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Mozart Festival Opens with Preview at El Cerrito Garden Party By IRA STEINGROOT Special to the Planet

Tuesday June 07, 2005

This year’s Midsummer Mozart Festival kicks off a month ahead of schedule with a sneak preview Mozart at a garden party this coming Sunday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 1140 Arlington Blvd. in El Cerrito.  

The repertoire will include selections from Mozart’s operas arranged for two instruments; Quartet in D major for flute, violin, viola and cello; and Duo in G major for violin and viola. All of the performers are regulars with the festival orchestra and will include Robin Hansen, violin, Victor Romasevich, viola and Maria Tamburrino, flute. 

One of the inviting aspects of the festival, which formally opens July 14, is that instead of the often cold, remote environment of concert halls, these performances take place in more intimate venues like churches, wineries and pocket theaters. The music is presented in a manner closer to the way it was first heard in Mozart’s time. 

The music at Sunday’s garden party will allow listeners to get closer still. Maestro George Cleve has chosen pieces that shine a light on some of the larger compositions to be played later in the season. Limited to 100 guests, there is a $50 admission fee for this benefit event which includes complimentary food and wine, and an autographed festival concert CD.  

The Quartet, for instance, dates from the 15-month tour Mozart and his mother began in late 1777. He wrote the Quartet for a wealthy Dutch flautist he met in Mannheim where he had fallen in love with his future wife’s older sister, Aloysia Weber. This tour ended badly in every way: the Dutchman ended up underpaying him, Aloysia dumped him, his amazing and insurmountable lack of business sense first surfaced, and when they got to Paris, where he continued to be a mark for everyone who met him, his mother died.  

In spite of this he produced the charming, multi-faceted No. 31 in D major, both featured in the festival’s first program. 

The Duo was written in Salzburg in the summer of 1783. This was Mozart’s first return to his hometown since leaving the Archbishop’s service. It was also the first time that Constanze, his wife of one year, would meet his father who had disapproved of the marriage. The second program of the festival, which will open July 21, will feature the Great Mass in C minor. He had made a vow to write a mass when Constanze was ill. While in Salzburg, she performed the difficult soprano part of this transcendent mass in its final, unfinished form. 


First Program 

The formal Midsummer Mozart Festival events include a variety of favorites and surprises. Since Program One begins on July 14, Les Petits Riens and the Paris Symphony were obvious choices to commemorate Bastille Day. At the July 14 and 15 shows only there will be the debut of dances commissioned by the festival for the overture and some of the dances from Les Petits Rien, choreographed and danced by Maria Basile. Those attending July 16 and 17 shows will hear the music, but sans terpsichore. 

From 1769 through 1779, Mozart often composed the Finalmusik, music played outdoors celebrating the festivities that signaled the end of Salzburg’s academic year in early August. One of these compositions, composed when Mozart was 16, the celebratory Divertimento No. 2 in D major for flute, oboe, bassoon, four horns and strings, K.131, will be included in the first program of the festival.  

The cherry on top for this program is the Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola in E flat major, K. 364, featuring violinist Robin Hansen and violist Victor Romasevich. An early Mozart masterpiece from his 23rd year, the back and forth movement and weaving interplay between the “male” violin and the “female” viola. It is one of the most ravishing achievements of any music ever composed anywhere in the world. 


Second Program 

The festival’s second program focuses on Mozart’s compositions from 1781 through 1786. Mozart’s first of eight full-scale operas was Idomeneo, Rè di Creta, K.366, composed for Elector Karl Theodor of Bavaria. For this program, Cleve will perform only the strange overture with its ominous, disappearing ending, so unlike the usual buildup before an opera begins. The aforementioned Great Mass in C minor will feature Christina Major and Deborah Berioli, sopranos; Joseph Muir, tenor; Joseph Wright, baritone; and The Cantabile Chorale. Mozart wrote only a few pieces of sacred music after leaving Salzburg, but every one is a masterpiece with this coming in just a bit behind his Requiem.  

World-renowned pianist Seymour Lipkin will perform the Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat major, K.450, said to be the most technically challenging of all of Mozart’s piano concertos. Lipkin will also be at the keyboard to accompany Christina Major singing “Ch'io mi scordi di te?”, Scena and Rondo for Soprano, Piano Obligato and Orchestra, K.505. Mozart composed this heartbreaking, demanding concert aria for his English friend Nancy Storace’s Viennese farewell concert with himself at the keyboard. This program, in particular, should be a powerhouse event with four remarkable works from such varied genres being performed. 


Program One of the 31st annual Midsummer Mozart Festival will be presented July 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Garden Theatre, Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga; Friday, July 15, at 8 p.m. at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco; Saturday, July 16, at 6:30 p.m. at Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Sonoma; and Sunday, July 17, at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley. 

Program Two will be presented Thursday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m. at Mission Santa Clara, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara; Friday, July 22, at 8 p.m. at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco; Saturday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. at Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Sonoma; and Sunday, July 24, at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley.  

Each concert is preceded by a half hour talk. For tickets and information, call (415) 627-9145 or go to www.midsummermozart.org. For tickets and information about Sunday’s Mozart in the Garden benefit in El Cerrito call (415) 627-9141.