A Brush with Mozart's Royal Patrons

Enjoying the Prague Castle Complex shortly before visiting Lobkowicz Palace. Since today is June 1st and it was the beginning of June...

Enjoying the Prague Castle Complex shortly before visiting Lobkowicz Palace.

Since today is June 1st and it was the beginning of June that I arrived in Prague on my third and most recent trip to the Czech Capital, I thought I'd share a delightful memory! I had received a scholarship from the Mozart Society of America (MSA) to attend their joint conference with the Society of Eighteenth-Century Music (SECM). The Czech Mozart Society was the host organization. "Mozart in Prague" was the first international conference held on the subject of Mozart and his relationship with Bohemia, its artists, patrons and audiences. It also addressed Mozart's contemporaries within context of 18th-Century Bohemian culture.

Over the course of nearly five days, we explored a variety of topics in six scholarly sessions housed in beautiful historical locations both in and outside the city. We visited important public and private museum collections, great churches and monasteries, the Estates Theatre, where Mozart directed the premieres of Don Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito, and the Villa Bertramka, where he resided as a guest of the Duscheks in 1787. It was all arranged by MSA President Dr. Kathryn Libin, who had been spent a great deal of time conducting research in Prague.

I took this photo of the 17th Century Baroque concert hall before the afternoon concert.

As befitting Mozart and his 18th Century world, the conference was anything but modest. A visit to the 16th Century Lobkowicz Palace was one of the first activities on our itinerary. We were to tour the exhibition and its "Beethoven Room." Being one of the oldest Bohemian noble families with a collection spanning six centuries of European art and music patronage, the House of Lobkowicz has one of the grandest private collections in Europe. Among the notable musical manuscripts we saw that day included original scores and manuscripts by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Gluck, including Beethoven’s 4th and 5th symphonies and Mozart’s arrangement of Handel’s "Messiah" which I never thought I’d see in person. Watch this fantastic video series discussing Handel's original work and Mozart's "Der Messias" (K. 572).

The oratorio was written by Handel in 1741 and Mozart later arranged it to reflect contemporary Viennese taste in March 1789 which included a fuller orchestration. The original English text was also translated into German. Listen to "Uns ist zum Heil ein Kind geboren" ("For Unto Us a Child is Born") from Mozart's arrangement.

I was swept away by the whole experience, by the grandeur of the palace, the family’s history and portraits, the magnificent artifacts and paintings by great artists like Cranach. I'd visited many royal castles and residences before in my travels, but I'd never seen an art or music collection of such breadth. Since we were given time to wander independently, I became entirely immersed in my own world of discovery. I spent a great deal of time just beholding Mozart’s autographed score. 

Then, quite unexpectedly, before I knew what was going on, or what year it was, the current local ruling heads of this ancient noble family appeared. It was Prince William and Princess Alexandra Lobkowicz. Spending the afternoon revering a family who seemed almost God-like in their patronage of a "Who’s Who" of great European artists, it was a drastic break from that dreamy haze when we were met by living descendants. 

Prince William Lobkowicz and his family in Vanity Fair Magazine. July 2010. Getty Images.

I immediately panicked about royal etiquette. Should I address them as HRH? Should I curtsy? It soon became clear that this was a more informal affair. They were all smiles, gracious and friendly as they welcomed us with their American accents. I later discovered that the Prince was born in the U.S. and attended Harvard. In 1989, he moved to Prague to claim his family's heritage and has since focused on the restoration and maintenance of the properties now under his ownership. Watch a video featuring Prince William's introduction to the palace. 

Dr. Libin had been working extensively on their music collections, so they were aware of our scholarly meanderings and stopped by especially to meet us. The Prince and Princess were warm and sincere, making themselves and their history accessible. They were inquisitive and wanted to know what we enjoyed most in the exhibition. We found that they were just as passionate about the music and the preservation of artifacts. It was a beautiful exchange between royalty and commoners. Mozartians were we all! 

Afterwards, I attended one of their daily mid-day concerts in the palace’s stunning 17th Century Baroque concert hall and went to the terrace cafe. Although I don't have a photo of my royal encounter, I only have to glance at other photos from my visit and listen to Mozart's "Der Messias" to be transported to the memory of that splendid day! 

Sherry


Masterful Stride: Mozart and Murray

In honor of his 70th birthday this month, I'd like to spotlight   Murray Perahia  in sincere appreciation of his artistry! His earl...


In honor of his 70th birthday this month, I'd like to spotlight Murray Perahia in sincere appreciation of his artistry! His early recordings of Mozart's piano concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra are among my favorites. Considered to be some of Perahia's finest work, the complete concertos were released in 2006.

When sourcing a cross-section of reviews, it's quickly evident just how popular it remains. Audiences and critics agree: this is essential listening! If these recordings are unfamiliar territory or you're due for a return, I hope you'll be encouraged to listen!

While recording the Mozart concertos, Perahia brought forth a novelty with the Concerto in C (Op. 3, No. 3) by Johann Samuel Schroeter, a contemporary who Mozart admired. Listen. In 1778, Mozart wrote to his father: "...tell me whether you have Schroeter's concertos in Salzburg ... If not, I should like to buy and send them to you."

This review by James Leonard is one that I feel speaks most accurately to Perahia's work and how the recording technology of that time (1975 to 1988) factored into an ideal aesthetic for Mozart. "Sony's late stereo and early digital sound is consistently clean, colorful, and immediate."

Although performance videos documenting this cycle aren't available (at least to my knowledge!), there are videos of Perahia performing Mozart with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe a few years later in 1991. Conducting from the piano as Mozart himself would have done, watch Perahia perform K. 595 with the orchestra!



In the 2010 documentary, Not of This World, Perahia can be seen rehearsing Mozart's piano concerto K. 466 with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. The Academy recorded this piece for the Amadeus (1984) soundtrack with its Founder, the legendary Conductor and Mozartian Sir Neville Marriner. Publicity for the film suggested that "Only two people were qualified to conduct the score" and "One was available." Below these words were photos of Mozart and Marriner.

Reaching #1 on the Billboard Classical Albums Chart and #56 on the Billboard Popular Albums Chart, the Amadeus soundtrack took Mozart's music to its largest audience in history. To date, it has sold over 6.5 million copies and received 13 Gold Discs, making it one of the most popular classical music albums ever.

In the decades following the film's release, its drama and music have continued to draw students and general audiences alike to the Wunderkind. Amadeus will always have a special place in my heart as a beginning, a catalyst. Its soundtrack provided some of the very first notes from Mozart to touch my ears.

At the end of the film, when the audience is still grappling with Mozart's death and Salieri's crude insanity, they hear K. 466's second movement which, in dramatic fashion, spans the length of the credits. It's the perfect flourish. In this clip, Perahia performs the last few measures of that movement with Marriner and the Academy in April 2014. Marriner passed away in 2016, making this moment with Perahia all the more poignant. Perahia was appointed as the Academy's Guest Principal Conductor in 2000.

When asked in an interview if he felt satisfied having recorded all of Mozart's concertos, Perahia responded in a humble nature that has always characterized him: "I learned a lot from that experience. Going through twenty-seven concertos and seeing his development and evolution taught me a lot. Still, I feel I'm a beginner in front of Mozart. (laughs). So, it doesn't matter!"

Last year, Perahia signed with Deutsche Grammophon and in a statement, he expressed his desire to revisit Mozart and to reach broader audiences:

"I look forward to working with Deutsche Grammophon on projects that are dear to my heart. The recording process provides the chance to return to compositions - to uncover fresh ways of thinking and feeling about them - and to explore the masterworks of the keyboard repertoire at every stage in one's development. There is something very special for me about revisiting music by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and Brahms. Their inexhaustible art remains a constant source of inspiration to me. My exciting new relationship with Deutsche Grammophon means that I can share my interpretations with the widest global audience."

Happy Birthday, Mr. Perahia! Thank you for continuing to share your musical gifts. I look forward to what's next on your enduring journey and masterful stride with Mozart!

Sherry


Introducing Mozart's Cinematic Idomeneo to New Audiences

In my fifth year of collaboration with Fathom Events , I couldn't be happier to be pushing a revival of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle 's...


In my fifth year of collaboration with Fathom Events, I couldn't be happier to be pushing a revival of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's production of Mozart's Idomeneo, his first operatic masterpiece! To learn more about my work to develop audiences for Mozart via The Met: Live in HD, read my article, Popcorn and Powdered Wigs. To learn more about the opera, visit the Met's Idomeneo page which has a synopsis, information about the cast and production team, PDF of the program and photos and videos.

The above photo is of Anton Raaff, the German tenor who performed the title role in the 1781 premiere of Mozart's Idomeneo. Learn more from my Facebook post!

Breaking with my usual trivia format, I decided to host a drawing with entrants being required to give their second ticket to a guest who was new to opera. I also asked them to provide a few sentences about why they chose their unacquainted guests. I did this not only to ensure new faces in the audience, but to emphasize human interest. There's a special story behind every ticket. As I mentioned in a recent article:

"As a Music Heritage Preservationist, one of my primary goals is to leverage the passion of music fans to fuel preservation activities. As musicians, consumers, patrons and volunteers, we play a vital role in sustaining the life of music from the past. And we're far more than the bottom lines and social media analytics that attempt to quantify us. We're storytellers who give the music context, socio-cultural perspective and human interest. We're also agents of the living and ever-evolving music history of which we are a part. Our collective voice is one of great power and beauty."

So, without further ado, the names of three lucky Mozartians were drawn from my plumed hat (a slight exaggeration!) this evening, and the winners are...


Lorraine Joachim (Illinois)
I would like to take my new husband, Mark. He has never been to an opera. All he knows of it is of my DVDs, CDs, MP3 music and an occasional radio broadcast of my beloved Mozart favorites, one being, Idomeneo. I truly believe that if he could see one in person, he would appreciate opera's great beauty, along with Mozart's great genius. Thank you, Sherry, for offering such an outstanding opportunity for such a fine opera!!!

Sandy Alzubi (New Jersey)
First I would like to say thank you for the wonderful opportunity to enter. For this contest I would like to invite my older child, Rami, to come with me and attend the wonderful showing of Idomeneo by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Rami is a special needs child, diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old. Presently he’s 13 years old. I think the exposure to classical music, and seeing an operatic work will increase his connection to self and others, and as a result have a much greater appreciation for this type of genre. A Stanford study showed that: "Music engages areas of the brain which are involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in our memory." Rami will enjoy Idomeneo’s storyline and wonderful classical music. I firmly believe that this type of exposure will result in having a positive socio-emotional impact on my child. Thank you so much for the opportunity to enter. Sincerely, Sandy Alzubi

Jacqueline "Jackie" Pecker (New York)
It'd be such a great experience for my mom and I to go see Idomeneo! I love listening to and watching Mozart's operas, and it'd be so much fun to go see one with my mom. We've both never seen one before, so this would be a great introduction!

All three winners have been following my platform for a few years and we have some history together! For example, Jackie was only 13 years old when she submitted a beautiful artwork for my initiative to present Mozart's first global birthday greeting at the Mozarthaus Vienna in January 2015. For my annual Facebook Mozart birthday celebration in January 2017, she submitted a video of her trio (The String Siblings) performing a special arrangement of "Happy Birthday." Watch! Jackie just celebrated a birthday herself (Sweet 16!), so it's been rewarding to see her musicianship and passion for Mozart grow within these last few years! Building relationships and a sense of community with others as we explore and celebrate Mozart together is as important to me as any other aspect of what I do.


Including Idomeneo, my singular outreach effort has offered 30 live broadcast tickets and 64 encore tickets for a total of 94 tickets since I began my campaign. Tickets have spanned five Mozart's operas and winners from 14 states. Given that tickets start at $25 each for the live broadcast and disposable income has decreased in recent years for the average American, my goal is to eliminate any financial obstacle that may deter someone from exploring the art form through this series at their local cinema. Finances are especially a factor for younger audiences, a demographic this music must reach.

I approached Fathom Events in 2012 with my ideas and enthusiasm for The Met: Live in HD and have been volunteering my time ever since. I do gratis work for initiatives that I truly believe in, and this is one of them. Those who work in music for the right reasons are never driven by money. I do it because I genuinely care about the music and I care about you. I look forward to celebrating my 100th ticket and reaching even more states in the near future as I continue my work on behalf of Mozart through the generosity of my Fathom friends!

Sherry

*The following is an update from yours truly and the three lucky winners after the broadcast on March 25th!

I had a wonderful time at Cinemark watching Idomeneo today! Maestro Mozart stole all of my popcorn as usual and seemed pleased as punch with the performance. The opera premiered successfully in Munich on January 29, 1781 and is still turning heads. What a joy and privilege it was to take a short drive to my local cinema and watch a world-class performance of the Maestro's first dramatic masterpiece. It's this kind of accessibility that will sustain the art form! -Sherry


Hi, Sherry! My mom and I had an amazing time watching Idomeneo today. I really want to thank you for this incredible opportunity. This was my first opera, and it was truly a great experience. Thank you so much! Here are some pictures of my mom and I at the event! We also took a picture with the host! -Jackie


Loved, loved, loved it!!! Thank you for the opportunity and the tickets!!! -Lorraine


Love triumphs! We had a great time. Rami felt it was long, but liked it a lot nevertheless. I was not totally familiar with the opera, having just watched a few clips on YouTube. Loved the wonderful music and Maestro Levine. Bravo, bravo! Until next time! -Sandy


Hats and Ideas: The Mozartian Collective and The Power of Preservation

As a Music Heritage Preservationist, one of my primary goals is to leverage the passion of music fans to fuel preservation activities...


As a Music Heritage Preservationist, one of my primary goals is to leverage the passion of music fans to fuel preservation activities. As musicians, consumers, patrons and volunteers, we play a vital role in sustaining the life of music from the past. And we're far more than the bottom lines and social media analytics that attempt to quantify us. We're storytellers who give the music context, socio-cultural perspective and human interest. We're also agents of the living and ever-evolving music history of which we are a part. Our collective voice is one of great power and beauty.

Mozart's music has remained securely popular since his lifetime due in no small part to the consistent and unwavering support of his admirers. However, I've discovered through my work that Mozartians today either underestimate or are unaware of how important their individual actions are in preserving this music heritage. Although having the best of intentions, the way we engage with music today doesn't always go the extra mile for preservation effectiveness.

Given society's preoccupation with personal devices and music on demand, we experience music more individually today than ever before. And when we also consider the graying of audiences and the threat of a wrecking ball hovering over another historic theater, only then do we realize just how much it all depends on our involvement. And I feel, to a degree, that classical music audiences have heard so often that the genre is fading into oblivion (and it seemingly continues) that they've become desensitized to any mention of its plight.

Thinking about this inspired me to write an article to inform fans about the opportunities that can translate their passion, skills and interests into maximum impact in exchange for a little more time and effort. Preservation requires us to wear a hat or two and I hope my fellow Mozartians will explore and consider these options!

The Consumer /// This is the hat that you probably wear most often...keep it on tight!
-Purchase tickets for Mozart concerts and related events
-Attend Fathom's Met Live in HD broadcasts of Mozart's operas at your local cinema
-Buy Mozart recordings, books, films, etc.
-Visit museum exhibits and Mozart historical sites through related travel and tourism
*See my resources page for directories and ideas!

The Patron /// This hat is a great option for those who have the additional funds to contribute and/or don't have much time for other volunteer activities.
-Support an opera company, orchestra or Mozart festival as a season subscriber
-Sponsor a Mozart concert program or festival as an individual or business
-Make a donation to classical radio or an all-Mozart radio channel
-Join a Mozart organization or museum association as a dues paying member
*See my resources page for directories and ideas!

The Volunteer /// This is the hat that needs to be worn most often by Mozartians! Your time is just as valuable, if not more valuable, than monetary contributions.
-Serve on committees and boards to support Mozart-related programming
-Become an usher for concerts and events
-Dedicate time to doing office work or other tasks for an organization or museum
-Become a docent for an exhibit about Mozart, his era or related subject
-If you're a musician, volunteer to perform in a community orchestra
-If you're an artist, create a Mozart artwork and suggest a local display or exhibit
*See my resources page for directories and ideas!

Volunteerism isn't just organizational. Here are a few social ideas!

-Invite family and friends to a Mozart concert or event
-Create and distribute Mozart mixtapes
-Host a movie night featuring a Mozart film or performance
-Organize a Mozart listening party and vinyl swap
-Host a reading group focusing on a Mozart biography or novel

It's my hope that I've inspired you in some way to become more active in doing your part for the well-being of Mozart's music!

Sherry