Columbus Symphony this Weekend: Fathers and Sons

The Mozart family c. 1780. The deceased Anna Maria's portrait on the wall(Photo: arkiv)
The Mozart family c. 1780. The deceased Anna Maria's portrait on the wall(Photo: arkiv)

James Sommerville will be horn soloist and conductor for this weekend’ s concerts by the Columbus Symphony in the Southern Theater. We’ll hear music by Rossini, Haydn, Silvestrov and two Mozarts

The program is called Father and Son  We’ll learn more about the tortured relationship between Leopold Mozart and his son, Wolfgang Amade (Wolfgang never used the name ‘Amadeus)

Of the seven children born to Leopold Mozart and his wife, Maria Anna only two survived. A daughter, Maria Anna, always called “Nannerl” and the last baby, a son, Wolfgang. Even in an age when infant mortality rates were so high, the loss of five children in infancy had to be devastating, with the two remaining babies cherished all the more.

Leopold Mozart had the curse of doing everything right. Professionally. He was a good violinist. He was a good teacher and a good composer. His working life was dogged with “good” “fine” and adequate”.  He was a competent professional who would always do a good job and he was nothing special. Leopold never moved beyond a fourth chair violinist’s seat in the orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg. He wrote a good deal of music in Salzburg, including several masses for the archbishop’s chapel. These don’t survive, nor do any note s indicating their success or failure. This would indicate they were assigned, performed and forgotten.

Leopold’s Concerto in D for Horn and Strings  comes  from 1755. Wolfgang was born the following year. A generation separates this piece form Wolfgang’s Horn Concerto 3 but craft wise they are worlds apart.

Leopold is entertaining, decorative and well made. His music pleases but does not provoke. There’s nothing there to intrude or to bother. This was music to delight the nabobs of the archbishop’s court. Everything is right.

Leopold toured his children all over Europe from the time Wolfgang was five years old. They were exposed to every discomfort and every disease. It’s true they did play in front of th crowned heads of Europe, but there was minimal financial gain. The strain must have been terrible. So arduous were these tours that Mozart’s mother died in the midst of one, in Paris in 1777.  Leopold blamed his twenty year old son for neglecting his mother and causing her death. Leopold was not one to take responsibility. But where Leopold’s music towed the line and was well  made, his son became Wolfgang Amade Mozart, a gift from God. Wolfgang often did a lot with a little. His music was and is effortless, fresh and emotional, all at the same time. And don’t forget entertaining.

Mozart was 26 before he was able to escape Salzburg to make his way in Vienna. He lived 10 more years. Leopold was never reconciled to Mozart’s marriage to Constanze Weber-he thought her one step above a prostitute. The young couple had six children. All died but two sons. Leopold had little to do with these children, but raised Nannerl’s infant son until he was three years old. He may have been trying to develop a new Wolfgang Amade. It didn’t happen.

Valentin Silvestrov

This weekend’s concerts will introduce us to Valentin Silvestrov. He was born in Ukraine in 1937. Silvestrov works in many genres and his church music is very highly regarded. Stille Musick  Silent Music comes from 2003. This work for string orchestra is based on some earlier piano music. There are three movements: Waltz of the Hours; Evening Serenade; Moments of the Serenade . You listen to this soothing and beautiful music and you her a composer exposed to the angst of the new music of the 1960s and 1970s. He listeedn carefully and went his own way. Stille Musick  is music to enjoy.

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