Share story

What was good for Rachmaninov two years ago and for Tchaikovsky during the early days of 2014 looks to be very good for Mozart at the dawn of 2015.

Seattle Symphony’s emerging tradition of immersing audiences, over two nights in January, in the concertos of an individual composer is a proven hit, drawing capacity crowds to Benaroya Hall.

Not only do these paired programs of concertos offer a special opportunity to explore one corner of a legendary composer’s repertoire, they introduce Seattle to up-and-coming virtuoso musicians building stellar reputations in the concert world.

This season’s Mozart concerto performances will also give Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s associate conductor, Stilian Kirov — already busy leading SSO’s Untuxed, Side-by-Side and Family Concerts series — another chance to take the reins of an ambitious production.

“This is a wonderful experience for audiences,” Kirov says. “The program is diverse, and at the same time we’ll be able to hear several accomplished young soloists. It’s an exciting project.”

The pieces Kirov will conduct were all written between 1775 (during a period in which Mozart lived and worked in Salzburg, before moving to Vienna permanently) and 1791 (the year Mozart died at age 35).

The first set, scheduled for Jan. 8, includes the Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, written in 1775, possibly for Mozart himself or Antonio Brunetti. Seattle Symphony’s guest violinist will be 28-year-old Ukrainian Valeriy Sokolov, a winner of several international competitions. Sokolov made his U.S. debut in 2007 at the Aspen Music Festival, followed by a festival appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Also on the bill is the Clarinet Concerto in A major, composed several months before Mozart’s death, when the clarinet was relatively new. (Franz Joseph Haydn credited Mozart with showing the world how to write for the instrument.) Soloist Boris Allakhverdyan, 30, principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, is the soloist.

Nineteen-year-old pianist Jan Lisiecki, a brilliant prodigy who made his orchestral debut at age 9 and has performed for the New York Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris (as well as appeared with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax), will be the star of Mozart’s 1785 Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor. That somber, minor key is significant in that Mozart rarely used it (his Requiem and part of “Don Giovanni” are examples).

“It’s quite special and unique among the Mozart piano concertos,” says the Calgary-born Lisiecki. “We’re used to Beethoven and other composers making abrupt changes of character and mood, taking darkness to another level. But Mozart was already doing that with this piece. He was ahead of his time already with it. It’s a beautiful and very emotional concerto. I love it.”

On Jan. 10, Kirov will welcome 27-year-old Adam Walker of England, principal flute of the London Symphony Orchestra. Walker will play Mozart’s 1778 Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major.

Sokolov will return for the 1775 Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major (“Turkish”), and 27-year-old Adam Golka, a Texan praised for his extensive concerto repertoire, will play the 1785 Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major.

“This is a great way to start a new year,” Kirov says. “These are some of the most popular concertos of the 18th century.”

Tom Keogh: