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 early ...

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!


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!


*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!


'Tis the Season for a Mozart MerryMix!

Taking the idea from a past article , I thought I'd create a Christmas playlist that included a few of my favorites from YouTube....

Taking the idea from a past article, I thought I'd create a Christmas playlist that included a few of my favorites from YouTube. Mozart's music, like all great music, adds a fulfilling dimension not only to the holidays, but to all seasons. So, in the spirit of the man and his music, I thought a curated Mozart MerryMix was in order. Tinged with both reverence and merriment, it features the sacred and secular, vocal and instrumental.

Let the MerryMixing commence!

On Christmas Eve in 1788, Mozart entered 12 minuets into his catalog (KV. 568). The following is the translated entry written in his own hand: the 24th ditto. 12 minuets. for 2 violins, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, timpani, flautino and bass. Listen and enjoy with festive ears! It's easy to imagine a grand ballroom with dancing couples, a small orchestra, candlelight and the glistening snow falling outside.

Written in 1773, Mozart's Exsultate, jubilate (Exalt, rejoice) (KV. 165) is often a staple of Christmas music programming. Mozart was a teenager when he composed this work for the Italian castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, whose technical agility he admired. While mostly performed by female sopranos today, it still receives worthy vocal treatment by boy sopranos and counter-tenors. Watch boy soprano Alois Muehlbacher sing the Allegro for the annual Christmas in Vienna concert.

A product of his tenure in Salzburg dating from 1780, Mozart's Vesperae solennes de Confessore (Solemn Vespers for the Feast of a Confessor) (KV. 339) is another perennial favorite. Watch Anja Harteros perform the Laudate Dominum (Praise the Lord) for the annual advent concert at Dresden's Frauenkirche (Lutheran Church) with the Chorus of the State Opera Dresden and Maestro Christoph Eschenbach.

Mozart completed his Flute Quartet in D (KV. 285) on Christmas Day in 1777. The work was part of a commission by the amateur Dutch flautist Ferdinand De Jean. In a letter to his father, Mozart said of the flute: "You know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear." If he disliked the flute, there's no sign of disdain in his writing for it. Watch the quartet Ensemble ACJW bring Mozart's Christmas Day flourish to life at Carnegie Hall!

Handel's Messiah needs no introduction. However, Mozart's more obscure arrangement of this work (Der Messias, KV. 572) certainly does! In 1789, Baron Gottfried van Swieten commissioned Mozart to re-orchestrate the 1742 oratorio to accommodate contemporary musical taste and style in German translation. The result is a glorious marriage between the two masters, fusing Baroque counterpoint and Classical style. While I've attended a performance of Handel's original at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, performances of Mozart's arrangement are unfortunately rare. Watch the performance of Uns ist zum Heil ein Kind geboren (For unto us a child is born) by the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, soloists and Maestro Helmuth Rilling.

Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus (Hail, true body) (KV. 618) tugs at the heart strings for its composition and context, making it all the more appropriate for the Christmas season. Mozart gave the motet as a gift to Anton Stoll, organist and choirmaster at the church in Baden, for looking after his wife Constanze who would often visit the local spa to remedy her ill health. It wasn't a commissioned work as most were for Mozart, but an independent expression of gratitude. It was written in June 1791, just six months before his death. In a world consumed by materialism, let Mozart's gesture remind us that this is the season of giving and gratitude. Watch the James Last Orchestra and Choir of St. Michael's Church in Hamburg interpret the work for their annual Christmas concert.

In closing, a bit of trivia! Did you know that Stille Nacht (Silent Night) was performed for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1818 near Mozart's hometown of Salzburg? The lyrics were written by the Salzburg pastor Joseph Mohr and the melody by Franz Xaver Gruber. I thought it would be nice to end the playlist with a selection capturing the contemporary sights and sounds of Christmas in the town where Mozart was born and lived most of his life. In his father Leopold's words, Mozart was the "miracle which God let be born in Salzburg," Watch!

Merry Christmas, Mozartians! Froehliche Weihnachten!


The Efficacy of Social Media and the Mozart Anniversary

Taking a social approach to music heritage preservation, I subscribe to the idea that audiences benefit exponentially through shared exper...

Taking a social approach to music heritage preservation, I subscribe to the idea that audiences benefit exponentially through shared experiences. In 2012, I began creating event pages on Facebook so that Mozart's worldwide fan community (aka "The WolfGANG") would have a place to gather for two of his most significant anniversaries. With the dates of December 5th and January 27th quickly approaching, it's that time of year again!

To commemorate the anniversary of Mozart's passing on December 5th, I've hosted an annual candlelight vigil, asking participants to light a candle at 12:20 am (local time) and extinguish it at 12:55 am (local time). This 35 minute duration represents Mozart's 35 years of life and 12:55 am represents the time his light left our world in 1791. I've also encouraged fans to listen to his Requiem, write letters and share photos and sentiments on the event page. For my first vigil in 2012, I was joined by approximately 70 individuals. This experience inspired me to write, Videography of Mozart's Last Days: The Requiem Playlist. The following year, I penned the article, Dear Mozart: Remembrance in Light and Lettersfeaturing 24 photos from fans in 15 countries. The event has continued to evolve and gain reach in the Mozart fan community. 

To celebrate his birthday on January 27th, I've invited Mozartians to indulge in party activities inspired by the man himself such as jokes and pranks, billiards and dancing! I've encouraged them to share favorite quotes, recordings and other media along with their party photos and birthday wishes on the event page. In 2015, I realized a new celebratory idea through a collection of sentiments from fans around the world to present Mozart's first global birthday greeting at the Mozarthaus Vienna, his former residence. Submissions utilized various mediums and were created by a range of individuals, from professional artists and novelists to impassioned children! 

The joy and humanity of Mozart's music and the universal messages of love, unity and enlightenment conveyed within its measures remain relevant and necessary today. Its authenticity is beautifully captured by Mozart's fans in the many photos, comments and artworks they've shared on my event pages. Take a lookI hope that you'll join me on December 5th and January 27th so that our efforts will continue to inspire hearts everywhere as we celebrate Salzburg's native son.