, with lots of contrasts and some remarkable variety of touch. A rather exotic first-movement cadenza underscored the drama of that opening Allegro, and the delicacy of the Romanza movement gave way to a final Rondo that sounded technically brilliant but a bit aggressive and clattery. Lisiecki got a suitably tremendous ovation from the Mozart-happy crowd.
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Preceding Lisiecki at the opening of the program was violinist Sokolov in the beautiful Violin Concerto No. 4 (K.218); he gave a fine performance that featured an incisive, robust tone and a strong, steady bow, as well as a few intonation problems. Kirov did an excellent job with the tempo changes and with carefully underscoring the soloist. Accompanying three different instrumentalists in three different pieces is no easy task, but the attentive Kirov made everyone look good.
Every music lover has a short list of all-time favorites, and the Mozart Clarinet Concerto is on a lot of those lists. Composed late in Mozart’s life as his lone concerto for that instrument, this is music in which every bar seems perfect and inevitable. Clarinetist Allakhverdyan turned in the evening’s most elegant and lyrical performance, with attentive and unfussy support from the podium. Allakhverdyan’s tone is pliant and silky, as smooth as running water, with a remarkable variety of colors. The radiant simplicity of the Adagio movement poured out from the stage like a New Year’s benediction.
The success of this program augurs well for Saturday’s all-Mozart sequel (with different concertos and soloists). One note: Lisiecki was originally announced as one of Saturday’s soloists, but due to a scheduling issue, he will be replaced by pianist Adam Golka, playing the same piano concerto (No. 21).
Melinda Bargreen also reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM. She can be reached at email@example.com.