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Writing a Cadenza for Mozart's K414

August 10, 2018

I'm having a blast preparing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, k 414, to perform with Victor Yampolsky and the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra!  One of the unusual delights about playing a concerto from that time period is composing a cadenza.  Cadenza is the Italian word for cadence; in this musical context, it refers to a place in the music where what could have been a simple two-chord cadence (like an Amen in a hymn) is allowed to explode in a creative frenzy of improvisation, developing themes from the piece, frequently with a virtuosic flair.  A cadenza can expand two little chords into a 30-second, or 2-minute, or even much longer, detour.  Though I'm no worthy improviser by any stretch, I can't resist taking the opportunity to sit and compose something in the days before this concert.  What makes it so irresistible is the lure of getting to play with Mozart's inspired themes, to puzzle with them, turn them upside-down and sideways, mash them together, see what it is I love best about them and share those tweaked aspects of them with the audience.  It's a chance to reveal quite personally what one hears and loves in the music.  Or, to put it in a completely different way, it's also very much like someone handing you the keys to their finely tuned 1971 Ferrari and inviting you to go for a joy-ride!  The only tricky part is that, when you play your own composition embedded in the music of the great Mozart, you are inviting quite a challenging comparison and contrast!

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