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Interview September 2016: 10 Questions with K. Stratton

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Kerry Stratton: Official Links
Kerry Stratton & TCO Official Site: Toronto Concert Orchestra
Kerry Stratton: Wish Opera (Official Site)
Kerry Stratton (Radio Host): Classical Radio 96.3 Live
Kerry Stratton (Radio Host): Classical Radio 96.3 Host
Kerry Stratton: Kerry Stratton Twitter (Official)
Kerry Stratton: Kerry Stratton & TCO Facebook (Official)
Kerry Stratton: CD Liszt World Premiere De Profundis & Music After Schubert, Beethoven
Kerry Stratton: CD Mozart Clarinet Concerto & Weber Clarinet Concertino


1. For your recent series of concerts with the Toronto Concert Orchestra, you presented Haydn classics par excellence, featuring Haydn’s Concerto for Trumpet and the Symphony No. 88! What are the true elements of beauty and fascination in the music by Joseph Haydn, in your opinion?

Both Haydn and Dvorak have suffered scorn over the years simply for having the audacity to practice the art of music from a position of charming, robust mental health.

This to some, is an unforgivable failing but is the very thing that appeals to me in both composers.

Certainly, their respective publics needed no explanations of these composers’ appeal.

The beauty and fascination in Haydn is that he produced so much music of good quality and had so much to offer, yet stayed within the forms of his day while nevertheless contributing to them.

The fascination for me is the extent to which Haydn was a complete child of nature, who seemed to have written down whatever came into his head. Even in his sixties, he was writing to his publisher to request a book on counterpoint, feeling «It is time I studied».

The beauty and fascination… perfection of form and the flow of melody.

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2. Genius & No Rules has been largely exaggerated! In reality both Haydn and Mozart, as you said, spent most of their lives studying and experimenting musical theories and even new ones. Also the famous dirty jokes of Mozart were not, in reality, in most cases, his own stuff, but he was just quoting then widely well known lines from Hanswurst’s popular theatre comedies, a sort of Austrian Mel Brooks of 18th century. The same consideration for Beethoven, who, moreover, had even always boasted his personal condition of intellectual superiority! And Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony is still an important piece in your life as a conductor. What are your most profound considerations on this absolute masterpiece by Beethoven?

It was my good fortune to grow up on a farm, here in Ontario, that had been established in the 1850’s.

The buildings are gone now but they would have been the sort of edifice which nowadays would be preserved as a heritage site.

In any case, I was oblivious to that aspect and far more concerned with trying to amuse myself, cut off as one is in the country.

There is not a movement in Beethoven’s Symphony that fails to conjure images of my childhood: the arrival, by the brook (we had a great huge pond on the farm and a stream)… The merry making: (my mother came from a family of eleven children) and when all the families got together it helped Beethoven’s version of the peasants festival, make complete sense to me.

There are few things with the amniotic security of being in a century old stone farmhouse during a summer storm.

The Hymn of Thanksgiving means more to me at this stage in life as I look back on a childhood filtered through the gauze of memory. Beethoven knew what the country was all about and I recognized our commonality.

These considerations are not profound but I offer them to you from the point of view that no conductor without the experience of these things will ever give a convincing pastoral performance.

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3. It is well known how Liszt, as child prodigy, was publicly presented by 19th century papers as the actual physical reincarnation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and how, last son of the Esterházy group, he cultivated an unconditioned devotion to Beethoven. In your famous Liszt CD with the World Premiere Recording of Liszt’s De Profundis, you conducted also two other masterpieces by him, the Wanderer Fantasia after Schubert and the Fantasy on Beethoven’s Ruins of Athens after Beethoven, which belonged to Liszt’s programme of public promotion of the music of the so called First Viennese School. Musically speaking, how do you think the spirit of the First Viennese School from Haydn to Beethoven-Schubert really emerges from the very music written by F. Liszt for piano and orchestra?

The inclusion of the Ruins of Athens and the Wanderer Fantasia were at my behest, the Schubert in particular because they represented an era and style that no longer appears in concert programmes.

What I have always sought in a piano soloist is not merely someone who knows how to play the score but who has researched how it was played.

The late Thomas Manshardt, last pupil of Cortot, was a dear friend and a convincing link to the great 19th century pianistic traditions.

Seldom did I encounter an artist who in Liszt, could use what he called the force of the anacrusis. Tom’s phrasing I cannot adequately describe but can only attest to power and the hold-your-breath kind of music making that he showed me.

Too often I feel that we are teaching students with what amounts to a powerful accent on the first beat of every bar which is a difficult habit to break or at least control.

This may be fine in some cases but Liszt appropriates Beethoven and Schubert for his own purposes and his own style, which was anything but rigid.

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4. Beside your intense activity as a conductor, you have been carrying on various important projects both as Classical Radios Host with shows like Conductor’s Choice and The Oasis and as an avid promoter of the activity of young performers and conductors, especially during summer festivals. What have been the great challenges and the great accomplishments, you experienced with these special activities? We know also you are a renowned gourmet and now we are publishing many original 18th century recipes in the section of our Site The Mozartian Gourmet! What do you think of it?

I have enjoyed my work as a radio presenter in that the most important thing to convey to the listener is my love of the music. It may set the cat amongst the pigeons, but I am not out to educate.

Monet had a wonderful quote about his work: «Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love».

We hear too often that people want to appreciate or respect music when it wasn’t written to be appreciated and respected. Those are merely by-products.

It is my view that Mozart to name but one, attests in his correspondence that he wanted people to love his music.

To come to this art form the listener needs but two things and they are time and desire. The rest will follow.

The challenges of the festival fall into the same category as all arts organizations can easily identify and that is securing funding, programming, promotion and consolidating for the future.

What it reduces to is that established arts groups are in one particular business above all others and that is the business of relationships. There are relationships amongst musicians, the conductor, the board, the sponsor and above all, the public. These partnerships are crucial to survival.

As for The Mozartian Gourmet, I would take the greatest interest in any recipe involving game! Now that’s my idea of a splendid meal of a winter’s evening.

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5. Your Classical Music Radio Shows regularly broadcast Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Danzi, Viotti, Kuhlau and many other masters of 18th century and 19th century… is there a better form of education to beauty and good taste? And what about your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn?

Must we have favourites?

Paradise would be rehearsing and performing Mozart operas and Haydn symphonies for all eternity.

If, however, you need an answer, I am afraid I shall disappoint, as it is tantamount to asking which of my children is my favourite!

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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?

The Arriaga Symphony makes wish he had written thirty more but in a life so brief, we have what we have.

There have been some first rate recordings of F. X. Richter symphonies as well as Boccherini and Vorisek, which are a delight to me!

In general, I think the Bohemian symphonists are neglected.

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7. You have already answered previously on the neglected pieces of music of the 18th century! So I’m asking you what is your vision on our approaching this so rich repertoire from 18th century?

To me it is more important to continue on the voyage of exploration and discovery than to focus on just one work!

8. Do you have in mind a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

To comprehend Mozart, but slightly, read his letters!

To comprehend the music, I think it is far more important to do score analysis.

This will teach much about the music and there is no substitute for this kind of work!

There are books aplenty and I have enjoyed many with the caution that when we encounter any writer who declares «I have the truth!» we must go in the opposite direction.

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

I don’t believe such a film has been made but, as an enthusiastic amateur historian, I am always intrigued by military history of the time.

The movement of troops, ordinance and cavalry about a battlefield had the form, traditions and structure of any courtly dance.

Barry Lyndon is not a musical film but I am astounded by Thackeray’s portrayal of 18th century society in the original novel.

The film does well.

To know a people and aspects of their time, is no disadvantage in knowing their music.

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10. Certainly both Kurosawa and Kubrick knew how to treat Classical Music in their movies! It is a fact that many people got acquainted with even rare masterpieces by Haydn, Schubert, Vivaldi and Ligeti through their movies. And the Soundtrack from Barry Lyndon did the same for Paisiello, one of the great musical models of Mozart and who spent also many evenings playing quartets with Mozart himself, and Handel!  Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

In a word, Vienna!

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

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

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CD Spotlight September 2016: Paisiello Official Composer of Napoleon I (2 December 1804)

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Giovanni Paisiello (1750-1816)
200th Paisiello Anniversary(1816-2016)

In 18th/19th century Paisiello was considered the “King of Composers & the Composer of Kings”. Mozart and Paisiello were on friendly terms and used to play quartets together during the Viennese soirées in 1780s. Then Paisiello became the Official Composer of Napoleon I

Koch Schwann Records

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Interview August 2016: 10 Questions with The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet

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The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet: Official Links
RDRQuartet Official Site: The Revolutionary Drawing Room
New CD Album 2016 Release (Uppernote): Revolutionary Flute Quartets
Butterfield Official Site: Adrian Butterfield
Butterfield (Royal College of Music): Adrian Butterfield (RCM)
RDRQuartet: RDRQuartet Twitter
RDRQuartet: RDRQuartet YouTube
RDRQuartet: CD A Viennese Quartet Party
RDRQuartet: CD Mozart Clarinet Quintet with C.Lawson


1. Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf and Vanhal: four composers with four well defined characters! How did you come up with the idea of re-uniting them together again in the same Album? How do their different characters emerge from their very music? And also how and when did you decide to choose the name The Revolutionary Drawing Room for your group, a name which truly represents the spirit of 18th century?

R. Alford (cello): The name of the group was thought of by the founding cellist of the ensemble, Angela East.

A. Butterfield (violin): It is a rather distinctive name which arouses a lot of attention! The Drawing Room part derives from the withdrawing room found in the houses of the patrons of musicians in the Georgian era in England in the 18th century, a room to which families and their guests retired after dinner. Revolutionary refers to the years spanning approximately 1789-1848 during which there were many upheavals in Europe.

The idea of our Viennese Quartet Party programme was suggested to me by an audience member who came up to me many years ago after a concert and asked if we knew about the story of these four composers playing together in Vienna in 1784.

R. Stott (viola): I have loved reading the Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, the Irish tenor who sang in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, in which he relates the Quartet Party story. He was quite a character!

A. Butterfield (violin): It’s true, these four composers were possessed of very differing temperaments.

Haydn is well known for his joy and sense of humour and that is reflected in the false ending of his quartet Op.50 No.1 which was designed to tease his audience. He was, though, also possessed of such wonderful originality in his use of musical ideas and form.

Mozart overflowed with beautiful melodies but Haydn’s Op.33 quartets inspired him to write music of great imagination and complexity and the opening of the Dissonance quartet is a particularly extraordinary example of this.

Dittersdorf wrote some interesting programmatic music and his A major quartet seems to us to have moments of story-telling too, especially the Minuet movement which feels very much like party music!

Vanhal, a pupil of Dittersdorf, comes across as a more serious character. The slow movement of his E flat major quartet is especially beautiful and close in style to Haydn.

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2. You, as single performing musicians (I mean you four members of the RDR Quartet), recorded also a wonderful Series of CDs devoted to many other authors of the first and second half of the 18th century from Jean-Marie Leclair to Handel to C.P.E.Bach to Luigi Boccherini. According to your opinion, who, among those composers, really exerted a strong musical influence on the composers of the First Viennese Group, Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf, Vanhal etc. and then Beethoven and so on?

A. Butterfield (violin): Our individual experience of performing a vast range of baroque repertoire has had a great influence on our performance of Haydn and Mozart.

J.S. Bach’s two most famous sons, Carl Philipp Emmanuel and Johann Christian, were especially influential!

K. Parry (violin): For example, J.C. Bach looked after Mozart when he came to London as a boy and his tuneful, rococo style can often be heard in Mozart’s music.

Handel and J.S. Bach became stronger influences later thanks to the encouragement of one of their patrons, Gottfried van Swieten.

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3. In October 2016, you are going to launch your The Beethoven Cycle, a series of peformances featuring all the Beethoven Quartets, and this also by underlining the strong philological association, which exists among the last Quartets by Haydn and the first ones by Beethoven: how do you feel, in their music, the Revolutionary character from an old Innovator (Haydn) and to a new Innovator (Beethoven)? And many anecdotes exist on this peculiar situation directly from those times!

A. Butterfield (violin): The relationship between Haydn and Beethoven is a fascinating one.

Beethoven asked Haydn for some lessons but these took place at a time when Haydn was preparing for his second visit to England in 1794 and it seems that Beethoven became frustrated that he didn’t have his teacher’s undivided attention.

The fact that Beethoven’s first set of quartets were being written at the same time as Haydn’s final set and that they were commissioned by the same person, Prince Lobkovitz, is intriguing, especially since Haydn only managed to write 2-and-a-half of his set of six. He wrote in the manuscript of the third quartet, «Old and weak am I; all my strength is gone.» and yet he went on to write The Creation and The Seasons after this so the pressure from his pupil clearly got to him.
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R. Alford (cello): The revolutionary character of Beethoven’s music is unmistakeable, especially his use of sforzando accents and other surprise dynamics as well as shocking harmonic shifts.

It is easy to forget, though, how innovative Haydn and Mozart were and that so many of the devices that Beethoven used had already been pioneered by his predecessors.

The Overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, for example, contains dramatic crescendos that lead to sudden pianos, a device that Beethoven was to develop on a grand scale and Beethoven’s scherzos were a clear development of the myriad examples written by Haydn.

As a young man in the 1790s Beethoven probably saw Haydn as old-fashioned but he wrote his Op.74 quartet just after Haydn’s death in 1809 almost as a tribute to his former teacher and perhaps he had come to realise that he had learned rather a lot from him.
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K. Parry (violin): Our Beethoven quartet cycle starts in October 2016 at St. John’s Smith Square in London and we will perform his complete quartets there over a period of three years.

It is still quite rare to hear Beethoven quartets on period instruments and this is a very exciting project for us.

There is plenty of standard 19th century repertoire by composers such as Mendelssohn and Schubert that we want to explore, but we like to mix that with much more rarely performed works by composers like Boccherini, Spohr, Viotti, Donizetti and even Coleridge-Taylor.

A. Butterfield (violin): We work regularly with wind players and piano and our new recording of the flute quartets of Mozart as well as those of his contemporaries in Mannheim and Paris, with Rachel Brown, is due for release in August 2016 on Rachel’s Uppernote label.

K. Parry (violin): However a composer we always come back to is Haydn. Maybe one day we will work our way through all of his wonderful quartets!

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4. You, both as a quartet and as single performers, are also an important example of musicians and entrepreneurs, creating and founding your own Ensembles and Musical Seasons, what’s your very first advice to those young musicians who want to follow this particular type of path? What can you say from your experience?

A. Butterfield (violin): Being an entrepreneurial classical musician certainly doesn’t become any easier!

But if you love the music you want to perform enough and are prepared to work incredibly hard you can still do well. One needs to be innovative and imaginative in terms of the way one presents programmes.

Our Viennese Quartet Party idea is a good example of that!

So many audience members have told me how much they appreciate being given some explanation of the context of the music I am performing for them and this is particularly true of music from long ago.

R. Alford (cello): With so much studio-recorded music available these days it is vital that concerts offer more than just perfection of ensemble and intonation, important though those are. Live performance should be dangerous and spontaneous so that audiences go away having been so thrilled and moved that they will be inspired to go to more concerts in the future.

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

A. Butterfield (violin): Favourite compositions are such an impossible question! I tend to have favourites that are the pieces I am working on at that moment!

R. Stott (viola): Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro will always be a highly treasured piece and it happens to be very relevant to our Quartet Party programme.

A. Butterfield (violin): The slow movement of Haydn’s last completed quartet, the F major Op.77 No.2, is always one we love to come back to. It has an almost prayerful, elegiac quality to it that never fails to move us.

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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?

R. Stott (viola): Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841) is an interesting musician who is little known. We have played one of his quartets and we think his music deserves more exposure.

A. Butterfield (violin): I have championed Jean-Marie Leclair‘s music for some years now. He was a French baroque violinist/composer (1697-1764), who wrote a large amount of wonderful violin and chamber music as well as an opera

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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.

R. Stott (viola): Telemann’s Die Donnerode (TWV 6:3a/6:3b).

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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?

K. Parry (violin): Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style is a very important book and Paul GriffithsThe String Quartet, A History contains much useful information. And I know you want to add another book.

A. Butterfield (violin): I met and was coached by Hans Keller many years ago. He was a controversial figure who made people think by challenging received ideas. I refer regularly to his book The Great Haydn Quartets.

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

K. Parry (violin): In search of Haydn (Seventh Art Productions), The Genius of Mozart and The Genius of Beethoven (top documentary films), excellent introductions to the lives and times of three extraordinary composers.

And for fun: Amadeus – the remarkable film of Peter Shaffer’s play.

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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?

K. Parry (violin): Surely Vienna? Mozart and Haydn even played quartets together here! And what about Mannheim?

A. Butterfield (violin):Vienna is obviously a good choice, but I wonder whether Mannheim would be a bit different and an opportunity to remind the reader about our new recording that is just coming out of Flute Quartets by Mozart and some of his colleagues in that city.

K. Parry (violin): Oh, yes! Certainly!

A. Butterfield (violin):The Mannheim orchestra was famous for its meticulous discipline and for numerous novel and strikingly dramatic effects such as the Mannheim crescendo (a passage that started very softly and built up very gradually to a great fortissimo), the Mannheim rocket (a rapid rising arpeggio figure across a wide range with crescendo) and the Mannheim sigh (an affettuoso use of slurs as aspirating figures with diminuendo). Mozart spent a number of months in Mannheim getting to know the talented musicians there especially the flautist, Wendling, who brought about the commissions for Mozart’s flute quartets and concertos. Mozart desperately wanted a job at the court there yet sadly it wasn’t to be, but his later music was greatly influenced by the musicians that he got to know in that orchestra. Our recording of Mozart’s flute quartets, with the flautist Rachel Brown, which she has to intermingle with works by his contemporaries in both Mannheim and Paris (such as Wendling, Gluck, Viotti and Danzi) is due for release on Rachel’s own Uppernote label in the next few weeks.

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So, dear MozartEra fans, with this new CD Album Revolutionary Flute Quartets – Mozart, Mannheim & Paris, this summer another musical gem will be added to the exquisite and magnificent recordings by The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet! Dear Adrian, dear Kathryn, dear Rachel and dear Ruth, thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

CD Spotlight August 2016: Gossec & Dittersdorf and La Prise de la Bastille (1789)

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The Symphony La Prise de la
Bastille is attributed here to Ditters von Dittersdorf. In reality
the authorship of this Symphony is dubious and more probably
the real composer of this work was the Belgian composer
Othon-Joseph Vandenbroeck!
Capriccio Records
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Interview July 2016: 10 Questions with E. Meitner

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Eva Meitner: Official Links
Eva Meitner: Eva Meitner Official Site
Eva Meitner: SommerOrchester Leipzig/Opera Casa Season
Eva Meitner: SommerOrchester Leipzig
Eva Meitner: Leipziger Philharmonikerinnen
Eva Meitner: Leipziger Oratorienchor


1. You have recently conducted Haydn’s Oratorio Die Schöpfung/The Creation in Leipzig, a work which finally is deservedly becoming somewhat popular with conductors, concert seasons and audiences. As a young conductor, what have been your ideas, feelings and reflections on Haydn’s music, approaching this magnificent work?

I love Haydn and so I was very happy to conduct this piece. When I was 12 years old, I started playing violin. Haydn wrote so many works for this instrument… Sonatas, string quartets, concertos… That was my first contact with Haydn!

Being a conductor now, I have studied so many of his orchestral works, during these years, too, and discovered that he’s really really an amazing and very brilliant composer. Haydn should definitely be performed more often! You see, there’s so much esprit, so much wittiness in his music! It’s always a great pleasure for me to conduct his works.

I had already conducted the The Creation in 2008 during my first studies at the University of Music in Trossingen. And now, 8 years later, it has been so interesting to discover so many completely new facets in this masterpiece: what an amazing richness of effects, lights and dynamics!

The Creation is a powerful musical composition and I think that the effects of lights, conceived by Haydn, really play an extraordinary role in this work! In fact, with the wise use of the dynamics Haydn did really manage to captivate and fascinate his audience. During the premiere, in 1799, there were, at the same time, on the one hand, a breathtaking silence in the audience, during the performance, and, on the other, an ecstatic tumultuous applause between the sections of the work, as in the famous account by J.Berwald. People had never heard something like that – it must have been an incredible atmosphere! In the final part of The Creation, in the duet of Adam and Eva, Haydn shows off all his brilliant ability in using various scales of emotion and invention. That’s nearly Opera!

You see, The Creation is a work that creates an incredibly vivid connection among choir, orchestra, soloists, the conductor himself and the audience. There are so many historical documents in Europe and also in the 19th century Americas that retell us about the enthusiasm that The Creation always caused everywhere.

Art wants to move, to fascinate, to inspire! The Creation always accomplishes that aim by abducting both performers and audience and leading them into a completely different world! The more I study that piece the more I admire it.

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2. With the SommerOrchester you are developing a wonderful and intriguing project (Opera Casa), performing even extremely challenging and difficult opera works (ie. Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer/The Flying Dutchman) in private houses with a full scale orchestra and singers. If you consider that it’s almost sure that even Mozart used to perform his major orchestra works, like his 3 last 1788 symphonies (among them the Jupiter) and probably also many parts of his opera Così fan tutte, with an orchestra in his private home in a room ca. 60 mq (you used a 70 mq for Wagner’s Holländer!) and, possibly, also in his garden, do you think you are really reviving this beautiful classical music original tradition of the great masters? And what is your mission for your SommerOrchester season and what was your first ideas, when you conceived such a particular music season for the first time?

Ah, what a wonderful experience to revive this musical tradition!

Our aim with our SommerOrchester Leipzig is to play during summertime but also, at the same time, to perform operas and symphonic works at completely unusual places! Why? Because it’s exciting! I have just discovered that many people don’t have any contact with classical music at all! When you ask them if they have ever attended a classical concert, they just answer no and when you ask them why, they answer that they are afraid, because they don’t know what to do in a concert hall… They think they have to read many books, before going to a concert, they don’t know how to behave, what to do and often they are even afraid of not to understand the music… There are somehow so many fears, you know… and we want to show that actually you don’t need to read a book, to wear a special dress or to understand anything! You just have to be there and listen to the music! Such simple!

The great thing about our Opera Casa season is that the audience is so close to the musicians and the singers. They see all the mimics and they can look right into the eyes of the singers and of the musicians, they can see also all the interactions among the orchestra musicians. Normally, when you listen to performances in opera houses, the singers are so far far away and you don’t see a lot of the orchestra, as the musicians sit in the orchestra pit… So our Opera Casa is a fascinating experience for the audience and also for our musicians, since you play for people, who only sit some metres away.

Our audience does really love our Opera Casa season! We have even received emails from people who told us that they didn’t like Wagner before, but now that they have had the possibility of attending our own Holländer and of listening to it in such a vivid, direct and personal manner, they are as infected and now will listen to even more operas by Wagner. What an amazing compliment to us!

You see, in the beginning we just wanted to play Humperdinck’s Hänsel & Gretel… but this first Opera Casa was such a great success and attracted so many people that we decided to continue and to give start to a whole Opera Casa season! When we played Wagner’s Holländer in May, we were literally overwhelmed by people… the listeners occupied even the staircases! And now our audience is increasing from performance to performance! And we are really happy about that and we’re very curious in discovering where our journey will lead us!

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3. Since you live and work in Leipzig, you cannot avoid a question on Bach. Unfortunately today the close relation which existed between Bach’s music and Mozart’s last major works is not so well present in the mind of many performing musicians and especially in that of more general audiences, a relation really fundamental, if you consider that Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all studied music on the manual and on the works by C.P.E.Bach, one of the children of J.S.Bach, and that the music and the figure of J.C.Bach, the other son of J.S.Bach, were crucial to the musical development of the young Mozart, when a Wunderkind. How do you think we can better celebrate this profound influence of the Bach’s family, in its entirety, on the whole history of music, also beyond J.S.Bach himself?

That’s right: a lot of people don’t have in mind the importance C.P.E. Bach had for the whole development of Mozart.

I think we, as performers, absolutely have to study his book Versuch über die Art das Clavier zu spielen. Without the knowledge of this book it’s nearly impossible to perform any Mozart or Haydn symphony, opera or oratorio correctly… this is a fantastic guide to the understanding of classical works!

I think, we can better celebrate this profound influence of the Bach family in only one way: concerts!

And what a funny coincidence: I will conduct a concert in Leipzig with a Bach family programme in November 2016: J.S.Bach Reformationskantate, C.P.E.Bach Magnificat and W.F.Bach Ach, dass Du den Himmel zerrissest. The concert will be with the Leipziger Oratorienchor and the Mitteldeutsches Kammerorchester and I’m really looking forward to conducting such an exciting all-Bach-family programme!

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4. As a young conductor yourself, do you think you have some pieces of advice for those, who want to follow this beautiful career of orchestra conductor? And what do you think of the works by such an important figure of 18th century Viennese music life like Marianna Martines/Marianne von Martinez, the pianist, virtuoso singer and composer who spent many soirées playing 4-hand keyboard works with his friend Mozart and who introduced young Haydn to Porpora? She was sometimes even compared to C.P.E.Bach himself – and here Leipzig again!

Well, difficult to give any type of advice… I think… just study as many scores as you can and listen to a lot of rehearsals and concerts by experienced conductors… and always make music with all your heart, all your soul and all your passion!

Women composers and women musicians are one of my next upcoming projects. We’re currently building up a professional all-women symphony orchestra: the Leipziger Philharmonikerinnen. For our first concert series, we have chosen Mozart’s Requiem in November 2016 and we are going to perform it both in Leipzig and in Berlin. You can imagine, how we are already looking forward to our first performances! And of course we want to play music by women composers in the near future, too. There are so many magnificent masterpieces composed by women… but, unfortunately, really never performed!

Did you know that there are, for example, ca. 500 (!) operas by women composers? And there are as many symphonies, chamber music pieces, concertos, all by women composers, too!

I often go to listen to concerts, but I have never heard any opera or any symphony composed by a woman performed in an Opera Theatre or a Concert Hall. We’d like to change that! There are really brilliant compositions and various masterpieces… and we can’t wait to play them.

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

Mozart, Don Giovanni, and Haydn, The Creation.

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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?

W.F. Bach; a brilliant composer! One of my dreams is to perform all of his orchestral works and cantatas. The Bach-Archiv Leipzig is about to publish a complete edition of his works. I’d really love to conduct all his works!

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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.

All music by W.F.Bach & Haydn’s symphonies!

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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?

C.P.E.Bach, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen, & Leopold Mozart, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule.

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

Carceri d’invenzione with Yo-Yo Ma performing Bach cello suites in a computer designed three dimensional version of Piranesi’s Carceri d’invenzione (Prisons of the imagination; 1750). Breathtaking!

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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?

Weimar, where J.S. Bach also lived and worked for so many years, and a very interesting and beautiful city. W.F. Bach was born there, too.

Moreover, the famous Princess Anna Amalia was also a great supporter of the arts and even a composer herself!

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So true! And what a profound connection with the people of the Haydn and Mozart Circle, from the truest Weimarian spirit of The Magic Flute to Hummel (Weimar Kapellmeister), Beethoven (an avid, and critical, reader of Goethe and Schiller) and Liszt (the last son of Esterházy and Vienna and the most famous successor of Hummel)! Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

CD Spotlight July 2016: Music from the French Revolution (July 1789)

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Discover the French Revolutionary
origin of the theme of the Pastoral
Symphony
by Beethoven from
his friend Lefevre’s French
Revolutionary work
Hymne à l’Agriculture!
www.nimbusrecords.comre16bahd
cdsptlgt

Interview June 2016: 10 Questions with J. Irving

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John Irving: Books, CDs and Links
John Irving: Understanding Mozart’s Piano Sonatas
John Irving: Josef Haydn – Piano Sonatas
John Irving: www.johnirving.org.uk
John Irving (VIBF – Valletta): vallettabaroquefestival.com.mt


1. You are one of the few MozartEra scholars and, at the same time, one of the few MozartEra performing musicians, who has also a direct experience of the real repertoire of the 18th century, beyond Mozart. According to your experience, what’s the real technical striking difference between Mozart and his father, Mozart and Vanhal, Mozart and Haydn.

In the case of Mozart and his father, what I notice most – especially as a performer – relates to control of movement within a measure or phrase. This aspect is perhaps more effectively felt than described analytically against the benchmark of musical notation.

In performance, the greater suppleness of rhythm that Wolfgang attains compared to his father (who published several rather good solo keyboard sonatas that I recorded a few years ago) is a factor that is unmistakeable the moment you consider how you might interpret phrase shapes.

Vanhal is a very fine composer, who comes much closer to Mozart in terms of the control of material in relation to overall structure. Vanhal achieves a distinctiveness of voice (especially in sonata forms) that few of his contemporaries matched; for instance, if you were to switch on the radio during a movement of Vanhal, you could immediately tell from the nature of the material exactly where you were in the course of the structure.

With Haydn, that is not so easy, as his exceptional command of musical material allows him to juggle ideas in unusual ways that go beyond typical expectations. For Haydn, musical discourse lies on the border between perception and expectation, creating an expressive field around which those two essentials of communicative possibility have to adapt in each piece! Mozart’s expressive parameters rarely work in this way, though he sometimes achieves nearly the same thing in terms of phrasing, for instance in the minuet theme from the Hunt Quartet, K.458.

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2. You have played an important role in the preparation of The Mozart Project – The First Interactive Book on Mozart for iPad (itunes.apple.com). What have been the great challenges and the great accomplishments, you experienced with this special work?

Looking back on this project, now the recipient of several international awards, including iBook of the Year and Best Musical Work in 2015, I think the main challenge was writing the front page chapter texts in such a way as to draw the listener into an unfolding story, and tempt them to explore the book’s amazing hypertext functionality (including multiple layers of audio, video and text that deepen the understanding). I regularly had to resist the urge to give too much explanation on the surface level, leaving that for the hyper texts. Another challenge was organizing the two chapters I wrote in such a way that their various sections could be independently read in almost any order. I greatly enjoyed being able to record quite a few audio and video performances with Ensemble DeNOTE (including three videos specially-filmed for this project) that hopefully give users an insight into period performance matters.

I think the book’s greatest accomplishment is its flexibility: addressing itself to any reader, whether familiar with Mozart, or coming to his work for the first time. That flexibility has now extended into a stage show, The Mozart Project Live! (johnirvingfortepianist.wordpress.com), supported with funding from Arts Council England, which presents a journey through Mozart’s chamber music in a combination of live performance and extracts from the original iBook.

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3. Sometimes, listening to Mozart’s Piano Concertos and then to Mozart’s Piano Sonatas and then to the other piano works by Mozart, a common listener perceive a sort of difference in the type of pianism, actually used by Mozart. What’s your opinion on this?

Mozart always had a keen sense of scale, as you would expect from a man of the theatre. The nature of material, along with presentational aspects including register and texture, rarely misfires because it was so closely suited to context.

So, the solo piano music was conceived for presentation in a domestic setting (in a Viennese salon, for instance), whereas his piano concertos were more public genres with a pronounced sense of occasion. After his death, concert traditions developed in ways he probably did not envisage, with music acquiring a social role as a species of civic entertainment, including such things as the rise of the solo piano recital, and the vaguely comical visual spectacle of a piano concerto presented on stage with a 9-foot Steinway grand pitted against a large orchestra being directed as if by a circus ringmaster-ac-lion-tamer brandishing a long baton, while simultaneously liaising with the soloist-ac-hero.

Given what became of Mozart’s intimate and rhetorical language within such settings, it is hardly surprising that modern audiences perceive apparently different types of pianism in sonatas and concertos! In fact, the urge to bulk out Mozart’s slender solo piano textures was felt surprisingly early, for instance in Louis Adam’s 1804/5 piano method for the Paris Conservatoire, perhaps with a view to rendering them more effective on Erard pianos, rather than Viennese ones. In all these cases, though, Mozart survived the experience!

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4. Your very first technical advice to the musicians who want to begin playing 18th Century Music in a more historically informed way.

Fundamentally, you need an open mind and an ability to listen. With that basic equipment, you are well-placed to let the particular instrument teach you how to play.

For keyboardists, that might be harpsichords, clavichords or fortepianos – sometimes interchangeably across repertoires. The flexibility of keyboard medium found on printed title-pages throughout the 18th century is remarkable, with both harpsichord and clavichord hanging on alongside the emergent and eventually triumphant piano for a remarkably long time. As has been repeatedly shown, even Beethoven can sound well on a large late 18th century clavichord (a medium that certainly discloses a debt to CPE Bach).

It’s always sad to learn of students who have been put off playing 18th century music on fortepiano, harpsichord or clavichord by their teachers, who wrongly believe that the different touch of these instruments will ruin students’ modern piano touch.

Yes, the touch is different, and takes effort to master. Speaking different languages also requires hard work and a willingness both to fail and adapt, but the effort is worthwhile because of the greater fluency of vocabulary that you gain through trying (including always a gain in sophistication in the speaking of your native tongue).

Above all, do not waste time thinking that your motivation to be historically informed means you are engaging in an act of authenticity, recovering the original sounds as Mozart heard and intended them. This myth is still common; regrettably it remains effective as a deterrent (see above, in relation to bad teachers).

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

Mozart: probably the Piano and Winds Quintet K.452, especially the descending chromatic scale in the finale when played on natural horn (chromatic here in a literal sense, since each pitch has its own unique colour characteristic – modern valve horns don’t come close!).

Haydn: Creation.

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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’d like to hear more Pleyel generally. His output is very diverse and deserves to be better known.

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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, especially thanks to your special experience as musician and as MozartEra scholar.

C.P.E. Bach’s symphonies – radical, and shocking!

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8. Beside your books, do you have in mind a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

I think Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style remains at the top of my list, even after almost half a century!

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

Malcolm Bilson’s DVD, Knowing the Score.

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10. Name a place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music.

Not what you might think, but my answer is Valletta: European Capital of Culture in 2018.

Our appreciation of 18th century music continues to evolve, and one of the most fascinating contemporary developments has been happening in the Maltese capital in recent years: the Valletta International Baroque Festival, masterminded by Kenneth Zammit Tabona.

Direct links to VIBF & John Irving at VIBF.

Using astonishing 18th century buildings as locations (including the spectacular Manoel Theatre), VIBF is developing our appreciation of both performing and listening to 18th century music afresh, in relation to spaces and acoustics that fire our musical imaginations.

Once again, this isn’t about some mistaken authenticity!

It’s a challenge to our creative imaginations to mould together the possibilities of instrumental sounds, historical playing styles and spaces to fashion something we’ve never heard before.

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So, dear MozartEra fans, you are all invited to these extraordinary rendezvous in the magnificent scenery of Valletta-Malta for a wonderful series of 18th century music must-be events from the Valletta International Baroque Festival to Valletta European Capital of Culture 2018! Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.