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Created: July 12, 2005
Latest Update: July 12, 2005
This backup copy is to be used only if the original site on the Web is not accessible. It is meant to preserve the document for teaching purposes, when sometimes the URLS are changed when sites are updated, or sites are eliminated. Please be certain to give credit if you refer to this to the original URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/11/arts/music/11moza.html. Original URL, consulted: Month Day, 2005.
July 11, 2005
An 18th-Century Road Trip and Other Meanderings
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Bone-jarring ruts and mud-caked wheels. Overturned carriages and constant delays. Bandits, illness and cold.
Travel was a grueling affair in the 18th century, but it was something Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did for most of his life: he was a traveling salesman of the sublime. Consider that he left home with his family at age 7 and remained on the road for 3 years, 5 months and 20 days.
The Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center has seized on this theme as an organizing principle for its 39th season, which opens on July 28. Programs are built, sometimes pretty loosely, around Mozart's stays in Paris, London, Italy and Prague. The concerts and lectures are presented under the rubric "Arrivals and Departures: Traveling With Mozart."
The concept exemplifies the effort that a mostly one-composer festival must make to stay fresh yet true to its mission. The perennial struggle to navigate between being too academic and too shallow intersects with the need to juggle the competing demands of soloists and programmers.
This festival has stretched the concept so much that several concerts revolve around Russia, a land Mozart never even visited (although he thought about doing so toward the end of his life, according to the Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein).
"We embrace our elasticity," said Jane S. Moss, the vice president for programming at Lincoln Center, who devised the programs in collaboration with Louis Langrée, the festival's music director.
"The theme is Mozart as related to these cities or countries, but it also is about creating a musical portrait above and beyond Mozart of those cities," Ms. Moss said in a recent interview. "It not incidentally creates a more varied musical palette for the festival, which is nice."
The Paris concerts, for example, include a program (Aug. 5 and 6) with the Symphony No. 31, the "Paris"; the Concerto for flute and harp, which Mozart composed in Paris; and Ravel's Piano Concerto in G, written 140 years after Mozart's death.
Mr. Langrée said by telephone from France that Ravel had called the concerto's slow movement a homage to Mozart. Ravel was said to have viewed the piece in the brilliant and light spirit of Mozart and Saint-Saëns.
Other Paris programs have works by composers Mozart "may have heard" in Paris, festival material says, like Jean-Philippe Rameau and Jean-Marie Leclair.
The Prague-related concerts (Aug. 9 and 10) include the "Prague" Symphony, No. 38, and the overture to "Don Giovanni," which had its premiere in Prague. But late-night concerts on those evenings feature the Tokyo String Quartet playing Dvorak and Smetana along with Mozart. The mix is designed to give a flavor of Bohemia, Mr. Langrée said.
The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra of Germany will do a solid Italy-related program (Aug. 14): works by Johann Adolf Hasse and Giovanni Battista Sammartini, maestros active in Italy who were known to Mozart (he particularly admired Hasse); the Symphony in D (K. 97), written in Rome; "Exsultate, Jubilate," written in Milan; and arias from two operas commissioned in Italy, "Mitridate, rè di Ponto" and "Lucio Silla."
Mozart spent 15 months in England during that first childhood grand tour. He composed his Symphony No. 1 there. The Gabrieli Consort, led by Paul McCreesh, will play it in a program (Aug. 11) that includes songs by the mostly London-based Johann Christian Bach, a strong influence on Mozart; Thomas Linley, the English violinist Mozart befriended in Florence, who died at 21; and Stephen Storace, part of a group of expatriate Britons Mozart knew in Vienna.
Another London program (Aug. 12 and 13) illustrates the difficulty of matching concept to performer. Mr. Langrée will conduct the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in J. C. Bach's Symphony in G minor; a tenor aria composed in London, "Va, dal furor portata"; Haydn's "London" Symphony; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1.
The Beethoven has no connection to Mozart. But the soloist, Garrick Ohlsson, insisted on playing it, Mr. Langrée said, gamely observing that the concerto was apparently the first Beethoven piece performed in London.
On the other hand, for opening night, the soprano Renée Fleming was persuaded to sing Mozart's aria with recitative "Bella mia fiamma ... Resta, o cara" because it was written in Prague. Mozart composed it for Josefa Dusek, a soprano and rumored love interest whom he often saw in the city. Dusek, according to Mozart family lore, had to lock him in a cottage to get him to finish it.
The Russia-themed concerts (Aug. 16 and 17) flowed partly from a desire by Mr. Langrée to conduct Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, Ms. Moss said. As the festival conveys it, the piece is classical; Mozart is Classical; so the piece is related to Mozart. Also on the same program are Alfred Schnittke's "Moz-Art à la Haydn" and Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, with Joshua Bell as soloist.
Ms. Moss said that Mr. Bell did not want to play a Mozart concerto, but he had agreed to the Tchaikovsky with an orchestra smaller than usual (thus more Mozartean). Mr. Langrée pointed out that the concerto was composed shortly after Tchaikovsky received an edition of the complete works of Mozart, whom he worshiped.
"The concept ends up being an essay in free association," Maynard Solomon, the author of an acclaimed 1995 biography of Mozart, said of some of the programs. "But that's O.K. It sounds like it's going to be great fun."
Mr. Solomon noted that Mozart's travels are a rich vein in Mozart scholarship and are crucial to understanding his essence as a composer. As he grew up and moved from city to city, Mozart absorbed the talent around him, sometimes composing in the local style to please local audiences, and emulsified these styles into his own genius. The journeys were a source of income, recognition and musical inspiration.
Being on the road with his violinist father as tutor, particularly on the grand tour from age 7 to 10, amounted to his elementary-school education, musical and otherwise.
"He got a sense of appreciation that was quite extraordinary," Mr. Solomon said of that first phenomenally successful tour, which was essentially a family enterprise. "For a child to be at the center of that is extraordinary and indescribable."
Even when Mozart settled in Vienna for the final decade of his life, he moved at least 11 times, suggesting that constant movement was a natural state, even an artistic need.
"Mozart was engaged in a continuing romance with the world," Mr. Solomon wrote in his biography, "which unfolded its wonders to him and rendered him its tributes."