Detail of a watercolor by Thomas Sandby, c. 1760. As we approach the anniversary of Mozart's passing on December 5th, I'm inviting M...

Piano and Place: Remembering Mozart Through His Art and Travels

Detail of a watercolor by Thomas Sandby, c. 1760.

As we approach the anniversary of Mozart's passing on December 5th, I'm inviting Mozartians to commemorate the day by joining my annual candlelight vigil on Facebook (read Illuminating Mozart's Eternal Flame to learn about last year's event).

To reflect on loss is to celebrate life. So, beyond hosting the vigil, I wanted to find a way to create some meaningful proximity to Mozart's biography. The social isolation and disconnect we've felt so acutely during the pandemic has affected our relationships with everything, including music. Because the last several months have lacked opportunity for audiences to more directly connect with performance art and its history through traditional avenues (ie. concerts, operas, tours, exhibits, cinema screenings), lethargy has replaced enthusiasm. And not only amongst audiences, but music professionals, including myself, who now face a collapsed industry at year's end. 

With the weight of this in mind, I'm even more committed to ensuring that December 5th isn't only about remembrance, but remembrance with a purpose to nurture and restore connection. Mozart spent one-third of his short life on the road, visiting 10 countries and over 200 cities. During an extraordinary year like 2020 when travel is almost unimaginable, what better way to reconnect with Mozart than through a virtual journey to experience his environs in musical context? 

Mozart on Tour is the order of the day! This television series (1984-1990) was reissued on Blu-ray by EuroArts, but is currently unavailable. Fortunately, I did some research and discovered that the Canadian television channel Stingray Classica scheduled the series for its 2020-2021 programming, and made all 13 episodes available on demand. The good news? You can take advantage of their free trial to access this content and more via their website or Prime Video. Please note that this is not an endorsement, affiliate marketing or brand ambassadorship. I'm sharing this series with you on my own accord for the benefit of audiences and music heritage preservation. 

Featuring a Mozart piano concerto at the heart of each episode, Mozart on Tour transports us to the cities and landmarks that were central to his life when this music was written and performed. The late AndrĂ© Previn hosts with a narrative accompanied by re-enactments, performances and tours of locations relevant to the history. Previn performs himself in two episodes and is joined by a cast of renowned musicians throughout the series. I've watched Episode 9: Vienna and Prague and a few excerpts from other episodes to become better acquainted with the material. Otherwise, this series is new to me and I look forward to exploring it with you!

A preview of the first episode...

Episode 1: London focuses on the family's journey to London when Mozart was just eight years old. Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12,  KV. 414 at Hampton Court Palace, where the family appeared for King George III and Queen Charlotte soon after their arrival in April 1764. This concerto was written in Vienna in 1782, so why is it relevant to London? Because its second movement contains a theme written by J.C. Bach who was Mozart's mentor during his 15 months in London. Bach died in early 1782, so Mozart's gesture is generally considered an homage.

Mozart on Tour spotlights some of the places where my work has been focused including the Villa Bertramka in Prague and the Mozarthaus Vienna. I organized the Mozart in Italia 250 project earlier this year to celebrate the 250the anniversary of Mozart's journey to Italy, but it was canceled due to the pandemic. It would be a dream for me to acquire the funding and resources to reimagine the concept of this series for contemporary audiences. Preservation isn't only about artifacts, manuscripts and musical performances. It's also about architectural heritage, our physical bond to traces of an artist's bygone existence in our world that endures beyond death.