From Bach to Mozart at Music Mountain

Music Mountain Music Shed

Under a cool panorama of gray clouds, the four-month program of heightened, altitude music with summer air-conditioning and vista views opened at Music Mountain with Benjamin Hochman on piano leading in J.S. Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056 (1738). A late work for harpsichord, this piece provides more left-hand fingering amid pell-mell idiosyncratic flair conjuring an ambiance of spontaneous improvisation which Hochman captured with seemingly effortless acrobatics at keyboard. Accompanied by two violins, viola, cello, and bass, this work delivered unified orchestral sound blending with impressive rhythmic pace.

The program presented the influence of Bach on Mozart. Three fugues from Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier for Strings Quarter, K. 405 arranged by Mozart followed. Enhanced by the brilliant orchestration of Mozart, these fugues sounded like mini-symphonies outside of their historical period. Hochman at keyboard was impressive with higher harpsichord-like inflection. Mozart’s arrangement captured the exuberant joy of Bach’s celebratory inclination for all instruments.

Kobi Malkin, Nancy Wu, Benjamin Hochman, Jessica Thompson, Leigh Mesh

Keyboard concerto in E Major, BWV 1053 (1738) allowed first violinist Kobi Malkin to excel with a recent American-made violin constructed in 2019 which had melodious pitch. Raman Ramakrishnan on cello provided eloquent foundation. Jessica Thompson on viola offered lyrical angles while Nancy Wu on second violin delivered subtle support. This early pre-Leipzig cantata symphonia offers lively interplay of instruments smoothy integrated with keyboard panache.

The opening of Adagio and Fugue in C Minor K.546 (1788) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been described as violent or mystical, yet to me it was arresting with the theme of chaos evolving to Masonic symmetry. Once plunged into the task of the fugue, a geometric flow takes over with soothing repetition that borders on the predictable. In this performance Raman Ramakrishnan’s cello provided splendid ballast for the ethereal first violin of Nancy Wu. Jessica Thompson’s viola rounded out edges while Kobi Malkin on second violin provided loyal support for the symmetry of the work. There is a triangulation between cello, viola, and violin with the second violin nodding in approval. One might say that the piece is an allegory for that period’s concept of the process of Creation. The Fugue felt like it was rapidly solving the correct pattern for a Rubiks cube. While exercising a calm complexity within Bach-like structure, it offered more shadowy, intriguing contemplation than the exuberant delight one usually finds in a Bach fugue. This was the sixth performance of this slightly enigmatic yet satisfying work at Music Mountain.

Benjamin Hochman smiling

More amusing and sunny was Mozart’s Piano Concerto in E-flat Major, K.449 (1784) with Benjamin Hochman adroitly and enthusiastically leading as if he were teaching a class where a dialogue develops with the piano professor querying student instruments who provide replies to musical questions. Satisfied with student answers in the first movement, the piano asks more challenging questions to the instruments as they rise beyond more self-evident answers. The professor piano is well-pleased and poses more difficult queries and conundrums which receive more sophisticated replies. Now they are ready for the third movement, which is to play as equals in chamber ensemble as the piano leads the ensemble into orchestral resonance. Double-bassist Leigh Mesh was outstanding. I was a little shocked that this amusing gem had not been performed before at Music Mountain, since this work is such a charming closer. Perhaps if there are sharp, divisive arguments in a large corporate board, they should hire this group to recall how pleasant and meaningful and transcendent a group might become if they “sing” with empathetic unity!

Final bow

Next Sunday the Elenora Piano Quartet will perform a varied and ambitious program:  BEETHOVEN, Piano Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 16; Fanny MENDELSSOHN Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 11; Tina DAVIDSON Tremble for Piano Trio; C. SAINT-SAËNS Piano Quartet in B Flat Major, Op. 41.

This Saturday evening, Jazz fans will be delighted to hear the 7-time Grammy Award winner Paul Winter with his Consort performing a program titled This Glorious Earth with singers Wolf, Whale, Wood Thrush, and other members of what Winter calls “the greater symphony of the Earth.”

For more information or tickets, visit .

Kevin T McEneaney

Authr of Hunter S. Thompson: Fear. Loathing, and the Birth of Gonzo, and other books