Orion Weiss wants to learn to play all the Mozart piano concertos, which could be a lifelong project. "There are 27, so it's hard to play any of them a lot at this point," said Weiss, 31, who will be the soloist this coming weekend with the Florida Orchestra in the composer's final foray into the form, Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major.
Mozart was the soloist when the work premiered in 1791, and that turned out to be his last concert appearance. The composer, whose life was in disarray with financial and health problems, died about nine months later. But his last concerto is anything but gloomy.
"With Mozart, we know of instances where he wrote music that was completely opposite of what his state of mind might have been," Weiss said from his New York City apartment last week. "This piece is so uplifting, even though he was probably sick at the point he wrote it."
The concerto has a simplicity and directness of expression that you often find in an artist's later works. "There is amazing virtuosity, but somehow it's more integrated than in the earlier concertos," Weiss said.
Mozart would have played the concerto on a fortepiano, a much smaller, lighter and quieter instrument than the modern piano. Weiss keeps the period style of the music in mind in interpretive details such as rubato, phrasing and pedaling.
"What wouldn't sound sentimental or cheesy in Schumann or Chopin would stick out like a sore thumb in Mozart," he said.
Weiss has a new recital CD on the Bridge label of miniature works by Bartok (14 Bagatelles) and Prokofiev (Visions Fugitives) interspersed with Dvorak's fanciful Humoresque pieces.
Incidentally, the pianist pronounces his first name like the constellation. "My mom loved looking at the stars," said Weiss, who grew up in Cleveland.
The orchestra's program under guest conductor Cristian Macelaru also includes the overture to Wagner's opera The Flying Dutchman and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3, Scottish. Concerts are at 8 p.m. Friday at Ferguson Hall of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa; 8 p.m. Saturday at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $15, $30, $45. (727) 892-3337 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286; floridaorchestra.org.
Another pianist: Igor Lipinski has two recitals that promise to be different, because along with playing music, he does magic tricks. The pianist from Poland is studying for a doctorate at Northwestern University. Lipinski, who announces his selections from the stage and likes to get the audience involved, performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at St. Petersburg College's Music Center, 6605 Fifth Ave. N. $10. (727) 341-7984. On Sunday, he plays at 4 p.m. at Barness Recital Hall on the USF Tampa campus. $8-$15. (813) 974-2323; music.arts.usf.edu.
Starry soprano: Susanna Phillips, a young Alabama soprano who has become a regular at the Metropolitan Opera, gives a pair of recitals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Historic Asolo Theater in Sarasota. She'll perform, with pianist Myra Huang, arias from operas by Gounod, Korngold and Carlisle Floyd as well as other works. $25-$45. (941) 306-1200; artistseriesconcerts.org.
Remembrance: Music, poetry, dance, drama and visual art are all part of Remembrance and Hope: A Tribute to the Survivors of the Holocaust by the Performing Arts Consortium of St. Petersburg. The performance is at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Palladium Theater. $10, $20. (727) 822-3590; spcollege.edu/palladium.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.