Arts Listings

Arts: PBO Celebrates Mozart’s 250th Year By IRA STEINGROOT Special to the Planet

Friday March 03, 2006

He may not look a day over 35 on the foil wrapper of the stale chocolate kugels that pay homage to the greatest musical genius the world has ever known, but Mozart turned 250 on Jan. 27 of this year. More to the point, although the wrapper his music comes in may seem hoary with age, the music wrapped inside has aged like fine wine, becoming fresher, younger and more delicious over the years. 

In his own time and all through the 19th and early 20th centuries, Mozart had a comparatively small, but growing, coterie of fans. Only in the last grand climacteric have we begun to reach an appreciation of his true greatness. 

No matter for, like Whitman, his music says, “I stop somewhere waiting for you.” 

Among the many ensembles honoring him with special programs this year, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra’s Amadé’s Anniversary stands out with its promise of technical excellence, passionate performance, superior guest artists and inspired programming. San Francisco’s PBO, under the direction of conductor Nicholas McGegan, will perform it at four Bay Area venues over the next two weekends before heading off later in the month to Tucson, Ariz., and Kansas City, Mo. for further concerts.  

One of the highlights of the program will be Symphony No. 40 in G minor, whose opening bars, along with those of Symphony No. 39 and his great, final, Jupiter Symphony, No. 41, Mozart entered into his Verzeichnis aller meiner Werke, his autograph thematic catalogue of his compositions, between June 26 and August 10 of 1788. 

In other words, during a six -week period, after the failure of Don Giovanni in Vienna, during the time that his infant daughter died, while composing half a dozen other pieces, he carried these three symphonies around in his head and then wrote them down one after the other in fully orchestrated versions. 

Eric Hoeprich joins the orchestra for the popular Clarinet Concerto in A major, from 1791, the year of Mozart’s death. Hoeprich is a world-famous performer, maker and historian of the clarinet, but for this performance he switches to an instrument he made in 1994. He based it on a 1794 engraving found in a program which featured Mozart’s friend, colleague and Masonic brother Anton Stadler playing on the basset clarinet, an instrument of his own invention. In fact, Mozart actually wrote this piece as well as his Clarinet Quintet for the virtuoso performer to play on the basset clarinet. 

Guest soprano Cyndia Sieden will be featured performing three stand-alone concert arias. The three concert arias were written independently of larger works for Mozart’s sister-in-law, Aloysia Weber.  

The Magic Flute aria was originally written for the oldest Weber sister, Josepha, who created the role of the Queen of the Night. These are demanding pieces, especially the flabbergasting “O zittre nicht,” and Sieden’s recent and highly acclaimed recordings indicate that she is more than a match for the original Weber sisters.  

For all the fascination of biography, gossip, history, speculation, interpretation and musical analysis, in the end we are left facing the music, not wondering what it means, but just being comfortable with the mystery of why this music is still beautiful and necessary to us. As Goethe said, “I beg of you, seek nothing behind the phenomena. They constitute their own lesson.” Few musical aggregations can present that lesson with more power, finesse and passion than the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.  


The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra conducted by Nicholas McGegan will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way and at 8 p.m. March 10 at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. On March 11, they will play at 8 p.m. at the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, 49 Knox Drive, Lafayette. For tickets call (415) 392-4400. For more information, call (415) 252-1288 or see