Evoking Reverence and Fear: Mozart’s 40th

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Posthumous portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart painted in 1819 by Barbara Krafft(Photo: Otto Erich Deutsch)
Posthumous portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart painted in 1819 by Barbara Krafft(Photo: Otto Erich Deutsch)

Boyce Lancaster talks with Maestro Albert-George Schram, the resident staff conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s 40th Symphony, a piece where Schram can hear Mozart’s muse in every note.

[audio src="http://wosu.org/audio/classical/2006/Mozart-40.mp3"]

Highlights From This Interview:

Albert-George: “I love Mozart’s muse, and I want everyone else to hear it the way I do. I had a teacher once who had not done Mozart’s 40 at all when he taught me the work, and taught me to study it, because he said ‘It’s too scary. I want to wait until I’m older.’ So I always had a great reverence for it, and fear, actually, because it’s supposed to be this profound thing. When you hear it, (you wonder) ‘Is it happy, or is it sad, or is it ambiguous?’”

Albert-George: “When I (conduct) it, I ask people what they think. I play the first (few bars), and I ask them what they think. Is it a happy piece or a sad piece? And then I play it for them very slowly. You get the ‘sighing’ thing. The whole symphony is full of sighs – probably a major hint. Sighs meaning the semi-tones. I have the whole audience sigh.”

Albert-George: “Then I have other funny places that I adore: the series of suspensions in the minuet. I just…I’m talking to God, or, rather, God is talking to me when that happens. It’s just incredible how a man like that could create music that way.”

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