Everyone–absolutely everyone–who likes this blog should see a video of violinist Gilles Apap playing his cadenza (surely improvised) in the last movement of Mozart’s third violin concerto. The video is on YouTube; many, many, many thanks to the good soul who posted it there. (And also to the two people who e-mailed me, urging me to see it.) The cadenza must be about eight minutes long, and involves gypsy music, whistling, tapping on the violin, music for the orchestra as well as the soloist, and a lot of joy.
The joy is one reason the whole thing works. It’s excessive; that’s easy to say. It goes on too long. It’s self-indulgent. All of these will be common reactions. It has nothing to do with Mozart. This last thought kept going through my head, even though, moment by moment, I loved everything Apap does. (It’s all a kind of silly shtick, too. I forgot that objection.)
But this thought–that the video has nothing to do with Mozart–turned out to be completely, utterly, shockingly wrong. Because when the cadenza finally ends, and Mozart’s music comes back, Mozart’s ending sounds astonishingly right, as if Mozart wrote it expressly to follow everything Apap has just played. I’ve elsewhere written (in a recent Wall Street Journal review–or maybe it hasn’t appeared yet) that these concerti are essentially entertainment, and that they just about require the soloist to improvise embellishments. I didn’t quite imagine the embellishments in the style(s) of Apap’s cadenza, but that turns out not to be a problem. The spirit matters more than the letter, and Apap’s spirit is exactly right.
Proof of that: the Mozart sounds fabulous, played with complete delight. And for once, the piece (one of the concerti that Mozart ends with a light rondeau movement, which often sounds too light to be a proper ending) really sounds like it finishes decisively.
Details: Apap, from what I see on his website, seems to be playing with the Sinfonia Varsovia. He doesn’t seem to own or control the video; he’s not even sure where to find it. And I can’t tell from the YouTube page whether the cadenza is the entire video, or whether someone filmed the entire concerto, and this is just an excerpt. But we can buy CDs of the entire concerto performance, and when I get back from vacation, I’m going to order one.