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Somewhere in between composing his greatest piano concertos and “The Marriage of Figaro,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart laid his share of bricks in Vienna in the 1780s. Maybe it was because camaraderie among Freemasons, conspicuously absent in the cutthroat music world, appealed to him. Then again, maybe it was just for the money. Although Mozart is undeniably one of the world’s most beloved composers, he had to go out and scrounge for work just like most other musicians before and since. Without a permanent post at court and relying on patrons’ subscriptions for concerts, he was no stranger to commercial pressure. He needed to compose pieces where his star power would draw paying crowds. For Viennese audiences in the early 1780s, that meant piano concertos. Mozart churned out 15 between 1782 and 1786, and it is the concertos and other piano pieces that will make up a good chunk of this year’s Mozart Festival at the Kennedy Center, which concludes this Saturday, June 23. In the festival’s ninth and final season, the National Symphony Orchestra, under guest conductor Christopher Hogwood, and guest pianist Andreas Haefliger are performing only pieces that Mozart composed during 1786 in Vienna. Since classical music scholars seem to agree that Mozart’s piano concertos improved as he got older — and these were written just five years before he died — the Kennedy Center performances shouldn’t disappoint. The three concertos on the program, “No. 23 in A Major,” “No. 24 in C Minor,” and “No. 25 in C Major,” are generally regarded as some of Mozart’s best work in the form. For audiences, it’s the variation — both between the three concertos and within them — that makes for the most pleasing program. “Concerto No. 23 in A Major” opens with an allegro that is mostly relaxed and light. But while the first movement flows merrily along, the slow second movement in F-sharp minor verges on heartbreaking. “Concerto No. 24″ is more unsettling — the type of piece that’s likely to make audiences twist their programs in their laps without realizing it. The two other concertos show the same emotional and expressive depth, which is what makes them so much fun to listen to. Other festival highlights are two pieces without piano — the overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Symphony No. 38 in D Major,” the “Prague” symphony. Historians and critics have long contemplated why Mozart’s music has worn so well through the ages, and every year at festival time, the question comes up again. One of the answers may be that, financial obligations aside, Mozart had an instinct for what audiences wanted to hear that exists outside the borders of time. Striking a cynical note, he once told his father: “In order to win applause one must write stuff which is so inane that a cabby could sing it, or so unintelligible that it pleases precisely because no sensible man can understand it.” For musicians, it would seem that playing music by the same composer every summer for nine years might wear thin, even if that composer is Mozart. But for NSO violinist Paula Akbar, the opposite is true. Akbar, who has been with the NSO for 10 years, has come to even greater appreciation of his music with each year’s festival. “It’s hard to even put it into words, to appreciate how perfectly Mozart composed,” she says. “If you go to the Library of Congress and look at his manuscripts, you see that the guy didn’t even erase.” Summer intern Anne Stopper is a junior at American University.

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