HAPPY NEW YEAR! I know – it’s already the end of January, but I think if you haven’t seen your friends right up to February 1, it’s OK to greet them with an appropriately joyful outburst! So… how many times have you had to change the 2 at the end of writing the date on a cheque or some official form into a 3??? I hope 2013 is good to all of you, and on behalf all of us in the Lions Gate Sinfonia family, I wish you the best of health and happiness.
We have a special post-holiday “Welcome Back to Sinfonia” party for all of us tonight: the music of Mozart – PLUS his father and son and two other composers who were greatly influenced by him. It’s also a birthday celebration in a way – Wolfgang can’t be here in person tonight, but if he were, he would be celebrating his 257th birthday!
We have some very special guests making music with us tonight: our Lions Gate Youth Orchestra is joining Sinfonia on the Centennial Theatre stage in our annual “Side-by-Side” educational initiative. These outstanding and enthusiastic young musicians will be playing alongside their professional senior colleagues for the first half, and will be especially happy to get to perform their first-ever Mozart Symphony and Chopin Piano Concerto! Speaking of which, our guest soloist on the first half is the amazing young pianist Carol Zhang, who has been mentored by our guest soloist on the 2nd half, Sasha Starcevich, as well as by Sasha’s mentor, Donna Fishwick! A real youth movement is happening here, my friends, and you are all a big part of it. Thank you for sharing and supporting this venture. Our youth orchestra, LGYO, deserves your support and attention and attendance. This is a natural expansion of our typical “Side-by-Side” events of years past, with the added value of regular weekly rehearsals as well as extra coaching sessions with the pros from Lions Gate Sinfonia, the parent organization. It is a joy to watch the students blossom under the guidance of Concertmaster Carolyn Cole, Principal Cellist Sue Round, Principal Bass Anne Durnaceau, and violinist Edgar Bridwell. Thank you, coaches and the entire LGS players and mentors– we have ALL learned so much from you!!! The hard work pays off tonight!
Wolfgang’s training and career started under the guidance of his father, Leopold Mozart (1719-1787.) Leopold, born in Augsburg in Bavaria, moved to Salzburg to study theology, philosophy, and law. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree at age 19, he was kicked out of school for lack of attendance, and became a full-time musician! He became an esteemed musician and teacher. Leopold Mozart is remembered today as the father and teacher of his daughter Nannerl and son Wolfgang, and for his violin textbook Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, the greatly respected text “The Art of the Violin.” He also compiled little notebooks of minuets, divertimenti, and educational pieces to teach his children, and I selected one of these to open tonight’s concert.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) had already composed 13 Symphonies by his 14th year, and after a study period in Rome and travels around Europe, he returned home to begin writing a set of 8 symphonies in the year he turned 15. Symphony #14 in A Major is a joyful condensation of all the young composer had absorbed up this point. A surprisingly mature work in four movements, it is the natural next step from the traditional classical format as developed by the father of the Classical Period, Franz Joseph Haydn. It was Haydn, a contemporary of Leopold, and mentor, dear friend and colleague to Wolfgang, who wrote about him:
"I swear to you before God, and in all honesty, that your son is the greatest composer I know, whether by name or reputation. He has taste, and moreover, most profound understanding of composition." No greater letter of recommendation could exist!
Haydn offered to teach Wolfgang’s youngest son, Franz Xaver Mozart (1791-1844,) upon his father’s early death. Like his father, Franz Xaver studied violin and piano, and began to compose at an early age. He became a professional musician and enjoyed moderate success both as a teacher and a performer. Unlike his father, he was introverted and self-deprecating; he constantly underrated his talent and feared that whatever he produced would be compared with what his father had done. Intimidated by his surname, FX left his native Vienna to further his career in smaller towns, but ended up dividing most of his mature years between Lemburg (Lviv in the eastern Ukraine) and Vienna. His final 6 years were spent in his ancestral home of Salzburg. Most of the compositions of “Mozart Figlio” were for piano, voice, and chamber music, with 2 Piano Concertos as his largest works. I have chosen one of his best-known songs to represent him in tonight’s concert: In Questa Tomba Oscura. “In this dark tomb allow me to forever rest and the shadows to disappear…” The shadow of his father continued to loom large over him even in death. The following was etched on his tombstone: "May the name of his father be his epitaph, as his veneration for him was the essence of his life."
Hard to imagine, but the name CHOPIN (1810-1849) is forever linked to Mozart. Indeed, the young Polish-born Frederic was known from his youth as “the next Mozart” and “Mozart’s successor.” When the famous German composer and music critic Robert Schumann hear Chopin perform, he is quoted as saying, “Hats off, gentlemen: A Genius!” Perhaps all this attention and comparisons are among the reasons he left Warsaw for Paris… Before he created his two astoundingly beautiful and romantic piano concertos, he had already established himself as a new force in the musical world. Chopin was already touring throughout Europe and gaining important musical connections by the time he was 20. Just weeks after performing his Piano Concerto #1, which was hailed as one of music’s most sublime works, Chopin left for another European tour. He never returned home, settling in Paris. He performed this concerto once more, receiving deafening BRAVOs, but also criticism for not using the orchestra enough, and for being old-fashioned, while not adhering enough to true classical forms. You know, you just can’t please everyone! The first movement, rather than holding to the typical “Sonata-Allegro” form, is really a long orchestral introduction, followed by a series of stormy, sentimental, and completely ROMANTIC piano music with a simple accompaniment.
Rounding out the programme is music by somewhat of a rival to young Wolfgang – Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827.) When talking with Sasha about my ideas for this concert and all its youthful elements, he immediately offered Beethoven’s 2nd Piano Concerto. This is such a perfect way to close tonight’s event; Wolfgang, Frederic, and Ludwig were all mere teenagers when they composed the works we are featuring tonight. Like Chopin’s first two concerti, the numbering of Beethoven’s is a little confusing: both composers ended up getting their SECOND Piano Concertos published before the first, so the one we will hear Sasha perform was actually the first major orchestral work of Beethoven. Young Ludwig was a teenager still living in his parent’s house in Bonn, Germany, when he started this work in 1786. After moving to Vienna, the concerto occupied much of Beethoven’s time until it finally got to perform it in 1798, and then revised it several times before it got published in 1801. Interestingly, the composer himself was very critical of this work, saying it was not one of his best compositions, but it remains one of the finest examples of Beethoven’s early period. He learned well from his teacher Haydn, and from his studies of Mozart’s work! At times rich and powerful as in the first movement, then profoundly moving and sustained in the second, then concluding with a wildly fun and dancing Rondo as the finale, this is a tour de force!
We are all glad you are here tonight! Thank you for supporting YOUR Lions Gate Sinfonia in all our endeavours, particularly as we nourish and share our experiences with our young musicians. We love performing for you, whether it is a Mozart Symphony, a Beethoven Concerto, or some good old Celtic Fiddling tunes!!! As always, welcome to this wonderful theatre we call home, and thank you for your presence. We look forward to seeing you again soon at SINFONIA!