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Farwell to Salzburg

The Naughton sisters.

The BPO celebrates Mozart’s birthday

The highly regarded Polish conductor Pawel Przytocki, artistic director of the Krakow Philharmonic, will make his Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra debut in a pair of concerts at Kleinhans Music Hall this weekend on Saturday, January 19 at 8pm and on Sunday, January 20 at 2:30pm, in an all-Mozart program celebrating the composer’s birthday: January 27, 1756.

While Mozart was born 257 years ago, the overwhelming wealth of his vast body of musical compositions effortlessly erases the intervening two and a half centuries. In the past, BPO musicians offered their own celebration of Mozart’s birthday anniversary in a long-running series of chamber music concerts at the Lancaster Opera House. In recent years, the BPO has moved the celebration to Kleinhans, while often featuring young, upcoming soloists, such as the Canadian violinist Susanne Hou, who appeared last January.

Returning to native grounds, this weekend’s concerts will feature the twin American sisters, pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton, in an all-too-rare BPO performance of Mozart’s Concerto No. 10 in E-flat major for Two Pianos, K.365. The work last appeared on a Kleinhans Hall program when the noted piano duo of Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, who had works composed for them by Barber, Cage, and Poulenc, performed the concerto in 1966 on an all-Mozart program under the baton of Lukas Foss.

The New York City-based Naughtons are graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music, where they were each awarded the Festorazzi Prize. The duo has been hailed by the San Francisco Examiner for their “stellar musicianship, technical mastery, and awe-inspiring artistry.” Of their Asian debut with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Sing Tao Daily wrote, “Joining two hearts and four hands at two grand pianos, the Naughton sisters created an electrifying and moving musical performance.”

Mozart composed his only concerto for two pianos during his final stay in Salzburg, sometime in 1779 or 1780. In the preceding 18 months he had travelled with his mother, first to various German courts and then to Paris, in an unsuccessful attempt to secure a permanent position, hoping to escape his unhappy situation working as Kapellmeister for Hieronymus Colloredo, the insufferable Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Three months into his Paris stay, Mozart’s beloved mother unexpectedly died, yet he stayed in the city, giving concerts, music lessons, and composing, while trying unsuccessfully to find permanent employment. When Mozart left Salzburg he was still more of a youth than an adult, but his experiences while travelling, including the death of his mother, the finding of his first, ultimately unhappy love with Aloysia Weber, whose sister Constanze he would later marry, and his financial insecurity found him returning to his oppressive situation in Salzburg with a new-found maturity, reflected in the works he now composed, including the Concerto for Two Pianos, and the festive, three-movement Symphony No. 34 in C major, K.338, which is also on the BPO program.

Though no documentary evidence exists, it seems likely that Mozart composed his only concerto for two pianos for performance with his sister Nannerl, given the equal prominence of each piano part. In this concerto the two soloists engage in a lighthearted dialogue featuring one of the most astounding outpourings of continuous melodic invention in Mozart’s entire body of work, with no fewer than nine melodies in the first movement alone, while the orchestra is only along for the ride. While we do not know if Mozart ever performed the concerto, with or without his sister, before leaving Salzburg for good in 1780, he did perform it twice in Vienna, in the fall of 1781 and the spring of 1782 with his pupil Josephine Aurnhammer. While Mozart appreciated his pupil’s musical talents, he most definitely did not appreciate her convincing herself and then spreading rumors that they were about to get married. In a letter to his father, Mozart wrote: “If an artist wished to paint the devil in a lifelike way, he could profitably take her face as a model.” Luckily, Mozart escaped and later that year married Constanze, his second choice of the three Weber sisters, in a happy union that lasted until his death.

For tickets and more information, call 885-5000 or visit

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