By Gail McCarthy
Cape Ann audiences will be the second group of listeners to hear a newly discovered work by Felix Mendelssohn at a special concert of the Cape Ann Symphony on Sunday afternoon.
The program, "Undiscovered Mendelssohn," will feature not one, but two guest pianists — Kiyoshi Tamagawa and Jun Toguchi.
"This is the second known performance of 'Fantasy and Variations for Two Pianos and Orchestra' since its discovery in 2003," said conductor Yoichi Udagawa.
"This is an exciting opportunity to play a work that no one has heard. It's also rare to have two pianists playing with an orchestra," Udagawa said. "We are delighted to share this with Cape Ann."
In another twist, the audience will be asked which of two endings they like best before the identity of the composer is revealed.
This piece was actually written in 1833 by both Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and Ignaz Moscheles, a friend, piano virtuoso and fellow composer.
This creation was born of necessity and friendship of sorts when Moscheles fell ill and was about to cancel the premiere of a new composition at the Philharmonic Society in London. But when Mendelssohn arrived in London to prepare for his own concert, he persuaded Moscheles not to cancel the performances and instead the two collaborated to write a set of variations on the popular Gypsy March from the opera "La Preziosa" by Carl Maria von Weber.
"In that day, classical musicians were not only performers, but composers," said Udagawa. "So when they gave concerts, they sometimes wrote pieces for the concerts.
"That's what Moscheles was doing," he added, "but then he got sick and he hadn't written anything."
After Mendelssohn arrived in London, each musician wrote a part and put it together — and the show did go on. In fact, the two pianists performed their work several times to welcoming audiences. The original manuscripts remained with Moscheles, who published an arrangement for two pianos without an orchestra in 1834.
According to musicologist John Michael Cooper of Southwestern University, "When Mendelssohn's copy reached him he scarcely recognized the music."
"Nevertheless, the work has been performed and published in that guise ever since, often with Mendelssohn himself credited as the main author," Cooper wrote. "And what of the original orchestral version of this fusion of two musical minds? The manuscript score, together with two separate versions of the finale and various scraps of paper on which the two pianists had worked out their own parts, remained in Moscheles's private possession until his death."
The music became part of the estate that passed into the hands of his son, who was Felix Mendelssohn's godson. He bequeathed the manuscript to the eventual founder of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Russian piano virtuoso Anton Rubinstein. It was donated in 1894 to the library of the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
"This effectively buried the work amidst the sizable mass of the rest of Rubinstein's other papers. There it languished in obscurity behind the Iron Curtain for most of the 20th century," explained Cooper.
In 2003, Cooper was granted access and given permission to edit it and perform the work.
"Fellow musicologist Jonathan Bellman, a leading authority on the so-called 'Hungarian Gypsy style' that colors the work's central theme, agreed to reconstruct the hastily sketched out piano parts in an idiomatic and historically appropriate manner," Cooper wrote in a press release.
At Sunday's concert, the symphony will play both endings as originally composed.
"We won't tell the audience who wrote which and then we will take an informal poll to see which one is the preferred piece," said Udagawa.
"I'd describe it as a fun piece, a kind of a Hungarian gypsy virtuoso. That kind of music is exciting for people," he said. "The thing that people forget is classical music is only 'classical' now because it's old. But they didn't think it was classical music at the time it was written, so that whole notion of classical music is artificial in a way. These were living, breathing people who wanted to have fun."
Udagawa said the two other pieces planned for Sunday's concert are also lively, Mozart's "Don Giovanni Overture" and Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7."
As to the pianists:
Jun Toguchi, born in Tokyo, began studying piano at the age of 5. His composition "Sonatine" for solo guitar was published when he was 14. He studied at the New England Conservatory as a theory and classical piano major, receiving a master's degree. He then studied jazz and film scoring at Berklee College of Music.
Kiyoshi Tamagawa, a music professor at Southwestern University in Texas, has performed across the United States, Canada, China, England, India, Mexico and Taiwan.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
Who: Cape Ann Symphony
What: Concert of "Undiscovered Mendelssohn." The concert also features Mozart's "Don Giovanni Overture" and Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7. "
When: Sunday at 2 p.m.
Where: The Fuller Auditorium at Blackburn Circle, Route 128, Gloucester. Fuller Auditorium is handicapped accessible.
How much: Ticket prices are $30 for adults, $25 for senior citizens, $20 for college students and free for children younger for 18. For tickets and information, call 978-281-0543 or visit www.capeannsymphony.org.