Don’t worry, I’m not going to beat everyone over the head with Mozart. After this I’ll stop, I promise.
It’s just that I sometimes marvel at what you can find online and what an age we live in, if I can indulge a cliche just this once. The following videos are so significant for so many reasons. Mozart didn’t do for the piano what he did for the violin, but he was so goddamned good at all of it, and this is probably my favorite of his piano pieces. I’m putting up the whole thing – all three “movements” as they are called – of his 23rd piano concerto. A piano concerto is a musical form where a piano is featured but accompanied by an orchestra. The first movement is usually lively and quick; the second sweet, slower and dolorous; and the third lively and quick again, like a dance number.
This is a more mature piece by Wolfgang, from when he was about 30 years old, and this period of his life represents in my view the apex of his work: by then what he was producing was strikingly different and more delicately nuanced than the baroque period that preceded him, which seemed mechanical by comparison. And yet there was no real break with the substance of what music had always been.
The other thing about these videos is the pianist, Horowitz, who is 83 years old at the filming. If any of you readers out there have ever tried playing pieces like this, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that for an 83 year old man what you will witness is almost super-human. There is a tremendous amount of strength and coordination required for doing what you see Horowitz doing here, although it is a strength of a refined kind. Even so, I get hand and forearm cramps just thinking about playing like that for a minute or two, to say nothing of being amazed at the 83 year old Horowitz’s ability to shift gears and become languid and expressive in moments. He is well past his prime here, of course, but the ability to extract powerful sound out of his instrument even then was terribly impressive.
You should especially see the last part of the third movement, after what could only have been a grueling 7 minutes – the piece being physically quite demanding – where Horowitz (incredibly not appearing even to break a sweat) appears to start actually enjoying himself and, notably, the orchestra, which was also quite exceptional, I think. I would imagine praise from Horowitz was not something that was readily obtained.