Mostly Mozart Festival 2014
By Bradley Bambarger
On July 25 and 26, Lincoln Center’s 48th annual Mostly Mozart Festival will kick off with two free, outdoor concerts of the world premiere of a work by American composer John Luther Adams.
Commissioned jointly by the Mostly Mozart Festival and Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Sila: The Breath of the World was created for outdoor performance on the Hearst Plaza. It will feature 80 musicians from an assortment of contemporary music ensembles, positioned at various locations around the plaza.
In a preface to a previous work written for outdoor performance, Adams noted: “In the concert hall, we shut out the outside world and concentrate our listening on a few carefully chosen sounds. Outdoors, we’re challenged to expand our awareness to encompass a multiplicity of sounds—receiving messages not only from the composer and the performers, but also from the larger world around us.”
Over the past decade and a half, the Mostly Mozart Festival has been re-imagined by Ehrenkranz Artistic Director Jane Moss as a month-long, multidisciplinary celebration of the creative spirit embodied by Mozart, his predecessors, and successors. This summer’s Mostly Mozart Festival, which runs until August 23, continues on that evolutionary path, while its centerpiece remains marvelous concerts by the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra (MMFO) under the dynamic leadership of Renée and Robert Belfer Music Director Louis Langrée.
The 2014 festival includes music from the Baroque to the contemporary eras, with symphonic, chamber, and solo concerts—plus opera-in-concert and modern dance— by returning stars and debut artists alike. Following Sila: The Breath of the World, the festival moves indoors to Avery Fisher Hall on July 26 with a free preview concert featuring Maestro Langrée conducting the MMFO in Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, and overtures by Mozart and Gluck.
Mozart was a theatrical creature (with even his piano concertos operatic in their way), and the festival has presented groundbreaking performances of his operas over the past few seasons. A highlight of this coming summer is the New York premiere of Mark Morris’s new production of Handel’s Acis and Galatea. It features the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale with Nicholas McGegan conducting Mozart’s arrangement of the Handel work. McGegan and the orchestra alone perform a separate concert version of Handel’s opera rarity Teseo with soprano Amanda Forsythe in the title role.
“A Little Night Music” offers an exciting roster of artists performing concerts in a candlelit cabaret setting with wine in the intimate Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. Says Jane Moss of the popular late-night concerts: “I’m always fascinated by how focused and attentive the listening is for these events. It makes me sometimes wish we could have all our concerts by candlelight.”
Pianist Richard Goode, who first performed at the Mostly Mozart Festival in 1971, gives a late-night performance of Schubert’s final piano sonata (D. 950) and also appears with the MMFO and Langrée, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major. Another artist doing double duty will be British pianist Steven Osborne, who makes his festival debut in Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with Andrew Manze leading the MMFO, and follows it with a late-night concert.
Returning to the Mostly Mozart Festival will be superstar violinist Joshua Bell, who joins violist Lawrence Power in Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante in E-flat major, with David Zinman on the podium with the MMFO. Also returning will be conductor Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, who previously thrilled festival concertgoers with high-octane Beethoven. This coming summer, Järvi and the orchestra bring an all-Brahms program to Alice Tully Hall, with Lars Vogt as soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 1.
Acclaimed pianist Yuja Wang makes her Mostly Mozart Festival debut as soloist in Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 for piano and trumpet with Osmo Vänskä conducting the MMFO. Another highly anticipated festival debut is that of the passionate, poetic violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. A native of Moldova who lives in Switzerland, Kopatchinskaja hasn’t performed much in the U.S., but her recent Grammy Award–winning recordings of Bartók, Ligeti, and Eötvös have set ears abuzz. She joins Langrée and the MMFO on the closing festival programs (August 22–23, featuring the Mozart Requiem) to perform the rarely heard Polyptyque: Six Images of the Passion of Christ of 1973 by Swiss composer Frank Martin. The work will be interspersed with chorales from Bach’s St. John Passion sung by the Concert Chorale of New York. Kopatchinskaja will offer a program of music by Bach, Bartók, and Enescu in a “Little Night Music” concert.
About playing a solo late-night concert, Kopatchinskaja says: “An intimate room with the listeners very close means that you must switch from the acoustical power you are used to projecting in a big hall to a more spiritual power—and that is challenging. But I am always looking for the unpredictable in music, those surprising, inspiring connections. We’re lucky to have these experiences, even if you can’t possess them—you have to live them in the moment.”
And “surprising, inspiring connections” are precisely what the Mostly Mozart Festival continues to offer each summer.
Bradley Bambarger writes about music for Listen, DownBeat, and other publications.
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