listen magazine feature
timo andres tackles an unfinished mozart concerto.
By Brian Wise
Mozart’s ‘Coronation’ Concerto is not one of his more popular concertos — it’s also not one of his better ones,” says Timo Andres, an increasingly in-demand composer and pianist based in Brooklyn. “The piece is normally a bit long and very much [in Mozart’s] ‘public ceremonial’ mode. There’s not a lot of personal depth.”
If Andres’s claim about the concerto isn’t original, his response is: the twenty-eight-year-old composer reworked this piece that Mozart left unfinished, using a playfully eclectic, postmodern style, adding oddball riffs and dissonant flourishes. “I felt it was right for disruption,” Andres explains, noting that Mozart notated only a few sections of the left-hand part, which he intended to improvise in performance. Andres replaced the left-hand part entirely, and also wrote new cadenzas.
This “re-composition” is the centerpiece of Home Stretch, the second album on Nonesuch by this composer whose music often has a wry, Ivesian relationship with the past. The recording grew out of a 2010 concert Andres gave with the Metropolis Ensemble, a New York chamber orchestra, linking the music of Mozart with ambient pioneer Brian Eno.
“The idea of reusing material is something that has always fascinated me,” says Andres. “The relationship between you and your influences is not necessarily a one-way street.” The album’s three-movement title piece, a piano concerto, contains allusions to both Mozart and Eno, and the Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno is an atmospheric fantasy on several of Eno’s early-seventies themes.
In addition to Charles Ives, Andres cites John Adams as an influence. Like Ives and Adams, Andres is a New Englander, raised in Connecticut. His works often make use of quotation and allusion, whether it’s an obscure reference to Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces (in his Piano Quintet for Jonathan Biss and the Elias Quartet) or the structures of J.S. Bach (in Thrive on Routine, for the ACME Quartet).
“I have very little patience with the doctrine of originality,” Andres says. “I always like it when I hear a section of another composer’s music. For me, that is much more interesting than the facade of music that’s sprung forth uninfluenced.”
While Andres has received commissions from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the LA Phil’s Green Umbrella series, he finds that most symphony orchestras are too cautious to be a viable outlet for a living composer. “I find the mainstream orchestral world in the U.S. problematic and I also found that chamber music is my home base,” he notes. “It’s what I love to play and write and listen to.”
This article originally appeared in Listen: Life with Music & Culture, Steinway & Sons’ award-winning magazine.