Just as endless hues and details enrich visual art, the choices composers make can lead to vivid musical images of depth and delight.
When pianist Vadym Kholodenko returns to the Tuesday Evening Concert Series, he will share W.A. Mozart’s “Fantasia in C minor, K. 475,” which is one of only two works Mozart wrote for solo piano in the key of C minor. The pianist plans to unite the Fantasia with Mozart’s C minor Sonata during his next performance season, but this time out, he’s focusing on a five-section confection that took the prolific composer about a decade to write.
Kholodenko also will perform Beethoven’s “Bagatelles, Op. 33” and “Rondo a capriccio, Op. 129” and Godovsky’s “Studies on Chopin Etudes” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Cabell Hall Auditorium at the University of Virginia.
In Mozart’s “Fantasia,” listeners will be able to notice both the richness and range of the gifted composer and the capabilities and nuances of the pianos in use in the 1780s, which weren’t as loud and forceful as the instruments that help shape compositions today.
Whereas today’s piano has “an unlimited palette of devices of expression, in Mozart’s time, it was much more modest,” Kholodenko said. “If you’re talking about the palette of colors, in Mozart’s case, you’d draw with a pencil.”
At the same time, Mozart’s compositions were “emotionally deeper” than many late Romantic works written for the more modern piano, he said.
Including the Mozart work and the Beethoven selections on the same program can give listeners a glimpse of the instruments, materials and inspirations the composers had to work with, and how diverse the results can be.
“In the case of this C minor ‘Fantasia,’ which is seven minutes long, it feels like a life goes by — a huge range of emotions,” Kholodenko said.
The popular image of Mozart may be of a genius who dashed off dazzling works at warp speed, but this work “took him 10 years,” the pianist said. “He did a lot of other work, and he was very busy with operas. Some works took him a long time to accomplish, and that’s very unusual.
“In the case of Beethoven, [composing] was always a very laborious process.”
Minor keys were not as fashionable during Mozart’s career, more likely to appear in a requiem mass than a popular concert piece. Listening to Mozart’s approach to minor keys can reveal new insights into his process — and his environment.
“At the time of Mozart, it was a time of stoicism. Whatever happens in our lives, we just take it,” Kholodenko said. “It was a sign of something so intimate. As is always in music, it is not always explainable in words.”
Kholodenko said he recently performed with a Baroque orchestra on a period instrument, “and it gave me such an insight into the music of the time,” he said. “A salon situation was normal for chamber music of the time. It definitely gave me a view of the piano as a more intimate instrument. The range of the modern piano was unimaginable at that time.”
The versatility of the modern piano can be enjoyed in the program’s Beethoven pieces, one of which has a sentimental tie for the 2013 gold-medal winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
“Rondo a capriccio, Op. 129,” also known as “Rage Over a Lost Penny, Vented in Caprice,” is an earlier work from the 1790s.
“It was actually one of the first pieces I ever learned at age 5 or 6 in Kiev,” Kholodenko said. “It was one of the first things my teacher at the time decided to expose me to.”
The work offered a young piano student a chance to understand that a composer as great as Beethoven once also was learning and growing in his mastery of the instrument.
“It’s interesting to look at a composer’s mindset and his progress in his piano playing,” Kholodenko said. The piece reflects the legacy of earlier composers, such as Scarlatti, by evoking more of a technique from time gone by. “It’s a different way of playing.”
Audience members who park in Central Grounds Parking Garage for the concert can leave for free after the concert. Cecile Zinberg is the concert’s principal underwriter, and Woodard Properties is underwriter.