January is many things to many people. For me, January is Mozart and Schubert and the celebration of their birthdays, January 27 and 31, respectively.
When Mozart was 21 years old, he wrote the following to his father, Leopold: “I cannot write in verse, for I am no poet. I cannot arrange the parts of speech with such art as to produce effects of light and shade, for I am no painter. Even by signs and gestures I cannot express my thoughts and feelings, for I am no dancer. But I can do so by means of sounds, for I am a musician.”
It is said that Schubert was so in awe of Beethoven – the man and his music – that when he attended a party in his hometown of Vienna and heard Beethoven was there, he quickly rushed out the door, too shy to meet him!
I say, thank God for both men and the treasures they have left the world. Both of their music is profoundly close to the condition of the human heart and soul, regardless of century, country or native tongue.
I have a few recommendations in the listening and reading departments for you around these birthdays:
First, the Piano Quartets of Mozart, with Arthur Rubenstein and members of the Guarneri Quartet, which can be found on BMG. My favorite recording of Schubert’s Piano Trios (in the top ten of my favorite chamber music repertoire) is by Andras Schiff, Yuuko Shiokawa and Miklos Perenyi. This disc, on Teldec, holds the bonus of the “Notturno” (a one movement piece of heaven) and his very demanding “Arpeggione Sonata” played here by cellist Perenyi and pianist Schiff.
Many people do not know that Mozart’s father, Leopold, was an esteemed pedagogue in the 19th century. (Most know him as the promoter and mentor of his famous son.) His book, A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing, from Oxford Press is a treasure of teaching insights as well as a peek into the mind of Mozart’s father and the performance style of the 18th century.
Schubert’s Vienna, from Yale University Press and edited by Raymond Erickson, takes the reader to the 18th century hometown of Schubert for 31 years and creates a fascinating and complete backdrop of this imperial city against which Schubert wrote his music daily.
Along with birthdays this month, my mind turns to children: Thirteen years ago, as a parent of young children, I was motivated to create The Chicago Chamber Musicians’ Annual Family Concert. I deliberately chose January as the month for this, in an effort to give parents something enriching and fun to do on weekend mornings, when they wouldn’t have competition from weekend soccer, baseball and other outdoor kids’ activities. I’ve been very pleased to see this annual event flourish. It is now in its thirteenth year, and partnering with Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier – a great winter spot for families.
This year’s concert, “Classical Idol,” takes place this weekend, January 19th and 20th, with two morning shows each day. For $2 off each ticket, call the Box Office (312.595.5600) and mention promotion code 5004 to receive your discount. There is a limit of 4 discounted tickets, and the offer is subject to availability and cannot be used in combination with any other offers or on previously purchased tickets. More information can be found on the CCM website.
And, if you are interested in hearing gifted kids perform, check out the “Young, Gifted and Stellar Musicians in Concert” featuring students from the Merit School of Music this Sunday, January 20th at 4 p.m. at St. James Cathedral. More information can be found on the St. James website.
There’s any number of things to keep you warm and inspired this month – both at home and out and about in our great city!