Mozart Birthday Bash
Music about something
by arwulf arwulf
From the January, 2015 issue
In October 1902, after attending a performance of Mozart's singspiel Zaide, aspiring composer Anton Webern confided to his diary that what he'd heard sounded "lovely and tender, so clear and simple, like a bright summer day. Such music makes one feel so good that one wishes for nothing else."
Webern could easily have been describing Mozart's Oboe Concerto in C major, the sunniest spot on the program of the nineteenth annual Mozart Birthday Bash on January 31, where oboist Timothy Michling will make his first appearance as concert soloist with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. Mozart's only concerto for oboe was composed in 1777 and transposed the following year as his Second Flute Concerto in D Major. The adaptation is lovely, but the original outing for oboe is a work of unparalleled charm and delicacy.
The vocal portion of the evening's celebration will consist of arias from the opera The Abduction from the Seraglio (1781-82) and the Great Mass in C Minor (1782-83), works composed during a turbulent, transitional period when Mozart fell in love with and married Constanze Weber. The opera's principal female character, also named Constanze, is a role that requires a vocalist of exceptional range and flexibility. The C minor Mass stands near the summit of Mozart's achievement in this form. At its premiere, Wolfgang had Constanze sing the gentle aria "Et incarnatus est."
This year's guest diva is Jeanette Vecchione, a powerful, passionate coloratura soprano with an unusually athletic background. In addition to shot put and discus, Vecchione abandoned a career in professional basketball to cross over--via Juilliard--to Mozart, Bellini, and bel canto. Eminently newsworthy, Vecchione has used her media access to encourage young people to listen to European classical music and learn to appreciate opera as a living, endlessly rewarding art form.
Maestro Arie Lipsky's program will open with the Adagio and Fugue for Strings in C minor and close with the thought-provoking Symphony no. 40 in G minor. While not all music has to
be "about" something, Mozart's later works often seem to be referencing the challenges of existence in this world. Remember that four out of Wolfgang and Constanze's six children died in infancy. Within the space of a few days in June 1788, during which they lost their baby daughter Theresia, Mozart completed his emotive fortieth Symphony and added the gloomy adagio to a Bach-like fugue he had written five summers earlier as they grieved the passing of their first child, little Raimund. This is Mozart with little or no sugar. Snow clouds of impermanence have arrived, as the weltschmerz of Franz Schubert and Gustav Mahler gathers on the horizon. In the words of Diego Rivera: "I paint what I see."
[Originally published in January, 2015.]
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