Tag Archive: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Other Mozart, written by Sylvia Milo – performed by the Austrian actress Julia Rosa Stöckl at the HERE Arts Center, NYC

Julia Rosa Stöckl as Nannerl Mozart

Six of the performances in the summer run of Sylvia Milo’s The Other Mozart were performed by the Austrian actress, Julia Rosa Stöckl. It was fascinating in itself to see the play performed by an artist other than the author, and above all by a countrywoman of Nannerl Mozart herself. As at the other performances the house was almost sold out, and Ms. Stöckl received a resounding ovation for her elegant and psychologically penetrating performance.

The Other Mozart, written and acted by Sylvia Milo – at the HERE Arts Center, NYC, June 22 – July 12, and the Monomaffia Festival in Estonia

Sylvia Milo as Nannerl Mozart

One of the most remarkable theatrical presentations I saw in 2013, continuing on at various theaters in the United States and Europe, is Sylvia Milo’s The Other Mozart, a rich one-woman play she has conceived, written, and plays in, about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister Anna Maria, or Nannerl, as she was known in the family. Today it is easiest to identify her as “Mozart’s sister,” since even specialists know her mainly as one of the composer’s closest confidantes and correspondents. They shared parents, provincial Salzburg, travels, musical gifts, and scatological humor. While “Wolfi,” as she calls him, went to Vienna to seek his fortune in the odd limbo between musical servant, entrepreneur, and stable employment, at least in a preliminary form—which is what was available to him at the time, she accepted the conventional prescriptions of her father. A child prodigy at the keyboard, her musical scope became severely limited once she reached marriageable age. Music became an ornament rather than a profession for her; she had to learn housekeeping—all to attract a husband. At the late age of thirty-three, she was finally married to a husband chosen for her by father Leopold and lost whatever was left of her continually diminishing self-determination.

Mozart and Yellow Warblers: Recent Performances of the Piano Concertos on Disc (Part I of a Series)

While spending almost twenty years closely listening to Bach’s more than two hundred cantatas bewildered some of my friends would decry my project and say, “They all sound alike – how can you tell them apart?” These people, sophisticated music lovers who simply did not care for the Bach vocal repertory, refused to admit they glossed over these works in a superficial way. To my ears, of course, each and every cantata had uniqueness that clearly articulated it from the rest of the pack. Yes, there were many structural similarities, and Bach’s musical language is the unifying tongue, but, to say Bach’s cantatas all sounded alike seemed heretical, born of inferior taste and auditory skills. Years later, when I started watching birds, I came upon the family of yellow warblers, illustrated in Roger Tory Peterson’s definitive field guide. Boggled by the subtle markings which distinguish these birds, it seemed that page after page pictured the same damned bird, and I recalled my friends’ remarks about Bach’s vocal works.

Mark Wigglesworth, Stephen Hough and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra play Lutosławski, Mozart and Dvořák, and a Note on the Separateness of Math and Music

Stephen Hough

Witold Lutosławski when he conducted himself preferred programs consisting solely of his own music to avoid entrapping the audience members who just wanted to hear again a classic (invariably put at the very end) and to encourage listeners who wanted to hear his music. However cynical you want to be about making the audience sit through avant-garde music to get to the ultra-popular Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, this was actually an adventurous program in being such a mixture. Risking the melomanic equivalent of the bends, somehow just avoided by virtue of the performance, specifically the Sydney Symphony’s style and close cooperation with visiting Britons Mark Wigglesworth and the very intelligent and feeling pianist Stephen Hough, the musicians made it all seem to hang together naturally, if loosely.

Mahler’s Ninth. Vladimir Ashkenazy Conducts the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Richard Strauss once wondered about Mahler, to his face I believe, ‘Why don’t you write an opera? You could write such a good opera since you’ve put on so many at the Wiener Staatsoper.’ He didn’t understand and Mahler got pretty angry. In a way Mahler’s symphonies are operas without singers, a sort of total art, in a subjective sense — if that term doesn’t require total sensory stimulation — with vivid use of color and articulate deep expression. The level of abstraction attained by giving up words and human voices enabled him to express more faithfully what really gripped him. The Ninth, like all good symphonies, even more so for Mahler’s but especially in his Ninth, it is a multitude of contents, often all at the same time — ambiguity and paradox seem easily expressed, even refined in Mahler. Vladimir Ashkenazy’s and each of the instrumentalists’ attention and care for each melody, theme, chord and layer in the music make this so clear even as the complexity of the music seems to nourish them; they generously create something fascinating and consoling to listen to — in fact partly because of its complexity it sticks with the listener long afterward.

Pieter Wispelwey plays Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C with the Sydney Symphony

Oboist Diana Doherty led the first piece, the Mozart wind octet with a string bass, wood wind and horn players from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. A fine group of musicians who did shine in recent large symphonic performances, especially Mahler’s Sixth, it is nonetheless good they had the chance to play as a chamber group without a conductor. One might think the piece might be a little too intimate for the large symphonic hall, and it is occasional music composed for a specific room in a specific nobleman’s palace, like many of Mozart’s serenades, sinfoniettas, divertissements, cassations etc. Mozart in his letters often sounds nonchalant, though honestly so in a modest manner, when he describes composing such pieces, making a few florins on the side while traveling to a larger city or waiting for his next chance to write an opera. But he really put as much into them as a symphony and this octet is especially sublime. The musicians seemed to play it with a sense of occasion, since it did quite nicely fill the hall and being such danceable music, not even in just the minuet movements, the performance strongly evoked the ballroom, and a very tasteful one.

Mozart and Britten by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

I have heard it lamented “O, if only Mozart had written 25 violin concertos in the 1780’s and only 5 piano concertos.” Notwithstanding the alternate universe where Mozart lived to 89 and wrote many of each, the D major concerto for piano and violin, as Philip Wilby reconstructed it in 1985, goes some way to consoling the lamenting violinist. Mozart began composing the fragment (which W. J. Turner in his 20th century biography, disappointed not to have more of it, called a “remarkably fine work”) sometime during his month-long stay in Mannheim in 1778 on the way back to Salzburg from Paris. Whereas Mozart wrote the 5 violin concertos for himself to play, this concerto he intended for another violinist, Ignatz Franzl, probably intending to perform the piano part himself; he wrote to his father just before leaving Paris that he wanted to give up playing the violin. This was at a weighty juncture, or at least a phase change, in Mozart’s life often implicitly or explicitly considered the fulcrum between “early Mozart” and “late Mozart.” Indeed the double concerto shows some of the Mozartish profundity and ecstasy of the later piano concertos while still having much of the humor, play and levity of the young Mozart.