Mozart on Prospect Avenue

Prometheus Trio performs music by him and by Mendelssohn, the 'Mozart of the 19th century.'

By - May 9th, 2024 12:24 pm
Stefanie Jacob (left) and Scott Tisdel (right).

Stefanie Jacob (left) and Scott Tisdel (right).

Composer Robert Schumann described Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) as “the Mozart of the 19th century.” Listeners can make their own comparisons when the Prometheus Trio and guest artists play chamber music by both Mendelssohn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on Monday, May 13. Performing are Prometheus members Stefanie Jacob (piano) and Scott Tisdel (cello), with guests Yuka Kadota (violin) and Robert Levine (viola).

Kadota, Levine and Tisdel open the program with a performance of the Divertimento for String Trio in E-flat by Mozart (1756-1791). Mozart wrote the piece in 1788, a year in which he also composed three symphonies and a piano concerto. Pieces titled “Divertimento” are often light, entertaining works, but the six-movement, 45-minute trio is anything but.

Allegro movements open and close the work, bookending a lyrical adagio, two minuets, and an andante movement that features a theme and seven variations. The informative program notes written by Jacob and Tisdel explain the intriguing structure of that section, noting that “the variations tend to get more and more complex and ingenious…” ending in “grand, almost orchestral splendor.”

“The backbone of classical music is four-part harmony, which is why the string quartet became the chamber-music medium of choice during this period,” writes musicologist Peter Laki. “To create a similar balance and fullness of sound with only three instruments was a special challenge, which Mozart met not only by the few double-stops he used but mainly by writing three string parts of uncommon richness and intensity.”

Alfred Einstein, author of Mozart: His Character, His Work, says the piece “grew to such large proportions only because it was intended to offer … something special in the way of art, invention, and good spirits. … [E]very note is a contribution to spiritual and sensuous fulfilment in sound.”

Mendelssohn’s Trio in C minor for violin, cello, and piano confronts the pianist with a particularly challenging part, described by Jacob as essentially a piano concerto and by the composer as “a trifle nasty to play.” The keyboard establishes the first of three themes that appear throughout the opening movement, marked “energico e fuoco” (energetic and fiery). “The sharp contrasts of minor and major, motion and repose and the essential sweep of up and down create a powerful dramatic narrative,” according to musicologist Kai Christiansen.

Christiansen calls the second movement, in E-flat major, “a tender balm for the blistering urgency of the first, a graceful song without words….” The gently rocking melody in 9/8 meter alternates between piano and strings. Jacob describes the third movement Scherzo as “wispy near-perpetual motion,” reminiscent of incidental music Mendelssohn wrote three years earlier for a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Trio closes with a passionate finale, built on three themes combined “in every conceivable way,” Jacob says, “bringing his second trio to a joyous, blazing close.”

The Prometheus Trio will perform at 7 p.m. Monday, May 13, at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee. Tickets are available online (click the “enroll” button to purchase) and at the door. Complimentary parking is available at Milwaukee Eye Care, 1684 N Prospect Ave, one block north of the Conservatory.

One thought on “Classical: Mozart on Prospect Avenue”

  1. says:

    Just fyi, instead of saying “on Prospect Avenue” I think it would have been more honest of you to have said “at the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music .” I was thrilled to think we’d be having a public concert for everyone somewhere on Prospect Avenue! Maybe on that huge field next to the Jewish Museum? I am a great believer in large free concerts that everyone can enjoy! And I hope that your future articles will clearly note the difference! But thanks for letting me know about this concert, which will be next door to me.

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