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Symphony concert celebrates Mozart’s birthday

Analise Lipari | Monday, January 23, 2006

Were today’s technology made available to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg in his time, he might have lived to see his 250th birthday. Instead, the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s communities observed his birthday posthumously and with as much celebration as he would have warranted in his day with a celebratory concert at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center this Sunday.

The South Bend Symphony orchestra, as a part of its June H. Edwards Chamber concert series, performed four works of Mozart Sunday to a nearly full house. The variety of pieces and the skill with which they were performed lent the afternoon to a near perfect few hours of music.

Under the direction of maestro Tsung Yeh, the SBSO has continued its reputation of prestigious and talented musicianship, and Sunday’s performance proved no exception. Throughout the afternoon’s four selections the joy, respect and good humor of the musicians and maestro carried over to the audience, leaving this viewer with the same light and cheerful mood that infused the music itself.

The afternoon opened with one of Mozart’s most familiar and well loved pieces, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik [A Little Night Music].” Here, most appropriate at his birthday celebration, the piece demonstrates the classical style for which he was best known.

The strings, featured prominently, were perfect for the light and airy melodies of the “Nachtmusik.” The depth of the cello and double bass was also notable, rounding out the delicate violins. Each section of the “Nachtmusik,” as well as each of the afternoon’s pieces, was remarkable in that Mozart’s work is full-bodied without being heavy or leaden.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 K466 was the second element of the program. Featuring soloist Jacqueline Schmidt, the concerto was a great sampling of musical talent. Schmidt was a marvel, with her fingers flying across the keys in a blur. Her ability to seamlessly move in and out of the orchestration was wonderful, and her concentration and clear love of performing made her a joy to watch.

The second half of the afternoon’s performance opened with a short piece, the “Per pietá, non ricercate K421.” This particular piece featured vocalist Paul Appleby. His pure enjoyment in singing was obvious to all in the audience and orchestra, and the whole piece played beautifully.

The fourth and final piece, Mozart’s symphony No. 39, was a stirring collection of four movements. The second movement in particular displayed both the skill of the musicians and the beautiful intricacy of Mozart’s work. The tone and pace varied throughout the movement, with a mixture of heavy, minor notes and lighter, happier moments. Here again the composer’s work proves to be remarkable in its ability to be full and deep without being overly heavy.

The two latter movements maintained energy, keeping the audience rapt with both the complexity and beauty of the work and the pleasant performance of the orchestra itself. The quick pace, high energy and soaring melody left the symphony with an almost triumphant feel by its closing notes.

The highlight of the afternoon, however, was the appearance of Wolfgang himself. Dressed in the composer’s typical garb and complete with white fuzzy wig, Paul Appleby blew out the candles of a ceremonial birthday cake, which was quickly consumed at the reception that followed.