“Children are given Mozart because of the small quantity of notes; grown-ups avoid Mozart because of the great quality of the notes.”
– pianist Artur Schnabel (1882-1951): My Life and Music (1961)

While January marks the birth of a new year, it has been about Mozart for me for as long as I can remember (only to be overtaken on the 31st by Franz Schubert’s birthday).

Mozart’s 253rd birthday is January 27th. I’d be a fool to attempt to add to the world’s body of knowledge and experience of Mozart. Bits of trivia pop up from time to time, like the facts that in a string of seven children, only he and his sister Nannerl survived, and that his full name was Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. I love the “Theophilus” part of his name, from the Greek, meaning “beloved of God” or “friend of God.” (I think the Creator knew the world would need Mozart for all time, to be both grounded in its humanity and reminded of the possibility of the Divine.) Theophilus becomes “Amadeus” in Latin and the world now knows him as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It is that middle name, Amadeus, which accounts for why people beyond the traditional confines of classical music know about Mozart. In 1979, Peter Shaffer wrote a stage play, “Amadeus,” about the lives of 18th century composers Antonio Salieri and Mozart. Mr. Shaffer then wrote a screenplay, and in 1984, joined by director Milos Forman, actors F. Murray Abraham (as Salieri), Tom Hulce (as Mozart), and Elizabeth Berridge (as Mozart’s wife, Constanza), the hit movie “Amadeus” was born.

One of the most poignant scenes in the movie, and for many, the words which maybe best describe Mozart’s music, is the scene where Salieri first sees a score of Mozart’s. It is the third movement, the Adagio, from his Serenade no. 10 in B flat, K.361/370a “Gran Partita”, the opening of which, even today (no matter how often you may have heard it) makes you stop whatever you are doing… and listen. (This happened to me, just a few minutes ago!)

And, just as the arresting melodies of that Adagio wind through and around each other, I am now winding my way to connect Mozart, anniversaries, “Amadeus” and Rush Hour:

2009 marks Rush Hour’s 10th birthday. When I asked my colleague of many years and Rush Hour advisory committee member Larry Combs how he thought we should mark the occasion, he suggested we open the season on June 2, 2009, with a performance of Mozart’s “Gran Partita.” I couldn’t be more excited! This great woodwind serenade for 13 instruments (2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 basset horns, 4 horns and one contrabass), written by Mozart at age 25, will resound in the eaves of RH’s home, St. James Cathedral. Larry will be joined by colleagues from the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the CSO, and other eminent wind players from Chicago. (Click here for a download of the second movement of the “Gran Partita” by CCM.) I can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate the beginning of RH’s 10th year of “Great Music for Busy Lives.”

Next month, I’ll announce the complete 10th anniversary season, and throughout the coming winter and spring months, I’ll talk with colleagues, RH advisors, and audience members about the last ten years and their thoughts going forward.

Now, to my recommendations for the rest of January:

Music will play an important role in the Presidential Inauguration next Tuesday, January 20. Of special note is a new composition by John Williams that will be performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Gabriela Montero, and clarinetist Anthony McGill. The ceremony will begin at 9:00 a.m. CST and will be broadcast on all major TV channels, as well as online.

There are still three excellent concerts at Northwestern’s Winter Chamber Music Festival; for more details and tickets, visit the Pick-Staiger website.

Friday, January 16 – 7:30 PM
Antonin Dvorák, String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat Major, Op. 105
Franz Schubert, String Quintet in C Major, Op. 163
Cassatt Quartet (Muneko Otani and Jennifer Leshnower, violin; Michiko Oshima, viola; Nicole Johnson, cello); Marc Johnson, cello

Sunday, January 18 – 7:30 PM
Bohuslav Martinu, Duo for Violin and Cello
Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor, Op. 19
Felix Mendelssohn, Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66
Shmuel Ashkenasi, violin; Marc Johnson, cello; Andrea Swan, piano

Friday, January 23 – 7:30 PM
Johannes Brahms, Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 40
Béla Bartók, Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano
Ludwig van Beethoven, Septet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon in E-flat Major, Op. 20
James Giles and Robert McDonald, piano; Joseph Genualdi and Gerardo Ribeiro, violin; Catherine Brubaker, viola; Stephen Balderston, cello; Michael Hovnanian, bass; Steven Cohen, clarinet; Christopher Millard, bassoon; Gail Williams, horn

Finally, Fulcrum Point combines music, literature, and dance to explore the world’s most ancient archetypes in “Modern Myths” on Tuesday, January 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Theater. Mention promo #3399 and get two-for-one tickets. Click here for more details and tickets.

Happy New Year,
Happy Birthday Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
Happy 10th Birthday, Rush Hour!

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

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