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Impossible Interviews April 2018: Giovanni De’ Bardi the Father of Opera & of Football

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Who is Giovanni de’ Bardi?

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Giovanni de’ Bardi: Opera & Football
Member of one of the most important families in Florence linked to the family Medici and Lorenzo il Magnifico and famous for being the bankers of the Kings of England through the Middle Ages, just few know that Giovanni de’ Bardi is a fundamental figure in the history of music, since in 1576-1592 he decided to found the Modern Melodramma (and therefore the Modern Opera) and to develop the musical form of Monody (against Polyphony)…

And…

… seriously convinced to revive the ancient games of football of the Ancient Greeks and of the Ancient Romans, in 1580 Giovanni de’ Bardi first wrote the official rules of Calcio Fiorentino, founding thus the first Modern Football Game regulated by a precise code of rules, a first Modern Football Game with code of rules that will be the model to all the other forms of Modern Football Games from Soccer to Rugby and American Football…

de’ Bardi i.e. of the Bards: nomen omen
As for the case of Volta, also de’ Bardi is a meaningful surname.
Alessandro Volta is the modern pioneer of electricity (inventor of the electrical battery) and discoverer of methane at Lake Maggiore (in 1776: Mozart, Piano Concertos K.238 and K.246; Haydn, Symphony No. 61 and No. 66) and in the Apennine Mountains in Italy. But the most curious thing is that his surname Volta is a very ancient Etruscan name of a monster of the Tuscan Apennine Mountains, represented as a sort of killing monstrous wolf emerging from the wells and the depth of the earth like a natural gas (methane). And this Etruscan monster Volta was killed by electricity through a lightning hurled down from the sky after special prayers by the Etruscan priests of lightning (see Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, II, 54, 140).
The Florentine surname Bardi/de’ Bardi comes from the very Celtic word Bardus, i.e. bard in English and bardo in Italian, a man who invents and plays music and sings, both a verse-maker and a music composer,… What a meaningful surname for the man, Giovanni de’ Bardi, who in the 16th century deliberately decided to found the Modern Opera and the Monody music, in the attempt to revive the ancient forms of Ancient Greek music.

de’ Bardi: the great bank & wool companies of Florence
The family de’ Bardi (or simply Bardi), in Florence since the 10th century AD, was one of the most important and powerful families in Florence. Through their commercial company, the Compagnia de’ Bardi, they ran important international banks and also factories for the treatment of wool, wool which usually arrived in Florence from England in great quantities.
The Compagnia de’ Bardi had many offices in Italy, in Europe, in Africa and Asia:
a-(Italy) Ancona, Aquila, Bari, Barletta, Castello di Castro, Genova, Napoli, Orvieto, Palermo, Pisa, Venezia;
b-(Europe) Avignone, Barcellona, Bruges, Cipro, Maiorca, Marsiglia, Nizza, Parigi, Rodi, Siviglia;
c-(Asia) Constantinopole, Jerusalem;
d-(Africa) Tunisi;
e-(Rome) one of three major banks of the Pope in Rome with Peruzzi and Acciaiuoli;
f-Bank of the King of England, of the King of France and of the King of Naples.
In Florence the Family de’ Bardi had 60 Family houses, of which 45 were located in Oltrarno. The city street of origin of their Family was the via de’ Bardi(Oltrarno) and their major palaces were Palazzo Canigiani (via de’ Bardi nn. 28-30, Florence) and Palazzo Bardi (via Benci n. 5, Florence).
In 1810 the main family de’ Bardi was extinct and their properties were incorporated in the properties of the famous family Guicciardini (the descendants of famous figures like Francesco Guicciardini; and again nomen omen the family name means Hunting horns).
The last surviving member of the Family de’ Bardi died in 1964 in Florence as Bardi Serzelli conte di Vernio, who lived in the Family Palace used by Giovanni de’ Bardi for his music Camerata in 1576-1592 and who left an important series of pictures to the Uffizi Gallery of Florence.

de’ Bardi in Florence: Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio
The importance of the Family de’ Bardi was not only linked to their activity of major bankers, but also to a fundamental connection with two major figures of the Italian and International Literature: Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio.
If Dante’s Beatrice (the central inspirational character of his books Vita Novaand Divina Commedia) is really Beatrice Portinari, Beatrice (called Bice) got married to Simone de’ Bardi (called Mone) as his first wife, when she was ca. 15 years old. As is well known, Beatrice died when she was still young (8 June 1290) and Mone de’ Bardi got married to his second wife, Sibilla (called Bilia) Deciaioli. Mone de’ Bardi had, at least, three children: Francesca, Bartolo and Gemma. Unfortunately, we do not know if Mone’s children were children also of Beatrice (his first wife) or of Sibilla (his second wife). However, the three children of Mone then got married to other members of the major Florence families, the Strozzi and the de’ Medici, so that Contessina de’ Bardi was the grand-mother of the great Lorenzo de’ Medici il Magnifico himself.

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The father of Giovanni Boccaccio, that Giovanni Boccaccio, author of the Decameron and who, with Francesco Petrarca, opened in Florence the first modern University Course of Ancient Greek (the first European professor of Ancient Greek was Leonzio Pilato, pupil of Barlaam Calabro) and financed the first modern translations of the ancient Greek books and in this way opened the way to the European Humanism and the Renaissance, his father was a major official of the Bank of the Bardi in Naples, responsible for the management of the money of the King of Naples. How this Naples experience in his youth with his father, as bank official of the Bardi at the court of the King of Naples, was crucial to Giovanni Boccaccio’s life and to his literary works is well known.

Giovanni de’ Bardi: the founder of the modern football games
Giovanni de’ Bardi, was not only a member of the Florentine Aristocracy well trained in both Latin and Ancient Greek and Music Composition, but he was also a well known military commander, who had had an adventurous and tempestuous life in his youth spent in Florence.
As a military commander, Giovanni de’ Bardi took part in various campaigns in Europe and in the Mediterranean. He fought for the de’ Medici against Siena, then he was at the Siege of Malta in 1565 and, once nominated captain, he fought victoriously in Hungary for the Emperor Maximillian II.
His great interest in the antiquities and in the necessity of a fundamental military training led him to establish, once and for all, the rules for an ancient Florence football game, which he thought crucial to the training of the young aristocratic men of Florence to the military life.
In order to better achieve his intent, Giovanni de’ Bardi studied the historical origin of the ancient football game typical of Florence and so he tracked its origin in the Ancient Greece football games Episkyros (i.e. the Game of the Ball on the Skyros Central Line) and Phaininda (i.e. the Deceiving Game with the Ball) from which the Romans derived their own version of this football game, the Harpastum(i.e. the Game of Carrying the Ball Away). Being Florence an ancient Roman town established by Julius Caesar himself in 59 BC, there was/is a certain real possibility that the Roman game Harpastum just survived in Florence, across the Medieval centuries, as the ancient Florence football game.
This ancient football game is described in this way by Julius Pollux in his book Onomasticon (9, 104-105):
1-2 teams one before the other on a field;
2-the field divided in 2 halves by a central line, called skyros;
3-the game starts with the ball positioned on the skyros central line (after this the name of the game Epi-skyros);
4-there are 2 backlines behind each team;
5-one team wins by carrying the adversary team/ball beyond the adversaries’ own backline.

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According to the various sources we have, this kind of football game (already used in ancient Sparta, played by two teams of 12/14 men each and with a ball of leather inflated with air and called kenysphaira or follis) was very similar to modern Rugby with the addition of a few characteristics typical of Soccer (and, in general, it was a game even more violent than Rugby and American Football): and this is how Calcio Fiorentino (i.e. Florentine Kick Game) actually works. This kind of game was also praised by Galen in his treatise De parvae pilae exercitio(On the exercise with the small ball), as perfect for the physical exercise of the body.
Hence in 1580, following the authority of the ancient lexicographers, antiquarians, physicians and surgeons, Giovanni de’ Bardi finally established the fundamental 33 rules of the game of football with his book Discorso sopra il giuoco del Calcio Fiorentino, being the first in history to do so and creating thus a game similar both to Soccer and to Rugby/American Football.

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Since de’ Bardi’s football game (Calcio Fiorentino) was the first football game governed by established rules and the Florentine cultural activities always being highly influential across Europe, we understand how the rules defined by de’ Bardi worked as a fundamental model and reference for any kind of modern football game.
Today Calcio Fiorentino is still played in Piazza Santa Croce (Florence) every year (see videos infra).

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Since de’ Bardi, at the beginning, wanted the game to be an elite game for the aristocratic families (a sort of military exercise in the form of a football game, as the Harpastum was for the ancient Romans), families who usually were also in charge of the military activities of Florence, many important historical figures used to play Calcio Fiorentino throughout the centuries, even though it was a very violent, hard and tough game: among them there are three popes (Clemens VII, Leo XI, Urbanus VIII) and many political leaders and men from the Italian major aristocratic families (de’ Medici, Gonzaga, Barberini) and even the French princes of Condé (cadets of the House of Bourbon).

Read the Book on Football by Giovanni de’ Bardi (Florence 1580, .pdf file)

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Videos on History and Tradition of Calcio Fiorentino

Giovanni de’ Bardi: the founder of modern opera
Giovanni de’ Bardi was also well trained in the art of music and his love for the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman traditions led him to develop the art of music, by reviving the ancient musical forms as described in the ancient manuscripts: a typical behaviour of a man of the Renaissance, who cultivated the love for the Ancient texts and traditions, like the truest Humanist, inspired by the Florentine Petrarca’s and Boccaccio’s first activities in this field (see supra).

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Thus Giovanni de’ Bardi, in a period between 1576 and 1592, started a series of musical activities carried on by a group of people who usually kept their sessions of cultural discussions and of music playing at de’ Bardi’s own palace in Florence, Palazzo Bardi (via de’ Benci n. 5, Florence). This group received the name of Camerata de’ Bardi or Florentine Camerata. It was made up by composers, music theorists and scholars and was led by Giovanni de’ Bardi himself (the patron and host), who was also a music composer (unfortunately most of his music works went lost and are still lost).

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Among the major composers and theorists who worked with Giovanni de’ Bardi there were the most famous Vincenzo Galilei (the father of the astronomer Galileo Galilei), Giulio Caccini (the composer of the first operas ever written) and Pietro Strozzi. The musical activities of this group were inspired by the works and the ideas of the scholar Girolamo Mei, a specialist of Ancient Greek drama and music, and were summarized in a series of books and works crucial to the development of modern melodramma/opera/monody:
1-Giovanni de’ Bardi, Discorso mandato… a G. Caccini sopra la musica antica e ‘l cantar bene;
2-Vincenzo Galilei (dedicated to Giovanni de’ Bardi), Dialogo della musica antica et della moderna;
3-Pietro de’ Bardi (son of Giovanni de’ Bardi), Lettera a G. B. Doni (describing the activities of the Camerata de’ Bardi and the birth of melodramma/opera);
4-Giulio Caccini, Le Nuove Musiche (the most important and theoretical part is its introduction Prefazione about Plato’s and other Greek philosophers’ theories on music and singing and the necessity of creating a new type of music different from the polyphony: effetti… che non potevano farsi per il contrappunto nelle moderne musiche, i.e. effects… that it was not possible to create through the counterpoint in the modern music pieces; Giulio Caccini was also an important music teacher of the new monody style and had many pupils ready to wide spread the new techniques, among them also collaborators of Monteverdi himself)
5-Jacopo Peri, Introduction to the score of Euridice (ritrovare questa nuova maniera di canto… gli antichi greci, i quali cantavano sulle scene le tragedie intere, i.e. to find out this new form of singing… the Ancient Greeks, who used to sing entire tragedies on stage)

The efforts and studies carried on by the Camerata since 1573 were finally supported, in the 1590s, by a new rival Florentine cultural circle led by Jacopo Corsi, who managed to gather around himself the same scholars and theorists who were involved also in the Camerata activities.
In this way, the two rival groups led Jacopo Corsi himself, Jacopo Corsi’s composer, Jacopo Peri, and de’ Bardi’s poet Ottavio Rinuccini to collaborate in creating the first opera ever written Dafne (unfortunately a work still lost: there are just a few fragments left of this opera composed both by Jacopo Corsi and by Jacopo Peri) in 1597/1598 (premiere probably 26 December 1598, Palazzo Tornabuoni, Florence, the palace of Jacopo Corsi).
Two years later the collaboration of the two composers Jacopo Peri (patron Jacopo Corsi) and Giulio Caccini (patron Giovanni de’ Bardi) with de’ Bardi’s poet Rinuccini led to the premiere of the second opera in history and the earliest still surviving opera, Euridice (premiere 6 October 1600, Palazzo Pitti, Florence).

Full performance of the earliest opera survived: Euridice by Peri & Caccini

So, in this way, that man, Giovanni de’ Bardi, that John of the Bards, who had founded the modern football games in 1580, managed to found also modern opera, the art of to act singing (il recitar cantando, an expression invented and introduced in 1600 by one of the composers of his Camerata de’ Bardi, Emilio de’ Cavalieri)…

Works by Peri, Caccini and Monteverdi at Palazzo Bardi, Florence

Monody or polyphony: a dilemma from de’ Bardi to Gluck, Mozart & Wagner
To create the melodramma/opera the Camerata de’ Bardi had to develop the technique of the monody and did this, by following the instructions of the Ancient Greece philosophers and theorists. Therefore monody started acquiring a position of contrast to the traditional polyphony style of that period, a polyphony style perceived as highly complicated (up to the obscurity), a corrupt and twisted form of music, incapable of conveying real emotional effects to an audience (nonetheless, as far as we know, it seems that both de’ Bardi and Caccini, in the end, thought that that counterposition of the two styles had not to be so completely radical).
Moreover the ideas of simplicity and of perspicuity which were cultivated with the monody style (that’s to say a canto and an accompanied basso with some chordal harmony, leading, in the end, to a recitativo, arioso and aria style) created a sort of dilemma, which had a great highly influential role in the history of music: monody vs. polyphony or harmony vs. counterpoint or homophonic-melodic treatment vs. contrapuntal treatment, as Schoenberg put it?
If we comprehend this passage well, we’ll better understand why the aesthetic ideas behind major composers like Paisiello found music perspicuity a fundamental aspect of the work of a music composer and which theoretical ideas led Gluck to carry on a reform of opera which had to change the structure of opera itself into a sort of simplified (also musically speaking) aboriginal purity. How Wagner developed such ideas, also from Gluck, into his form of opera/theatre (recitar cantando) is well known.
And we comprehend also why composers like Haydn and Mozart, following the ideas of C.P.E Bach, cultivated and developed forms of music, which were fundamentally and theoretically an amazing, marvellous and highly developed combination of the two techniques, the homophonic technique and the contrapuntal one, and why a certain acrimony emerged in Vienna between the Haydn-Mozart group of people and the Gluck group of people (among them Gluck’s pupil and official successor Salieri) with those many various accusations carried against Mozart and his opera writing: too many noteslack of respect for wordGerman rubbish, due to its open contrast to the Italian and Gluckian simplified purity.

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WORKS BY DE’ BARDI
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A) Theoretical writings on music by de’ Bardi:

• Discorso mandato… a G. Caccini sopra la musica antica e ‘l cantare bene

He left also many works on Literature.

B) Compositions by de’ Bardi:

Unfortunately most of his works went lost. Here the surviving works:
• Miseri habitator (intermedii del 1589)
• Lauro, ohimé Lauro (1582)

At imslp.org de’ Bardi’s works (but the man in a portrait by Raffaello at IMSLP is Baldassare Castiglione and not Giovanni de’ Bardi):
Giovanni de’ Bardi at IMSLP.

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CD Spotlight April 2018: 2 Piano Concertos by the Son of Mozart

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Franz Xaver Mozart

F.X. Mozart, the son of Mozart
born in 1791, was a good and
talented musician. Unfortunately
being Mozart his father created
serious difficulties to his career
both as musician and as composer.
Let’s re-discover his works
a few of them considered even by
young Liszt for some time.

Howard Shelley
Sinfonieorchester St. Gallen

Hyperion Records

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Interview March 2018: 10 Questions with D. Curtis

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David Curtis: Official Sites
David Curtis Site: David Curtis Official Site
David Curtis: David Curtis (Twitter)
David Curtis: David Curtis (LinkedIn)
David Curtis: Orchestra of the Swan Official Site
David Curtis: Orchestra of the Swan (YouTube)
David Curtis: Hungarian Symphony Orchestra Miskolc

David Curtis: CD Albums
David Curtis: Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos
David Curtis: Mozart: Piano Concertos K413-K414-K415


1. You have recently conducted a Concerto with Tamsin Waley-Cohen playing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 (21-22 November 2017). You both had already produced a marvellous CD with the Violin Concertos by Mendelssohn in 2013. What are your considerations on these two different series of Violin Concertos? Is there some sort of continuity or not? What has been your experience during the recording sessions of Mendelssohn and when preparing the Concertos by Mozart?

The set of 5 Mozart violin concertos composed from 1773 to 1776 form a core part of any violinist’s concerto repertoire, especially numbers 3, 4 and 5 though the first two are also worth exploring. As with all of Mozart’s repertoire they are deceptively difficult, extremely sophisticated and require playing and musical understanding of the very highest degree. I was recently invited to a semi-final of the Singapore International Violin Competition, the Mozart Concerto round, and it was indeed highly revealing.

The Mendelssohn early concertos for violin and violin & piano with string orchestra present their own challenges for the soloists. Unlike the Mozart concertos, probably composed for him to perform as concertmaster in Salzburg, the Mendelssohn concertos were first performed by violinist Eduard Rietz with Mendelssohn at the piano. They are clearly more juvenile and less sophisticated than the Mozart and, in some senses, are more reliant on the soloist having a sympathetic understanding of the composer’s intention.

The great conducting guru Jorma Panula is always insistent that «a conductor’s role is not to interpret but realise the composer’s intentions» and soloists of the calibre, sensitivity and understanding of Tamsin Waley-Cohen and pianist/composer Huw Watkins clearly distinguish between these two.

That said the Mendelssohn concertos are a genuine delight to perform and to listen to when played with such freshness and joy as on this disc with Huw and Tamsin. I believe they, and the strings of Orchestra of the Swan, absolutely capture the essence of the music and the composer’s intention. The music has, in my view, a certain youthful energy, charm, naivety and sheer exuberance, semi-quavers rushing around like a hormonal teenager. I don’t believe it is the most sophisticated music and to treat it as though it were somehow rather misses the point. Even a composer of Mendelssohn’s extraordinary gifts and genius must still have had youthful enthusiasm.

Trying to capture the music, as opposed to the notes, in any recording can be difficult and the challenge in recording the Mendelssohn concertos was to ensure that we kept alive to the youthfulness and charm of these two early gems and as the CD is the BBC Music Magazine’s Recommended Choice others seem to agree!

A live performance is very different and Tamsin and I have performed concertos by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, all 3 Mendelssohn, Mozart, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Vaughan Williams and Huw Watkins, in over 35 concerts in the UK, Istanbul and Mexico and I think this has develop a mutual respect and trust between us. Rehearsal are a continual exploration of the score, our approach is always collaborative and, perhaps reflecting my background as viola player in the Coull Quartet. for 30 years, and her chamber music experience, I think be both bring a chamber music approach to our performances, achieving both an intimacy and a directness. I never try to get in the way and one of my most memorable reviews was from Chris Morley, Senior Music Critic at the Birmingham Post who observed during a performance of The Lark Ascending that «Curtis is a conductor who clearly knows when not to!» I took that as a compliment to both me, Tasmin and the members of the orchestra.

Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Tamsin Waley-Cohen

Pre-Concert Talk Mozart Concerto November 2017

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2. You have produced also a beautiful CD Album with the piano concertos KV413-414-415 composed by Mozart. and you always have, in the repertoire of your various seasons, works by Mozart, Haydn and also Dittersdorf. What is your relationship with the music of the Classical Era and what attracts you most about the music of this period?

I think the answer to this question lies in my studies at the Royal Academy of Music with Stephen Shingles, former principal viola at the Academy of St. Martins, and Sidney Griller, professor of chamber music at the RAM and leader of the Griller String Quartet from 1931 – 1961. The Coull Quartet had chamber music coaching from Sidney pretty much every week for there and a half years before leaving the Academy to become Quartet in Residence at Warwick University in 1978, a 3 year contract that, 40 years later, still continues!

For the first year or so with Sidney my recollection is that we learned a new Haydn string quartet almost weekly, later complemented by Mozart, early, middle and finally late Beethoven! Although this may seem an unorthodox route to train as a conductor in retrospect I think it was absolutely invaluable. Those sessions with Sidney and my subsequent career in the Coull viola player really gave me an understanding of the roles of the various voices in a quartet and given my view that an orchestra is simply a larger quartet, the same holds true. My approach with chamber and symphony orchestras is very much a collaborative chamber music based ethos, if an orchestra really listens and play as an ensemble then the role of the conductor is transformed.

In answer then to the question What attracts you most about the music of this period? is that as all the great orchestral repertoire springs from the well of this period, an understanding of Haydn, Mozart et alii is essential to developing a sound orchestral technique on which to build.

On a personal note I’m often dismayed to hear performances of Haydn symphonies which lack charm, wit, humour and humanity, all too often these performances are given by major symphony orchestras with esteemed maestros… who have clearly never played a Haydn quartet. I’ve often been asked which composer I would most like to have as Resident Composer to which my answer is always Haydn. Mozart would be impossible to work with, Beethoven simply too terrifying but Haydn, here was a composer who wrote not for his patrons, not for his audiences but above all for his musicians.

I also mentioned Steve Shingles and the Academy of St. Martins and one of the earliest influences I had was hearing the Academy, with Steve as principal viola, on a recording of Mozart Divertimento K136 when I was about 10 years old. I had simply never heard playing like it and had no idea that an orchestra could sound like that. I still have the LP in my collection and the vitality of the early Academy recordings has been a huge inspiration and influence in what I have tried to achieve.

Steve Shingles used to play a Lavazza viola I later bought from him and played on in Coull Quartet for many years.

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Julian Bliss presents Weber Clarinet Concerto with Orchestra of the Swan

3. You have conducted a series of concerto-events in collaboration with BBC for the recent celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare. And also this year 2017 your Orchestra of the Swan has been involved into special Shakespeare oriented events in collaboration with the RSC, like Musical Transformations (October 2017). How do you see this synergy Shakespeare & music and are there other projects of this kind for the future?

Being based in Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon there are clearly potential major influences on Orchestra of the Swan’s programming, Shakespeare’s influence on composers from his own time to the present day is difficult to over-estimate and I have in my bookcase a four volume index and cross reference of music relating to Shakespeare whether it be major works such as the Romeo and Juliet overtures and ballet suites to far smaller songs and incidental music for the plays.

Much of the music composed has been for large scale symphony orchestra, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Verdi immediately spring to mind which are obviously not practical for a chamber orchestra, however there are less well know works and of course, as a champion of new music we commissioned a series of new works for the 450th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare in 2014 and a major new work for choir and chamber orchestra from Dobrinka Tabakova, Immortal Shakespeare, which we performed in Holy Trinity Church Stratford-upon-Avon on Sunday 23 April 2016. The church is of course Shakespeare’s final resting place and the performance was the day after St Georges day so exactly 400 years and 1 day since the bard’s death. The performance was recorded for BBC Radio 3 and I hope to record Immortal Shakespeare at some future date, watch this space.

For the 450th anniversary I commissioned new work from Roger Steptoe, Huw Watkins, Roxanna Panufnik and Pete Wyer and I also ran an international composition competition won by Kristina Arakelyan and her setting of Sonnet 115.

We also performed repertoire by Finzi, the Love’s Labours Lost Suite, a much under-rated work, Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing Suite and Howard Blake created a special version of his suite for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and of course, Mendelssohn’s complete incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream with four narrators taking key roles.

We later performed the Mendelssohn in the Istanbul Festival with leading Turkish actress Tilbe Saran taking the role of narrator. For me this was an interesting experience to say the very least. Tilbe was reading the script in Turkish and I had on my stand my score for the orchestra, her script in Turkish and the original Shakespeare. Tilbe and I decided at a rehearsal with piano the previous day that we’d smile at each other and make it work. It certainly seemed to as after the performance I was congratulated on my clear understanding of Turkish as I’d been able to follow every nuance of Tilbe’s delivery. Smiles really go a very long way in delivering a great performance!

Our commission programme celebrating Shakespeare even extended to our tour to Mexico in November 2016 when Anglo Arts Mexico commissioned the young Mexican composer Alejandro Basulto to compose a new work for the tour. His Jig Variations, based on an original Elizabethan melody with nine variations each based on contemporary Mexican dance rhythms, celebrated Kemp’s jig from London to Norwich after he fell out with Shakespeare and devised this publicity stunt.

Shakespeare’s influence is very much alive and well!

Immortal Shakespeare – Dobrinka Tabakova (21 April 2016)

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4. What’s the origin of the name of your Orchestra Orchestra of the Swan and what’s the story behind its foundation over twenty years ago? You have recently received your new position as Principal Guest Conductor of the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra (Miskolc) and the overseas touring of your Orchestra is increasing considerably in these two years: what are your projects in this wider scenario? When you work with these different orchestras in different countries and you are preparing a new series of concerts, what are your pieces of advice to the musicians on approaching Mozart and on approaching Haydn? What do you think fundamental for a marvellous performance?

The story behind Orchestra of the Swan is very simple and perhaps surprising…

… In 1995 I was approached by the then director of the Stratford Music Festival who asked if I could fix a small string orchestra for a concert in the festival that would also enable his very talented daughter to perform the Mathias clarinet concerto. On a whim I agreed and called various friends to see if they’d like to play in the concert, several agreed but also asked who would conduct, my reply simply being that as there was no budget for a conductor I’d take it on myself to wave my arms around. So, we had a date, a soloist, a programme, a conductor, players fixed… but no name for the orchestra. Several of us met some months before the event and threw around various names; Stratford Chamber Orchestra, Midland Chamber Orchestra, Shakespeare Players etc., finally someone, it may or may not have been me said, «there are swans everywhere in Stratford, how about Orchestra of the Swan?»…

… As it was by then getting late and we’d all had several glasses of wine we agreed that would do.

The concert seemed to go well, everyone had a good time and the following year we were back at the festival again when it occurred to me that perhaps Stratford could support a small chamber orchestra series so the following season I promoted series of 6 string orchestra programmes and I believe I persuaded pianist Alan Schiller, with whom I’d worked with in the Coull Quartet, to perform the 3 Mozart concertos K412, 413 and 414 with us; plus ca change plus ca la meme chose!

Since then OOTS has grown organically but in some ways I’ve tried to hold true to the original idea, find a group of players who want to enjoy making music together, nurture young and emerging talent, perform great repertoire from the classical canon and work with outstanding soloists.

As I leave OOTS to concentrate on my other projects and conducting I can reflect that 22 years later it seems to have done the trick!

My approach with other orchestras is fundamentally the same, though most of the repertoire with the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra (Miskolc) is rather larger scale, this season my programming has included Holst Planets Suite, Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, Dvorak Symphony No. 8 and contemporary work by Roland Szentpali – concerto for 4 saxophones, Theo Verbey – Fractal Symphony, Frigyes Hidas – concerto for 2 trombones then in March the Oscar Navarro – clarinet concerto (www.mso.hu) and a new commission from American composer and colleague Peter Lieuwen, Heartland (www.mso.hu), which draws on American and Hungarian folk influence and will be premiered on April 27 in Miskolc with the composer present, do join us!

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

How on earth to choose single favourite work from these two great masters, these are the really difficult questions but for Mozart I would choose his opera The Magic Flute.

For me Mozart is at his greatest when writing for the voice but so often we hear this in other repertoire, particularly the piano concertos which perhaps come closest to his operas. For me this also determines my approach to conducting Mozart, my question is always «is the music singing, is the tempo right for the music to sing?»…

… Wagner is reputed to have said that 90% of conducting is finding the right tempo (Wagner: The whole duty of a conductor is comprised etc., 1869) and yes, I believe that’s probably pretty accurate and with Mozart if the performance is too fast to hear the voice or to slow to sustain the line then, it’s probably too fast or too slow!

Haydn is even harder to answer, there are so many great works, an obvious choice would be The Creation, perhaps one of the late great Paris or London series of symphonies or an earlier, quirkier symphony such as the Farewell, certainly a great favourite of mine, even if F# minor/F# major does pose some problems for the performers as well as probably taxing the ears of the court at Esterhazy!

So, I’m going to choose one of Haydn’s quartets that I performed on many occasions with the Coull Quartet, the Sunrise Opus 76 No. 4 (with the Coull Quartet I had also recorded Haydn’s quartets Op. 33 Nos. 1-6).

The Sunrise Quartet is such a great work, a joy to perform and to listen to and I love Haydn’s some typical self-deprecating comments, like «Ah, yes, but it still reminds me of great amount of work that remains to be, even by someone like myself».

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

I think that Christian Cannabich (1731 – 1798) is a composer and violinist who certainly deserves to be more widely recognised, not just as a composer of numerous operas, ballets, symphonies, concertos string quartets and piano trios, but even more importantly as the director of the Mannheim court orchestra, a role he assumed on the premature death of Johann Stamitz with whom he’d previously studied.

His role as Director of the Mannheim Orchestra from 1774-1798 saw a flowering of one of the finest orchestras of the period which perhaps laid the foundations of modern orchestral technique. The Mannheim orchestra was renowned for its excellent discipline, the individual skill of its players and their performance style which included new dynamic elements, crescendi and diminuendi which allowed of the full orchestra to accompany a soloist without covering them since the Mannheim orchestra members were all virtuosi, the composers who wrote for them could create new orchestral sounds by capitalizing on this new development.

It’s hardly surprising that from 1777, 3 years after Cannabich assumed his role as Director, that Mozart visited Mannheim several times beginning and became a good friend of Cannabich, indeed Mozart lived for a time in the Cannabich household and gave almost daily keyboard lessons to Cannabich’s daughter. Mozart greatly admired Cannabich, writing in his letters «Cannabich, who is the best director that I have ever seen, has the love and awe of those under him» (9 July 1778) and in a letter to his father he wrote; «I cannot tell you what a good friend Cannabich is to me».

For Mozart to speak so highly of Christian Cannabich speaks volumes to me and surely justifies re-evaluation of his music and place in the development of orchestra technique.

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency. 

I’d like to cheat a little here if I may and choose a work premiered on 7 April 1805, the Symphony in Eb by Anton Eberl.

Eberl (1765 –1807) studied piano and composition from Mozart and as well as being a prolific composer he was an outstanding pianist. Most of his works are now sadly lost but during his lifetime his work was so highly regarded that it was frequently passed off as being by… Mozart.

This so appalled Eberl that he finally published the following notice in a newspaper «However flattering it may be that even connoisseurs were capable of judging these works to be the products of Mozart, I can in no way allow the musical public to be left under this delusion».

Contemporary critics also wrote in the Berlin Musical Journal that; «Since the symphonies of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, nothing but this symphony has been written which could be placed alongside theirs».

The reason for my choice of Eberl’s E flat major Symphony lies in the significance of the date of its premiere and companion work in the same programme.

The Eberl symphony is indeed a charming work and, at the time was reviewed rather more favourably than the other symphony in Eb that was also performed in that same concert, the symphony in question being of course Beethoven’s Eroica

… I choose this symphony not in any way to diminish Eberl’s reputation, his work deserves to be more widely played, but I’d invite readers to consider this. After hearing a very charming but essentially rather light-weight work by Eberl, consider hearing perhaps the world’s greatest symphony being premiered. Nothing demonstrates to me more strongly that this was a pivotal moment in music history.

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

The book I’d choose is not specifically on the Mozart Era but a book primarily written with conductors in mind by the late, and very great conductor Erich Leinsdorf, The Composers Advocate, subtitled A Radical Orthodoxy for Musicians and published by Yale University Press.

In his preface he says «the musician is privileged to make a living while dwelling each day with genius». Genius is a description that is now banded around all too frequently but there is no doubt that if we are working with music of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven et alii we are indeed «dwelling each day with genius».

And with that lies a responsibility to the composer, our fellow musicians and of course our audiences and I refer back to Jorma Panula’s distinction between interpretation and realisation again springs to mind.

This is a book that demands that conductors real know and understand their craft, the titles of the 7 chapters almost biblical in their direct simplicity:
1. Knowing the Score
2. Knowing the Composer
3. Knowing What Composers Wanted
4. Knowing Musical Tradition
5. Knowing the Right Tempo: 1
6. Knowing the Right Tempo: 2
7. Knowing the Conductors Role

It couldn’t be much clearer, and I find it telling that he devotes not one, but two chapters to tempo, we’re back to Wagner’s assertion that 90% of conducting is finding the right tempo!

Needless to say, this is a book I strongly recommend to any conducting class I take.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

My answer here may be something of a surprise, a cliché and perhaps be considered too lightweight but I suggest Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus.

Now, I can almost sense the purists shuddering at this choice and the portrayal of Mozart as a vulgar, irritating buffoon and in some respects yes, I agree, the film is not historically accurate, especially in its portrayal of the relationship between Salieri and Mozart which, although the older composer was probably jealous of his rival’s genius, and who wouldn’t have been, was at the least mutually respectful.

However it’s frequently been said that you should never let facts get in the way of a good story and, in the same way that I find James Cameron’s telling of the Titanic story brings the actuality of what happened on that dreadful night to life far more vividly that an historically accurate narrative I think the film Amadeus does reveal a truth about Mozart’s life, his circle, friends and rivals…

… It has also had the effect of bringing Mozart’s music to a far wider audience and for that reason alone I consider it a valid choice.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

I’m not sure there is any one place that is a single crucible, there are so many competitors for that accolade, Mannheim, crucible of the Mannheim School, Vienna, home of the Viennese school (both of them), Salzburg, Esterhazy – where Haydn is said to have had to find creativity within himself and which could perhaps be considered the birthplace of the symphony, Prague – where Mozart achieved such success, London and Paris which feted Haydn and Mozart.

However I think that more generally the broader culture and architecture of the towns and cities in Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary can in some more subtle way inform our understanding of our deeper European cultural roots. All artists are a product of their environment and culture and the great canon of repertoire by Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf, Vanhal, Salieri, Stamitz, Danzi, Eberl, Pleyel and so many others must be influenced by their environment, in much the same way as it’s impossible to imagine Shostakovich creating his music world had he not been living in the Soviet Union at that particular time in history.

A very personal viewpoint is that I have a favourite café in Miskolc, Café Frei, and no apology for the free advertisement. One of my favourite ways of spending time between rehearsals in Miskolc is to find an outside table in the warm sun, sitting with a coffee and a score or book and listening to the sound of the trams, the piano accordion player on the next block and looking at the beautiful central European architecture…

… Perhaps I have a vivid imagination but in my minds eye I can almost see Haydn walking down the street, pulling up a chair and joining me for a coffee so we can discuss my latest commission from him!

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2018 MozartCircle. All rights reserved. MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

Interview January 2018: 10 Questions with I. Page

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Ian Page: Official Sites
Ian Page Site: Ian Page & Classical Opera / The Mozartists
Ian Page: Ian Page (Twitter)
Ian Page: CO & The Mozartists (Twitter)
Ian Page: CO & The Mozartists (Facebook)
Ian Page: CO & The Mozartists (YouTube)
Ian Page: CO & The Mozartists (Season 2017/2018)

Ian Page: CD Albums
Ian Page: Mozart: Il Sogno di Scipione
Ian Page: Mozart: Haydn, Beethoven: Perfido!
Ian Page: Mozart: Zaide


1. In 2017/2018 you are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Classical Opera, that, with its period-instrument orchestra under your direction as conductor, has gained the status of one of the major international leading exponents not only of the music of Mozart but also of his many contemporaries (i.e. Gluck, J.C.Bach, T.Arne, N.Jommelli and many others), thanks to a series of highly critically acclaimed live concerts and CD recordings. In 1997 you have founded Classical Opera, then in 2017 you have launched The Mozartists… Can you tell us about the story behind the birth and the many years of activity of Classical Opera? When did you encounter the music of Mozart for the first time and when did you decide to found Classical Opera and why? What have been the major challenges and the major accomplishments, you experienced during these 20 years? And what about The Mozartists?

It’s been a wonderful journey, although in many ways I’m always too close to it to be able to see the growth and evolution from a proper perspective.

In my late teens the music of Mozart occupied an increasingly important place in my heart – the piano concertos were my initial way in – and when I was at University at York (my degree was actually in English Literature), Roger Norrington came to conduct Beethoven’s Eroica symphony with the chamber orchestra there. It was completely revelatory for me, and I soon started supplementing by listening habits with period-instrument recordings of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.

I was bowled over by how fresh, vibrant and surprising this core repertoire sounded with these instruments…

…The music suddenly seemed to make so much more sense; it was like scraping the veneer off an old painting by a great master and discovering that the original colours were so much brighter and more compelling.

By this stage I was in London studying as a postgraduate at the Royal Academy of Music, and there I met David Syrus, who was for many years Head of Music at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (he only retired from the position last year). Like many other students before and since, I was fired by David’s musicianship, wisdom and supreme decency and generosity as a human being, and opera seemed to represent the ideal fusion of my twin loves of music and literature.

One thing led to another, and I naturally gravitated more and more towards Mozart’s operas…

…After the RAM I joined the music staff at Scottish Opera, where I worked with the Handel specialist Nick McGegan on a new production of La clemenza di Tito, and this again proved a revelatory experience. I was astonished by how wide the gulf generally was between a good and a bad performance of works like Tito or Idomeneo, and the following year Nick asked me to assist him at the uniquely beautiful and evocative rococo theatre in Drottningholm, Sweden. I was also now working at Glyndebourne, and specialising increasingly in Mozart. This was still limited to the big four or five operas, but I was becoming more and more interested in where Mozart’s operatic style and personality grew from. This was the seed for starting Classical Opera; I was struck by the dichotomy between Mozart being arguably the most highly regarded composer in the history of opera and yet only about a quarter of his operas holding a place in the repertoire of the world’s opera houses. There was no sudden light-bulb moment, but it gradually became important to me to try to set up a company that could do for Mozart what the Royal Shakespeare Company does for Shakespeare.

Over the years our brief, and my interests and ambitions for the company, have evolved, influenced partly by my growing fascination with placing Mozart’s music in context and partly by the feeling that there should be no limit to the repertoire we explore, having invested so much in assembling a wonderful team of musicians and establishing a shared philosophy and approach to performing the music of the 18th century. The name Classical Opera has increasingly felt limiting to this evolution, and earlier this year we launched The Mozartists as a vehicle for our expanding concert work.

Over our first 20 years our repertoire has already ranged from cantatas by Handel and Pergolesi to symphonies by Beethoven and Schubert, but Mozart – and his operas in particular – has always been our starting point. This new name allows us greater freedom and flexibility in our programming, while hopefully also causing less confusion among promoters and audiences. The important step for me was the recognition that we’re not exclusively an opera company, and so long as Mozart remains central to our repertoire and mission, there’s no reason why we can’t also explore Handel and Beethoven and even beyond.

20th Birthday Concert – 9 October 2017

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Classical Opera Company rehearsing Artaxerxes

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Classical Opera - Adriano in Siria

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2. In October 2017 you have released the CD recording Il Sogno di Scipione by Mozart, an opera composed in Salzburg in 1771, when Mozart was only 15 years old. You have studied and conducted Mozart’s early works, especially operas, for a long time: what’s your general impression on this incredible work by a young genius of 15 years old? Which parts of Il Sogno di Scipione impressed you most? In June 2018 you are going to conduct Mozart’s first full-length opera La finta semplice (1768), marking so another 250th anniversary. La finta semplice was written in 1768, in difficult conditions, and Il Sogno di Scipione in 1771, after Mozart’s formative experience in Italy: what’s the technical difference between the two works, in your opinion? Il Sogno di Scipione is part of your project The Complete Mozart Operas, which started in 2012: at which point of your Mozartian operatic parcours are you now and what for the future?

The parallel with Shakespeare is a significant one.

Both Mozart and Shakespeare wrote some works that are less good than others, but even in the least good ones they will suddenly do something – tap a depth of beauty, wisdom or truth – that no one else could have thought of.

Il sogno di Scipione is an interesting case in point. It’s not one of his most challenging or accomplished works – indeed it’s the first release in our ongoing complete Mozart Opera cycle that we recorded without having previously performed the work in the theatre or the concert hall – but it still has touches, details, sleights of hand, that none of his contemporaries could have thought of…

… There’s an accompanied recitative near the end in which Scipio awakens from his dream. As he stirs the sound-world suddenly changes and the strings play two bars that instantly transport the listener to a magical, elevated place.

Il sogno di Scipione

The more familiar I become with Mozart’s early operas the more aware I become that what he was extraordinary at is matching the scale and ambition of each work to the level and expectation of the commission. Works commissioned to celebrate royal weddings were virtuosic but emotionally shallow, and works written for young or amateur performers were charming but technically undemanding, while he was able to throw the kitchen sink at major commissions such as Mitridate and Lucio Silla, in the knowledge that he was writing for some of the top singers and players of the day.

Il sogno di Scipione was commissioned as a dutiful and obsequious act of homage to the Archbishop of Salzburg, so it had a specific function whose message would only be muddied by a complex plot. In truth, the piece has virtually no plot whatsoever, and this had been one of my reasons for not having performed it before. During rehearsals for the recording, though, the moment we accepted the lack of plot and started to explore the way the score underpins and enhances the philosophical nature of the libretto, we found that the music suddenly lifted off the page, and it was wonderful to see how much our singers and players started to appreciate and enjoy the piece.
La finta semplice was composed for Vienna’s leading opera buffa singers, although in the end it was never performed there, and Goldoni’s libretto is genuinely comic, so the twelve-year-old Mozart gave it his best shot. In keeping with the styles of the day, the arias are substantially shorter than opera seria ones, but the music is astonishingly skilful and successful, and the chain-finales already anticipate the celebrated Da Ponte operas

La Finta Semplice Trailer – 6 & 8 June 2018

… At the conclusion there is even a poignant pre-echo of Le nozze di Figaro, as Giacinta begs forgiveness from her brothers for her impish trickery. With Rosina’s Senti l’eco and Amoretti, too, time suddenly seems to stand still and the comedy is briefly suspended in a vision of genuine sincerity, compassion and vulnerability.

The next release (the seventh) in our ongoing complete Mozart cycle will be of Bastien und Bastienne, which we are coupling with the early dramatic cantata Grabmusik. These two works, both completed before Mozart even reached his teens, will be released in autumn 2018, and again reflect Mozart’s skill at matching his music to the scale of the commission. Bastien und Bastienne was the only one of Mozart’s operas to be conceived for performance in a private house rather than a theatre or opera house, but its bucolic charm and simplicity are beguiling.

Grabmusik, meanwhile, was allegedly the result of a test set by the distrusting Archbishop of Salzburg, who had the young composer confined to solitary confinement while he set the text, to prove that he was not receiving help from his father or any other elders. The result is one of Mozart’s least known works, but it contains music of incredible emotional range, that must have quashed any doubters for good!

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Ian Page’s
THE COMPLETE MOZART’S OPERAS – CD Series (2011-2017)
& Other Albums
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Mozart: Il sogno di Scipione
Perfido! Vocal Works by Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven
Mozart: Zaide

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Handel: Where’re You Walk
Mozart: Il Re Pastore
Mozart: Mitridate, re di Ponto

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Mozart: Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots
Mozart: Apollo et Hyacinthus
Gluck: Blessed Spirit

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Arne: Artaxerxes
A-Z Mozart Opera

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3. In 2015 with your Classical Opera you have launched another special type of concerts, synchronically featuring works by Mozart and by his major contemporaries during the same musical season: MOZART 250, which, through its concerts and its retrospective Series, chronologically follows an ideal 250th anniversary line in the annual footsteps of Mozart’s life from 1765/2015 (Mozart’s childhood visit to London) to 1791/2041. What led you to create such special annual series of musical events? Beside Mozart’s La finta semplice, in 2018 you’ll present Haydn’s Applausus, his Symphony No. 26 Lamentatione and other works by him and music by J.C.Bach, Jommelli, Hasse and Vanhal: what about your interest in the music by this group of composers and, in particular, in the music by Haydn?

Again, I can’t remember the exact moment I had the idea, but it seems to incorporate several of the things that are important to me. I’ve always been fascinated by what music Mozart heard and was influenced by, and which of his fellow composers he admired (he was famously dismissive of most of them!).

I also found myself being increasingly frustrated by reviewers and commentators judging Mozart’s early works in comparison with the masterpieces he was writing twenty years later rather than with the other music being written and performed at the same time.

Even when I first set up Classical Opera it seemed obvious that if we learnt to perform works like La finta semplice and Mitridate well then that would beneficially inform our performances of the great masterpieces of his maturity, and with MOZART 250 it’s proved really useful to be able to place Mozart’s works alongside works being written in the same year by other composers. Even those pieces which Mozart would almost certainly not have heard throw light on the gradual evolution of musical style during his lifetime, and of course the works that he did know are of even greater interest.

We’ve already featured over thirty composers in the first three years of MOZART 250, and our 2015 mini-festival exploring the music being performed in London during Mozart’s childhood stay there featured several composers that not even I had heard of before – people like Mattia Vento, Davide Perez, George Rush and William Bates.

We’ll be releasing a 2-CD set of highlights from these concerts in May 2018.

If everything goes according to plan MOZART 250 will generally form approximately half of our live projects each year between now and 2041.

Every January we present a retrospective concert offering an overview of the musical year 250 years previously. Our 1768 survey, which takes place at Wigmore Hall on 23 January, will include symphonies by Haydn and Vanhal, a flute concerto by Johann Christian Bach, played by our principal flautist Katy Bircher, and arias from Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Piramo e Tisbe, Haydn’s Lo speziale and Mozart’s La finta semplice, all sung by the young Swiss-Belgian soprano Chiara Skerath, making her UK début. Devising these programmes is very labour-intensive but I really enjoy the process, and it always throws up some fascinating discoveries.

Of course there are some years when Mozart was extremely prolific and others when he wrote very little, but even the least productive years provide opportunities to dig a little deeper into other more obscure repertoire…

…  1766 (2016), for example, was a relatively thin year on paper, but it enabled us to present the UK première of Jommelli’s Il Vologeso, which proved to be a great success. As we enter the fourth year of MOZART 250 a consistent pattern is starting to take shape, with Haydn unsurprisingly emerging as the leading light alongside the young Mozart.

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And about Haydn,…

… just consider that, beside Applausus and his symphony No. 26 for this season, I’m on a mission to champion all the symphonies without a nickname, because they tend to be overlooked in favour of those with nicknames, and among those nos. 47, 80 and 99 are particular favourites.

Haydn 2009 Celebrations

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Ian Page’s MOZART 250 – The Journey of a Lifetime
Complete Concerts Series (2015-2018)
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Mozart 250: Year 1768-2018
Mozart 250: Year 1767-2017
Mozart 250: Year 1766-2016
Mozart 250: Year 1765-2015

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4. You have worked at Glyndebourne and Drottningholm, experiencing, in this way, peculiar conditions of opera performance, a few of them, certainly typical of the 18th century (the Drottningholm Theatre, for example): how such experiences enriched your vision of the 18th century music? You have worked also with Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Alexander Gibson, Ivor Bolton, Nicholas McGegan, Mark Wigglesworth: how did they contribute to your growth as a musician, as a conductor and as an artist? You work with many marvellous, also young, artists and professionals year after year: do you want to remember someone in particular and some anecdotes? And as an entrepreneur, what have been your major challenges and what your advice and tips for those who’d like to launch their careers in the world of classical music as entrepreneurs?

When I assisted Nic McGegan at Drottningholm we were working on a production of Una cosa rara by Martin y Soler, and it was fascinating to work on such a typical 18th-century opera there.

After a few weeks in a rehearsal studio in Stockholm it seemed like a distinctly average piece with a fairly ordinary cast, but as soon as rehearsals moved into the Drottningholm theatre the piece, and the singers, suddenly sounded a million dollars!

That was a really formative experience for me; it made me realise that there are so many 18th-century works that need the right tender, loving care to flourish, and that they really start to make sense when you can recreate the conditions for which they were originally conceived.

Glyndebourne was also a wonderful place to work, and it was there that I first met and worked with Sir Charles Mackerras. I worked on all three of the Mozart/Da Ponte operas there, and as assistant conductor I had musical responsibility for luxuriously extensive understudy rehearsals, which provided me with the opportunity to work with some of the leading young singers in the country. I subsequently assisted Mackerras on his recording of Idomeneo, and he followed the development of Classical Opera with a keen interest, always generous with his advice and encouragement. Along with Stanley Sadie and Christopher Raeburn – two other great people, great minds and great Mozartians – he was the most influential mentor for me in the early years of the company.

I worked with the other three conductors you mention on rather different repertoire – Puccini, Britten and Stravinsky – but I learnt a huge amount from all of them. Sir Alex was particularly warm and inspirational, and I continue to hold Mark Wigglesworth up as a role model for his fierce musical intelligence and the depth of his thinking and preparation.

Then there are the conductors and other musicians from whom I’ve learnt so much from watching them perform or listening to their recordings. We should always retain an overriding sense of modesty and humility, but at the same time it’s really important in refining our own thoughts and interpretations to analyse what we particularly like or dislike about other performers and performances.

When I started Classical Opera we quickly gained a reputation for our work in identifying and nurturing top-quality young singers. This was partly due to the fact that we couldn’t afford more established artists, but it’s also true that this repertoire particularly suits young voices.

Young singers also tend to be more open to the style of detailed, explorative rehearsals that I prefer, and what I find particularly satisfying now is that when singers who worked with us at the start of their careers come back after a gap of several years, we already have a shared language which comes back in a matter of minutes, as with all good friendships.

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It took me rather longer to work out and identify the sort of players that I most enjoyed working with, but now that we have established such a strong and loyal sense of ensemble I’m continually inspired and fed by the players with whom I work.

It takes a certain type of open spirit, and intellectual rigour, to tame and master these wonderful old instruments, and building an ensemble isn’t just about finding the best players but also about instilling the right shared values, goals and reasons for doing what we do.

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

Oh dear, these answers will probably change on a daily basis!

For Mozart it would probably have to be one of the operas or one of the piano concertos.

The C minor Mass would also be a contender, probably more so than the Requiem, and a recent addition to the short-list would be the Sinfonia Concertante K.364, which I conducted for the first time three months ago. But how to whittle it down to one? The old cliché is probably right, that my favourite Mozart opera is the one I’m working on at the time, but this week, and off the top of my head because I know the question will get harder the more I think about it, my short-list would be Idomeneo, Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte and the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor. And if I had to name one – today, and without questioning why on earth Figaro and Don Giovanni aren’t on my shortlist – I’ll say Così fan tutte. It’s such a profound, complex and modern score, and is still widely misunderstood and under-appreciated.

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Haydn is hardly any easier.

As I’ve already said previously, I’m on a mission to champion all the symphonies without a nickname, because they tend to be overlooked in favour of those with nicknames, and among those nos. 47, 80 and 99 are particular favourites. Today’s podium places, though, would be occupied by:

3. String Quartet in F major, Op. 77, no. 2.
2. Piano Sonata No. 52 in E flat major
1. Symphony No. 44 in E minor, Trauer

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

You mean apart from Mozart?…

… I’m only joking, but I do love the line of Peter Schickele, who, when asked which composer he considered to be the most underrated, replied: «Mozart – since the highest rave is a gross understatement».

Gluck CO’s Blessed Spirit at Gramophone Critics Choice December 2010

Apart from Mozart, there is still valuable work to be done in increasing appreciation of Gluck (especially his pre-Orfeo operas) and Johann Christian Bach, but of the more forgotten names there are five that stand out for me: Beck, Jommelli, Kraus, Traetta and Vanhal.

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

I have quite a lot of these, including several by the composers I’ve just mentioned.

They’re not confined to lesser known composers either; in March we’re performing Haydn’s Applausus cantata, which doesn’t seem to have been presented in London for many years. I’m in a very fortunate position, because when I do come across a neglected work that I really rate I can often incorporate it into our programming.

For this question, though, I’m actually going to choose a work by Mozart – his concert aria Ah, lo previdi, K.272…

Perfido!

… Mozart’s concert arias in general don’t get as much exposure as they deserve, and I’ve never understood why this should be…

… Maybe promoters just don’t think of singers to fill their concerto slot. Whatever the reasons for their relative neglect, Mozart’s concert arias contain some of his best music, and the more extended ones are like concentrated mini-operas in their own right.

Ah, lo previdi is certainly one of these, a scena lasting over twelve minutes and incorporating two fiercely dramatic recitatives – the second one in particular contains some astonishing harmonic shifts and moments of exquisite, tender vulnerability – and two arias, the second of which incorporates a beautiful oboe solo.

Mozart clearly held the work in high regard, subsequently urging his beloved Aloysia Weber to learn it and «to put yourself in all seriousness into Andromeda’s situation and position», and the celebrated Mozart biographer Alfred Einstein wrote that Mozart «almost never wrote anything more ambitious, or containing stronger dramatic feeling».

We are including this piece in Perfido!, our recent recording of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven concert arias with Sophie Bevan, and I was delighted how many of the reviews singled it out for praise.

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

I’m very grateful for the opportunity that this question gives me to acknowledge some of the books I couldn’t do without!

With Mozart of course we are lucky in that we have a very substantial series of Mozart family letters that have survived, and Otto Deutsch’s collection of Mozart documents is similarly indispensable, so these are the two bibles.

Too many modern biographies intercede with their author’s own attempts to formulate a particular theory or new angle, but a glorious exception is Stanley Sadie’s Mozart: the early years. This was intended as the first of a two-part biography, but Stanley sadly died before he could write the second book. For a clear, authoritative and insightful overview of Mozart’s life and works up until 1781, though, this is the book to have.

Scarcely a month goes past without me referring to two other fabulous books: The Compleat Mozart (don’t be put off by the title), edited by Neal Zaslaw, is a wonderful compendium of Mozart’s complete works, and Peter Clive’s Mozart and his Circle contains invaluable biographical entries on all the important people in Mozart’s life.

Zaslaw’s benchmark book on Mozart’s Symphonies is also outstanding, and for Mozart’s operas I still don’t think that anyone has rivalled William Mann’s The Operas of Mozart, first published in 1977, which has the huge advantage of devoting a whole chapter to each of the pre-Idomeneo operas, rather than merging them into a token single-chapter appraisal.

My final top recommendation would be John A. Rice’s Mozart on the Stage, which has fascinating information and insights on how Mozart’s operas would have been composed, rehearsed and staged.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

Like the play, the film of Amadeus has plenty of critics, but despite its faults it does recreate the spirit of Mozart’s Vienna (despite being filmed in Prague!), and the flights of fancy about how some of Mozart’s compositions came into being are captivating and imaginative, if spurious. I also find Farinelli exciting for its evocation of 18th-century theatres and opera performances.

In terms of documentaries, Phil Grabsky’s excellent In Search of… series has incorporated full length films devoted to Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, but I have a hazy memory of a wonderful series of TV programmes on these composers (and Schubert) from the 1980s…

… It was presented by Bamber Gascoigne and had Stanley Sadie as musical consultant, and I think it was called Man and Music. I’ve no idea whether these programmes are available anywhere now, but I’d love to know if they are, if only to see if they’re as good as I remember…

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

I’m not sure I can think of anywhere about which I could make such an expansive claim, but the Drottningholm Slottsteater is my own personal First Choice.

I’m a big fan of Stockholm and its people, and the story behind the theatre’s preservation is such a fortuitous and romantic one. It’s an amazingly beautiful place and setting, too, but more than anything it’s the ambience inside the theatre itself which is truly magical. It feels as close to time travel as I’m ever likely to get!

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2018 MozartCircle. All rights reserved. MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

CD Spotlight January 2018: Rosetti Concertos for Horn & for Two Horns

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Concertos for Horn & Two Horns

The Series of Concertos
for Horns by Rosetti acquired
a certain notoriety
for their beautiful quality
and because Mozart noticed them
and used a few of them as models
for his own Horn Concertos.

Klaus Wallendorf & Sarah Willis
Johannes Moesus
Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie
CPO Records

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Interview December 2017: 10 Questions with M. S. Zimmer & W. Holsbergen

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Zimmer-Holsbergen: Official Sites
Zimmer-Holsbergen Site: The Unheard Beethoven

Zimmer-Holsbergen: CD Albums
Zimmer-Holsbergen : Beethoven: The Forgotten Works for String Quartet
Zimmer-Holsbergen : Beethoven: Fantasies for Piano


This month a very curious and interesting journey through the extra-rarities, the many snippets and sketches and the various intriguing unfinished works left by L. van Beethoven, which all constitute an incredible really voluminous corpus (ca. some hundreds of neglected works by the great master!) and the many contemporary projects to prepare or reconstruct new performance editions for the modern Concert Halls…

1. Your project and your work on Beethoven certainly reached a particular status of recognition, when it left the Internet to reach the Concert Halls. First of all, with the great Leonard Slatkin, conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington in 2001 and then in 2011 with the Naxos Records Belgian conductor Patrick Baton. Can you tell us about your experience and some major anecdotes on the live premieres and such a special passage from the Internet to Concert Halls?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

I still remember well the phone call I received from our friend and supporter James F. Green, who is also on the board of the American Beethoven Society. He had, unbeknownst to us, leaned on some supporters of the National Symphony, and somehow received an audience with Maestro Slatkin, in order to show him the score of the Macbeth Overture as realized from Beethoven’s sketches by Willem. As Jim tells it, Slatkin was receptive, agreed to look at the score, and thumbed through it saying, «this is good… I like this… I think we have room in our opening concert of the fall». It’s far beyond what Jim had expected and certainly a massive surprise to us. It’s amazing what doors can be opened with just a little persistence. It’s really a tribute to Slatkin’s willingness to try new things and make an impression.

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The premiere was shaping up to be a major event, with dignitaries and ambassadors from across the globe penciled in to attend. Unfortunately, the concert was scheduled for September 2011, and the premiere was just over a week away when the World Trade Center was hit in New York. All flights were shut down, and it looked as though the concert might even be cancelled. It was exceedingly doubtful that Willem would be able to make it, coming from Europe. Finally the concert was confirmed, and some rules were loosened to permit air travel, and both Willem and I were able to attend. On my flight to Washington DC there was only one other passenger, a fellow on crutches, so I figured I could take him if he caused any trouble. But the trip was uneventful for me.

Once in Washington, I met up with Green and Willem, and also met a number of other Unheard Beethoven supporters: the late musicologist Avishai Kallai from Israel, writer Gail Altman, Annie Moss Moore the creator of the sadly now-defunct Beethoven recording database, pianist and musicologist Susan Kagan, William Meredith then the director of the San Jose Ira F. Brilliant Beethoven Center, and others. It was an amazing time, and it was incredibly thrilling to attend the rehearsal of the orchestra as they worked their way through the Macbeth; it was clear that the basses in particular enjoyed the meaty parts that Willem had written for them. While I’d heard the synthesized version from our website many time, to finally hear it with a live orchestra was simply overwhelming. It was the second time I’d met Willem face to face, but we had spent so much time talking over the Internet it was like we were brothers immediately.

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I attended all three performances of the Macbeth by the National Symphony, and it was a wonderful experience. The ABS had also arranged for some of us to venture to the National Archives and actually handle (with white gloves) some Beethoven manuscripts. It’s such a connection with history to physically touch the papers that Beethoven himself wrote upon. I happily translated in my best woeful singing voice what was written there and conducted in my white gloves, to the amusement of the other spectators.

Willem had more involvement with Patrick Baton than I did.

We also had another live presentation at the Kennedy Center about ten years after the Macbeth premiere, where Willem’s realization of the second movement of the lost oboe concerto Hess 12 was presented, with H. David Meyers as the soloist.

The Unheard Beethoven:
Beethoven, Choral Fantasy Op. 80 (New Version World Premiere)
After Beethoven’s own sketches (Hess 16)
Conductor Patrick Baton
Liege, March 2011 (first 3 min. 36)


                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

As Mark said, I was on the first plane from Europe after the 09.11. There were many Americans on board, who had been stranded in Europe for 5 days, because all flights had been cancelled. When we flew over New York, the Americans went to the windows looking for the disappeared Towers. A solemn moment. An inaudible, silent gasp went through the plane…

… Later on, when I reached Washington, of course, I never believed the theory that a group of Avantgarde composers had carried out the attack, and that their actual aim had been… the very Kennedy Center, just to sabotage the premiere. That’s just too silly… these people would never have been able to carry it through…

Anyhow one… I must really call him a journalist!?… (but we must really call him this way…!?) had been making a lot of noise for several weeks, protesting against the performance. He said that the time allocated to the Macbeth ought to have gone to a contemporary piece… But he totally missed the point that the Macbeth, by its very nature, could equally be called a contemporary piece, indeed, that is precisely its raison d’être

What he actually meant to say is that the emotional states expressed in that piece, and the use of 19th century skills, are strictly forbidden by the rules of the Avantgarde ideology, and… that these should be kept repressed…!?!?!?

As for Patrick Baton, he is a very intelligent musician, and passionate about the music he performs. I enjoyed our conversations very much. He has a rare insight, and the ability to get to the essence very quickly.

We did a special version of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Op. 80. The piece starts with a long introduction for piano solo. The interesting thing, however, is that Beethoven sketched a string accompaniment for that intro, probably after he had published the score. These string parts are numbered as Hess 16, and Baton did the world premiere of that version. The main takeaway from the event was that the introduction does indeed sound much better with the strings.

So, pianists planning to perform the Choral Fantasy should really take that into consideration… Not doing so is, frankly, a real musical shame.

Belgian TV announcing
Beethoven: New Choral Fantasy Hess 16 World Premiere
Liege, March 2011

The Unheard Beethoven:
Oboe Concerto (Hess 12) World Premiere
Patrick Baton (Conductor), Nathalie Rompen (Oboe)
Liege, March 2011

2. What’s the origin of your project? How have you been developing it through the years? What have been the great challenges and the great accomplishments, you experienced during these years?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

The project began in a haphazard sort of way back in the 1990s. I was fresh to the Internet and had discovered DALNet, an Internet Relay Chat host, through an acquaintance who was using it to talk with friends about a mutual interest in carnival glass. I got onto it as well and wondered if there was a Beethoven discussion on the internet. In fact, there was a #beethoven channel, which was either run by Willem or he was one of the major participants, under the name of ‘xickx.’ We both were inveterate collectors of Beethoven recordings, and at some point the discussion turned to the complete works of Beethoven, and whether it was possible to amass a collection of recordings that would in some sense be complete. As a frustrated librarian and historian (I’m actually an attorney since neither of those things pays very well), I dove into the question with gusto.

The first issue was, what exactly constitutes the complete works?

Obviously, there are the 138 works with opus numbers, but there were at that time 205 more WoO (Werke ohne Opuszahl, or Works without Opus numbers) in the Kinsky-Halm catalogue. And then we found out about Willy Hess’s catalogues of Beethoven’s works, which in its 335 works overlapped somewhat with Kinsky-Halm’s catalogue. Thankfully, I live in Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin, and they have a splendid music library that has copies of both Kinsky-Halm (and its supplements) and the Hess catalogue. Then we found out that Giovanni Biamonti had in 1968 assembled an even more complete catalogue, with many more works, some of them fragmentary, some of them complete, that had been missed by both of the others, running up to… 849 numbers!

So complete was obviously a moving target that was elusive.

But it was shocking to us how many of these works had never been recorded!

At that time, the vast majority of the folksong arrangements had never been recorded, many of the piano bagatelles, some of the lieder and choral works, and many others. In addition, the recordings of some of the others were quite rare and hard to come across. I combed through the library’s old Schwann catalogues covering the entire LP era trying to track down recordings. I had standing orders with a number of record search services to find the more elusive items. For several years Willem and I swapped cassette tapes of recordings across the Atlantic in those pre-MP3 days, in an effort to fill in the holes in each others’ collections.

In the end, we were still left with a great many Beethoven compositions that we would never be able to hear. Willem then introduced me to midi sequencers, which allowed one to synthesize a crude version of a composition so you could hear something of what it would sound like; he shared a number of his efforts and it seemed like a great idea. In the meantime, I was also in touch with the San Jose Beethoven Center and its gloriously helpful librarian/archivist Patricia Elliott Stroh, about getting scores for a number of Beethoven pieces that hadn’t been recorded. We began synthesizing them and sharing them with each other and the participants on DALnet. I no longer remember what Willem’s first efforts were, but I remember that mine were the string quintet version of WoO 62, the last thing of substance Beethoven wrote, and his setting of Erlkönig, WoO 131, written decades before Schubert’s famous settings but nevertheless quite similar indeed.

As we proceeded, getting copies of scores from the UW-Madison Music Library, which had a set of Hess’s Supplement to the Gesamtausgabe, and more scores of rarities from San Jose, we soon had close to 100 midi files. While it was fun to swap them and share them on DALnet, it was clear that there was an opportunity being lost there, and it would be nice to share them more widely…

I think Willem suggested a permanent website to host them. I had a friend, Steve Lange, who did website design and hosting, and asked if he’d be willing to help us out. He was more than willing—I think his exact reaction was something like: «This is exactly what the Internet should be about». We puzzled about a name for a while and came up with The Unheard Beethoven, which is a little clunky, but certainly distinctive, since it both suggests what people are missing and plays off Beethoven’s own deafness.

It took a few months, but Steve got us up and running and we’ve been adding things in fits and starts ever since. The website still resides at http://unheardbeethoven.org after nearly 20 years.

At some point Steve Lange got another job and no longer was doing website design; he tried to help us over the years but eventually he had to turn it over to another fellow who did some nice work for us. Unfortunately he had some personal problems and we had difficulty reaching him.

That was unsatisfactory, and we asked Steve for help again. He suggested another of his friends, composer Kevin McLeod (who provides a massive library of his royalty-free music at https://incompetech.com/music/ ). Kevin was wanting to do more web design and he agreed to help us bring The Unheard Beethoven back to life in the 21st century. Kevin got us set up with a new website in February of 2013, running on a WordPress framework that allows us to (mostly) do all the updating we want ourselves.

We celebrated by converting many of the MIDI files to mp3s to take advantage of the greater bandwidth availability and the ubiquity of the format… not to mention improved sound quality, since we could use our sample libraries that were much superior to the run of the mill libraries that our users generally had, in order to generate the mp3s.

Among the new features of the new site, probably The Unheard Blog is one of the features we like best, since it allows us (and guest writers) to spout off about topics that we are interested in.

We’ve been adding things steadily and there’s still more in the works; I’m currently working on the recently-published volumes of Beethoven’s counterpoint studies with Haydn and Albrechtsberger; they’re not the most interesting things in the world (especially the studies with Haydn), but the knowledge of fugue and counterpoint that Beethoven developed in these works is vital to the understanding of the fascination that the fugue held for him throughout his life. And of course, precious few of these fugues and exercises have ever been recorded, so much of this will be new to listeners.

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                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

The great challenge in completing the sketches has been to feel one’s way into the emotional states of these sketches.

In some cases the emotions are pretty obvious, in other cases not at all. It is wrong to think that if you just rake together some notes you get melodies expressing wonderful things, and that is certainly not always the case in the Beethoven sketches.

You have to be able to recognize the synergetic effects between the notes, and then become aware of the emotional charge of these effects. This is essentially the same way I work on my own melodies in their early stages. However, in the case of Beethoven the additional challenge is to get emotional states that are at his level (while in my own work I have, in principle, the right to go for whatever trivialities I choose). Sometimes small changes in the notes are required to get any synergetic effects at all, which is then considered controversial by those who do not understand how these things work. By the way, recognizing the synergetic effects was in the old days loosely referred to as having an ear for melody.

Once you know the emotional charge, then things will come together, and what has to be done at the technical level becomes obvious. The technical issues are trivial compared to the first stage, but can still be quite challenging. Of course a lot can be said about these issues, but going into that would be somewhat beyond the scope of this interview. Anyone who is interested should write to us at the Unheard Beethoven, and we will discuss it there.

3. A fundamental part of your project is also dedicated to the Seldom-Heard Beethoven, an important reference tool for any musician interested in the music by Beethoven. In fact, while now the Complete Mozart Edition has two great monumental products as reference, which are both easily available to anyone, the old Complete Beethoven Edition 1997 (Deutsche Grammophon) and the following projects by other classical music record labels are neither easily available nor so complete, after all. Can you trace out a state-of-the-art about the recordings of Beethoven’s works and their availability?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

It’s correct that the Complete Beethoven Edition of 1997, while it was good, was woefully incomplete and now it’s long out of print and can be quite expensive to acquire (not to mention that it was never cheap in the first place; I paid close to a thousand dollars for it the first week it came out, but I was ecstatic to be able to do so since it offered the first more or less complete recording of the folksongs and many other items that were never before recorded, so for that we owe Deutsche Grammophon a great deal of thanks).

Much of the slack since that now twenty-years-old set has been picked up by Brilliant Classics, which has had at least three different versions of its Beethoven Edition box over the years, which not only covers much of the ground that DG had done for a tenth of the price, but has also added new recordings. Their set of the confusing Italian part-songs Beethoven wrote for Salieri is to date the best, and is more or less complete; they also have added the very first complete recording of the lied Der Bardengeist WoO 142, previously available only in badly truncated and incomplete recordings.

There was also an inexpensive complete set of CDs from Cascade Records that had a number of problems (missing the first bar of the First Symphony being but one of them), and we understand that a number of licensors never were paid. But it also includes as of this writing the only commercial release of Erlkönig WoO 131 (in Reinhold Becker’s completion, not our version that adheres more closely to Beethoven’s continuity draft).

Over the years we have also been pleased to be a resource to boutique labels such as Monument Records from Washington DC, and Inedita Records from Italy. Both catalogues are sadly now slowly going out of print, but between them they released a great many Beethoven works that had never been recorded. So they are an important resource for collectors as well.

There was also a recording of never-before recorded orchestral works, including some realizations by Willem, made by Stefan Sanderling and the Orchestre de Bretagne for the ASV label. Unfortunately, just before it was released ASV fell into financial trouble and it never came out…

… My understanding is that Universal Music (which now owns DG, Decca, Philips and other labels) now controls the ASV catalogue, so perhaps we will see that CD someday. I’ve heard it and it’s quite wonderful; it’s really a loss that Universal hasn’t seen fit to do anything with it.

Given that Beethoven’s 250th birthday is coming up in the year 2020, I feel confident that we can expect some major releases from various labels.

I’d like to hope we see a truly comprehensive megabox of Beethoven along the lines of the splendid Mozart 225 box from DG/Decca released last year.

In fact, we have been contacted by one label (I don’t know that we are at liberty to specify which) to try to help them make the most complete release possible of Beethoven’s works, and we’re excited at the opportunity. If we are able to do that and make The Unheard Beethoven unnecessary, then I for one will be overjoyed that we’ve succeeded in our mission.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

I’m afraid that my only contribution to the Seldom-Heard-Beethoven page has been to encourage Mark to go ahead with an update, at a moment he was doubting whether it was worth the effort.

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4. You have established a long collaboration with the Ira F. Brilliant Beethoven Center at San Jose State University. Since both Mozart and Beethoven were great improvisers, many of their sketches of music were material for actual improvisation and so for what were, in reality, complete full-length performances. It is a fact that the work carried out by Constanze Mozart and her collaborators, the Abbé Stadler, in particular, after 1791, was also intended to make many works by Mozart, just left in fragments, available again for performance. Your project seems to have had the same target and to have carried on a sort of work, no-one actually did for Beethoven,… as, instead, Constanze and the others had done for Mozart. What have been the interest of modern composers and conductors in your work of collecting Beethoven’s fragments in this particular way? How many completion works have you published? How is it possible to receive a performing score for those completion works? And, in conclusion, what’s the actual situation of the 10th Symphony today, after so many attempts of reconstruction?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

This is really a better question for Willem since he does the heavy lifting for the reconstructions and realizations; I’ve dabbled with it a little but he has a unique ability to see the sketches through Beethoven’s eyes and at the same time use his own imagination within the constraints of the classical style and Beethoven’s compositional attitudes to come up with completions and realizations that are both convincing and true to the spirit of Beethoven.

One of the projects we have had ongoing for some years is related to an improvisation that Beethoven did as a teenager in Bonn against the chant of the Lamentations of Jeremiah during Holy Week. His sketches for that still survive and we’ve made several attempts at getting them into a performing state, but they really point out just how harmonically adventurous Beethoven could be. In that particular instance, as Wegeler relates the tale, the young Beethoven asked the tenor who was engaged to sing the Lamentations whether he minded if Ludwig attempted to throw him off with his harmonizations. The tenor, not realizing who he was dealing with, laughed and told the boy to try his best. That evening, as the tenor began singing, Ludwig went into the most wild and outrageous harmonizations and soon the tenor was red-faced and spluttering with rage. After he complained to the Elector, Beethoven received a gentle chiding not to do that again to their guests.

In any event, once we have that in a workable form it will really open some eyes as to what Beethoven’s imagination was capable of. I’d like to see that put into finished form within the next two years, before the 250th birthday.

We’ve also hosted completions by others, one of the most important being Nicholas Cook’s performing edition of the first movement of the incomplete Piano Concerto No. 6 in D, Hess 15 (not to be confused with the piano concerto arrangement by Beethoven of the Violin Concerto Op.61, which is sometimes referred to as Piano Concerto No. 6). That completion had a brief bit of notoriety, and then seemed to have vanished until we found Cook’s journal article. We contacted Dr. Cook for a copy of the score, which he generously provided, and put it on the website, where I’m pleased to say it has generated some interest and resulted in its being recorded on the Inedita Records label by Robert Diem Tigani with Maurizio Paciarello on piano.

Some notable names such as Slatkin, Sanderling, Tigani, Steven Beck, the Covington String Quartet and others as noted have been willing to give these realizations a chance, and for that we’re grateful.

They’re obviously not Beethoven, but they do give us an insight into what Beethoven was thinking.

The Tenth Symphony is something we haven’t tackled, although there are quite a few sketches extant, and as you say a number of versions, Barry Cooper’s being the best known. We also have on the website two different composers’ attempts at a realization of the symphony, which differ vastly from each other and from Cooper’s efforts. Given the quality of Cooper’s realization, we’re content to keep that on the back burner and concentrate on pieces that haven’t seen the light of day… But the differences of opinion as to where the composer was going to go with the piece are pretty startling to say the least.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Of course, the completion of Mozart’s Requiem by Süssmayr was critized by a certain Gottfried Weber in the 1820s. He said: «Wouldn’t it be terrible if we mistook a stupidity by Süssmayr for a stroke of genius by Mozart? And wouldn’t we then look foolish?». His weakness was, obviously, that he, for one, couldn’t tell the difference, because otherwise there is no need to worry. Abbé Stadler wrote several articles defending Süssmayr’s completion, and Beethoven wrote a letter to Stadler, saying that he fully agreed with him.

From modern composers of the old Avantgarde school the reaction has ranged from total indifference, to hostility at best.

The younger generation is more interested.

But their problem is that their education is conforming them to the 20th century paradigm, so they are not sure whether they are allowed to take an interest.

Many sense that what they are looking for can be found by us, but often they are still a bit scared. I hope that I’ve been able to teach some of them things of value, and point them in the right direction.

You can get performing scores by asking us for it. If an edition for the requested piece doesn’t exist, we will produce one.

However, I’ll do it only under the strict condition that you understand that you perform a completion because of its own intrinsic merits, and place the performance or recording in the context of the 21st century. We cannot go back to an imaginary 18th or 19th century, nor should we want to, but these fundamental values ought to be revived in our era.

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5. If it is possible to add a few words on this subject… After all, you well know that, beside the intricate Requiem affair and also thanks to the letters of Constanze, we are aware of the fact that she tried, in many occasions, to have Mozart’s scores back into a performance version… and sometimes trying to relying on the memories of those who heard the actual performance or who played the parts. That’s why modern scholarship has some suspicion also on a few masterpieces by Mozart: some Horn concertos, for example, and even the Clarinet Concerto K. 622 may be objects of some suspicion (see, in particular, Benjamin Perl, The Doubtful Authenticity of Mozart’s Horn Concerto K. 412, and Mozart Studies 2006, editor Simon P. Keefe, passim). So are they real completed compositions by Mozart or performance editions reconstructed by his friends and collaborators? And, beside Constanze’s problem with money and after so many years of much praising on such pieces, can we really really say that Constanze was really wrong in wishing such masterpieces to be in a completed performance form, instead of leaving such works as not usable and useless sketches on paper?…

It’s really an interesting subject, which requires much consideration…

Moreover we know that in classical music a culture of sketches completion and music reelaboration always existed and has been always part of the musical common practice. Apart from the variations technique and the improvisation fugues on themes or sketches, just consider Hummel’s famous own arrangements of Mozart’s works (sometimes trying to render an idea of an actual musical performance which was a bit different from the written score), the musical paraphrases and all those pieces of music which can be called transfiguration works (see MozartCircle Interviews July 2017)…

                                            ____________

Your favourite work by Beethoven, by Mozart, by J. Haydn.

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

My favourite work by Beethoven tends to change from time to time; it’s usually one of the Third Symphony, the Waldstein sonata op.53, Rage over a Lost Penny op.128, or the Appassionata op.57. Others frequently in the running are the string trio op.3, Piano Concerto No. 3, the Violin sonata No. 5 Spring, and the Coriolan Overture. Today it’s the Waldstein. You might get a different answer tomorrow.

I’m similarly undecided about Haydn. Any of the London symphonies could qualify at one time or another. I’m a big fan of his The Creation and The Seasons as well. I love his string quartets en masse and would have a difficult time picking one of them. But I think today’s answer is the trumpet concerto.

With Mozart, the answer is easy. As much as I love Beethoven, Mozart’s Ave verum corpus K.618 is the most sublimely beautiful and perfect piece of music ever written by anyone, anywhere, any time, ever. The music Mozart wrote just before he died is so amazing that one dearly wishes he had managed to hang on for at least another year to see what else he would do.

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                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Of course, there is no answer to this question: these guys wrote so many works of the highest quality, that it would be something of an insult to pick just one out. So, I will not do that, and instead mention some works I’ve recently been going through, and point out the details that impressed me.

For Beethoven, I’d like to mention his Sonatas Op. 2. They are really good, and I consider them unsurpassed by anyone in the 19th century (let alone 20th century) in the handling of the structures. Listen to the finale of Op. 2 No. 2 in A. Do note how exaggerated the arpeggio is with which it opens, followed by a fall of more than an octave in the melody. Yes, it is elegant and charming, but the effect is that of making someone a compliment which is somewhat over the top, and may therefore be ironic, and border on the insulting. At each repeat the exaggerations become worse and worse, which then result in the explosion of the middle section. Did the recipient of our compliment notice the insults? So we have here a subtle balance between elegance and humor, which is delightful, and I don’t think there are many other pieces playing a similar game.

A Mozart piece I admire greatly, is his Fugue in C minor, KV. 426 (=KV.546). It is chockablock with all sorts of canons, which makes this piece an intellectual tour de force. But even more important is that, beyond the intellectualism, every bar is filled with deep emotion. Truly the greatest fugue since Bach. It seems that many Mozart fans do not particularly care for this piece, but to fully appreciate his genius, one has to be aware of this other side of his… dark emotions and frightfully intellectual.

Haydn plays a fine joke at the end of the slow movement of his Symphony  No. 97; he is clearly imitating a steam engine! It starts slowly, then picks up speed. You can hear the safety valves (flutes), and some sort of brakes which are very noisy when the engine comes to a slow stop. Haydn must have met a good many industrialists in London, who made their money with their industrial steam engines in their factories, so they will have been very pleased with this joke.

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

Leopold Kozeluch would be a good candidate.

Over the years quite a few of his compositions have been misattributed to Beethoven. Anyone who can confuse the musicologists that badly as to being the composer of a Beethoven-quality work has to be worth reconsidering.

I’d also like to see Luigi Cherubini reevaluated. He was one of Beethoven’s few contemporaries that Ludwig actually respected and admired, and that has to count for something. There was a recording of Cherubini’s string quartets by Hausmusik London that’s just spectacularly good. His opera Medea/Medée has managed to stay alive thanks in large part to the classic performances of the title role by Maria Callas, and the overture sounds like it could be a Beethoven composition. I’d like to hear a lot more from him. Maybe it’s time for The Unheard Cherubini if The Unheard Beethoven becomes superfluous at some point.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Well, of course I could mention Méhul, who was a transition figure from the classical to the romantic era, like Beethoven, but totally independent from him.

His overtures and symphonies are really intriguing, like La Chasse du Jeune Henri. He is master of good melody, which gives his music great authenticity, although his melodies seem dryer than, say, Mozart’s: perhaps not quite capable to express the full range of human emotions.

Staging a complete Méhul opera may therefore be a good idea, but given the said limitation of his melody, it may not be an entirely enjoyable experience (but I love to be proven wrong here, I haven’t seen any of the scores).

Also, some of his libretti are really bad, with nothing happening at all, as one critic puts it. Mozart was very lucky with his Da Ponte. (Or perhaps Da Ponte became Da Ponte thanks to Mozart).

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

Beethoven’s String Trio Op.3 doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

It’s really a remarkable piece that even more than the Opus 1 Trios and Opus 2 Piano Sonatas announces to the world that music has changed forever, and you had better deal with it.

In it I hear the seeds of the Romantic era, quite clearly being planted.

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                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Charles Avison (1707-1790) arranged a selection Scarlatti Sonatas into 12 Concerti Grossi. Roy Goodman, with the Brandenburg Consort, did a fantastic job recording these concerti, back in the 90s, I think. These works, in this arrangement, are to me just as enjoyable as Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and Handel’s 12 Concerti Grossi Op.6. I hope that some violinists will make them part of their repertoire, and start performing them regularly. It may also be a smart career move for them.

HOWEVER, I must say that this giving thumbs up for this or that composer, or this or that composition from the 18th century, might be a good occasion for further rethinking our relationship with our own contemporary classical music… I mean… that for our spiritual nutrition we are apparently depending on these composers of a previous era. This dependency might be a bit shameful (or helpful? See, infra, my considerations on Charles Rosen’s books), because… well, does it demonstrate that, probably, we are no longer able to create this vital quality ourselves?

You see, in the 18th (and 19th) century music emotion and intellect went hand in hand, indeed, strengthening each other. What I mean is that by the late 20th century, intellect and emotion have become separated quite rigorously; the so-called serious music has become almost exclusively intellectual, to the detriment of the emotional states, while in pop-music any form of intelligence has been removed, allowing for only the most childish emotions. This signifies a deep collective neurosis.

And it should be clear to anyone who is slightly aware of this complex, that part of the solution is to be found in the work of those composers and artists, who are trying to bring about a reconciliation of these psychological functions.

This restoration of the balance should help raise the emotional state of the planet, and possibly start curing the collective neurosis: the unwanted heritage of the last century.

The 21st century has begun. Luckily some have already made the transition, but still too many haven’t.

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

Jan Swafford’s 2014 biography, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph to me has some of the most original thinking on Beethoven that we’ve seen since Thayer.

His discussion of the intellectual background of Neefe, Beethoven’s first teacher, his enormous influence on Beethoven’s worldview lays a convincing and expansive foundation for understanding Beethoven’s work.

I know Willem is a huge fan of Charles Rosen’s writings in The Classical Style so I’ll leave that one to him.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

As Mark said, I find Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style and Sonata Forms essential for any deeper understanding of this period.

However, the issues in these books go well beyond merely understanding that period, since they are, to me, highly important for the regeneration of the classical style in the 21st century.

First, you must realize that structure in music, as in poetry, is part of the content: it matters not only WHAT you say, but also HOW you say it.

This is somewhat analogous to how in physics space and time are intertwined. There is a big difference in the handling of the form by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, and the masters of late Romantic era.

In the first decades of the 20st century, the form had become, if you want, a vehicle to express mainly an obsession with death, as if announcing its own demise, which did of course occur at that time.

That, while in the hands of the classical masters the form had been full of vitality, buzzing with energy, expressing a wide range of different emotions in a single piece. Moving from one emotional state to another gave the composers the power to continuously refresh and renew the music.

Indeed, this magical property can be heard as a spiritual fountain of eternal youth. Mozart and Beethoven are the great masters of this magic.

So what had happened in those 120 years, going from eternal youth to death? The official music history tells us that this was a century of continuous progress: composers got better at everything all the time, better at harmony, better at orchestration, better at melody…. (oh, ooops!). Obviously there is something wrong with this narrative…

The books by Charles Rosen are a good first step in reaching a more objective and balanced understanding of this process. First we must know how the masters of the first Viennese school actually understood their own forms, as opposed to how these were perceived by later composers and critics. Only then we can see how in a series of little steps, which by themselves may have been pretty harmless, gradually the original understanding evaporated. Only then are we free to make our own decisions on these matters, a fact which is of vital importance for the new music.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

That’s pretty difficult since so many movies tend to romanticize or worse fantasize impossible and ridiculous things onto the screen (such as the wretched Immortal Beloved, which wastes Gary Oldman’s fine performance on a stupid and obviously wrong solution to the mysterious riddle, or the thoroughly execrable Copying Beethoven). I’m willing to cut some slack for Amadeus because it’s forthrightly a fictional treatment of the story (as told through the memories/delusions of the aged and demented Salieri) and it’s a gorgeous film; nevertheless I can’t in any way recommend it as improving the comprehension of the music of the classical period.

The one film that I think captures the music of the period is the BBC production entitled Eroica (2003), depicting the rehearsals for the first performance of the Third Symphony. I think it does as well as possible at giving a glimpse of what the situation must have been like, and to my knowledge it’s more or less accurate. That the music is provided by John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionaire et Romantique is a wonderful bonus. The performances are first-rate, and it’s quite absorbing from start to finish, so it has my vote.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

I agree with Mark that the 2003 BBC movie Eroica is the best. The guy who wrote the script did actually investigate his subject! Wow, that really makes a difference.

I used to like Amadeus, but now I find the depiction of Mozart as some punk idiot quite intolerable. Something far better should be possible.

Another movie, which is not about this period, but nevertheless good, is Delius, Song of Summer, by Ken Russell, from 1966. It is about the collaboration between Eric Fenby and Frederick Delius. In his last years Delius was paralyzed and blind, and could no longer work. A young music student, Fenby, offers his services to help Delius finishing his last works. The film is important because of its authenticity: it is based on the book Fenby later wrote, and he was also involved in the production of the movie. One high point in the movie is when Fenby turns on the radio, which is playing Beethoven’s Fifth. Delius then starts a diatribe: Listen my boy, scales, arpeggios! Fillings, my boy, fillings, don’t bother your young head about symphonies! Beethoven, Bruckner and Mahler and that lot with their long driveling note-spinnings! A complete waste of time. A few bars of sincerely felt original music is worth whole pages of that kind of drivel. Throw it away! Forget the immortals! I finished with them years ago!

It should be obvious what is going on here: a minor master ridicules his great predecessors, in order to make himself appear more important, at least in his own eyes.

If he had merely said that he, Delius, was unable to produce anything of value with Beethoven’s technical means, then that would have been a correct and objective statement.

He is also correct in that one has to distance oneself from the great masters in order to find the space for one’s own creativity. But his emotions show that we are dealing here with a neurosis… Also, it should be pointed out that this defence mechanism has been used throughout the 20th century, endlessly repeated by many in all sorts of forms, aimed at whatever demi-god that had gone under their skin… This way much of the deeper understanding has disappeared from our culture.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

I’ve never been to Vienna myself, but I have to think that would be the one place. Between Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert etc. etc. etc. there’s something about that place that makes it a fertile ground like none other. I’d like to get there, as well as to Bonn, some day.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Yes, the scores of the great masters.

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.+++

CD Spotlight December 2017: Rosetti Concertos for Two Horns

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Concertos for Two Horns

The Series of Concertos
for Horns by Rosetti acquired
a certain notoriety
for their beautiful quality
and because Mozart noticed them
and used a few of them as models
for his own Horn Concertos.

Klaus Wallendorf & Sarah Willis
Johannes Moesus
Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie
CPO Records

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