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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Redefining Classical Music

Within the modern architecture and sandstone of the Mondavi Performing Arts Center this past Wednesday night, the historically and internationally acclaimed Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg awed listeners with renowned symphonic repertoire by Wolfgang Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Franz Schubert.

The Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg redefines classical music as a genre. And historically, the Mozarteum has become a significant icon for future generations.

Founded in the same birthplace of arguably the most influential composer of the classical era – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – the Mozarteum has preserved the Salzburgian tradition and art form of classical music for the past 168 years. However, the Mozarteum is not weighed down by old traditions – the orchestra prides itself on its motto of being “the cutting edge of classical music.”

Since 2004 when he began conducting for the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, conductor Ivor Bolton has toured with the orchestra throughout major venues worldwide, offering a two-concert series of its own throughout the year. The first one of the series explores the classical era to the present day and the second one takes on thematic interpretations of well-known orchestra music of Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, John Adams and Luciano Berio. Though Mozart’s work was absent from the night’s performance, the orchestra stilled carried on the classical tradition with Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major. The spotlight later shifted from Bolton to virtuoso cellist Johannes Moser on center stage.

This performance comes to explain why the Mozarteums’ motto is “cutting edge.” When most performers keep their eyes fixated on conductor Bolton or their sheet music, Moser was not afraid to lock eyes with the audience – often passionately flinging and swaying his bow to express his enthusiasm for the moment.

The violin and cello make for a majestic duo in a dance where Moser led the rest of the orchestra. When all other instruments were quiet, the clean sound of Moser’s cello vibrantly shone with one slow progressing note. Subtle moments like these, where a single instrument radiated above the entire orchestra, provoked emotions of rawness and simplicity.

As the finale of the night – Symphony No. 9 in C Major by Viennese composer Franz Schubert – finally featured the full ensemble of the 91-musician orchestra. With a quicker tempo than the two preceding numbers, the addition of oboes and bassoons gave this piece a different texture and tonality – creating the gypsy-like feeling Franz Schubert intended when he composed the piece centuries ago. The fading and intensifying arrangement of instruments led up to an overwhelming yet satisfying end. This was the perfect finale.

Despite the cultural prejudices and stereotypes that say classical music is strictly for the sophisticated and matured, the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg is an example of how classical music can reach across all geographic and age boundaries. The Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg has and will continue for centuries more carry on the tradition of classical music.

UYEN CAO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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