Mozart, Prokofiev Bring Light and Full Elements to JSO Concert

There is much to be said about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-1791) popularity. His music is one of the more recognizable, used in movies (Amadeus was loosely based on his life), Looney Tunes and commercials. The music is lighter in nature than compared to say, Wagner, and therefore, easier on the ear and to some, perhaps the nerves. His music is comforting, sweet and melodic.

The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra chose the lighter fare of Mozart for the first half of this past weekend’s concert, beginning with Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio, K.384 (seraglio—harem). Mozart’s operas are comic in nature and so it is no surprise that even the overture would be jovial. And though the audience didn’t view the opera, it was easy to hear the merriness in the music, which sets the tone for the entire story. It was well received at its opening in Vienna, as well as with the JSO audience.

In Symphony No. 41 in C major, K.551, “Jupiter,” which the JSO also performed, there is little brass, one percussion instrument and a few woodwinds, giving the stage to the strings.

Mozart’s music was written much for the royal court and therefore, would have a reserved yet amusing theme in it. In his music, there is always much color, an array of beauty in the sounds, and ones listening might even believe they are among the aristocrats. Mozart just has a way of making you feel like nobility.

And while his music is relaxing, it is at the same time captivating and capable of drawing you in so that in the end, it leaves you wanting more. Mozart’s music is the perfect companion with which to wake up, get inspired, spend a romantic evening, and be soothed to sleep.

“Jupiter” was Mozart’s final symphony before his death at age 35. The pivotal moment in the symphony appears at the end of the familiar and thrilling final movement, “Molto Allegro,” perhaps a fitting exit for a great composer.

The JSO also performed Sergei Sergeievich Prokofiev’s (1891-1953) Alexander Nevsky, op.78, a piece composed for the propaganda film of the same name for the Russians, directed by Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein. The cantata featured the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus and Jacksonville University Singers – Men’s and Women’s Choirs.

Mezzo-soprano Elise Quagliata (photo: Cathryn Lynne)

The music is heavier and darker in nature than Mozart’s—no surprise, considering the film’s content is about warfare. The brass and percussion take a pronounced role on the stage, including a tam-tam (gong), tambourine, bass drum, woodblock, maracas and glockenspiel (steel bars struck with hammers). The variety of instrumentation adds appeal to the significantly different piece.

Mezzo-soprano Elise Quagliata was the guest soloist for the sixth movement, “The Field of the Dead.” Her voice was a welcome respite from the battle drama of Prokofiev’s music. Her voice was smooth, mesmerizing and lovely as she sang about wedding not a handsome man, but a brave one. He who died so nobly for Russia, I shall kiss his dead eyes, and to the brave youth who lives I shall be a faithful wife and a loving companion. I’ll not wed a man who is handsome: earthly beauty soon fades.

Some orchestras choose to present the film during the performance, but Conductor Fabio Machetti and the JSO felt it was best for the audience to come to its own conclusion. A good move, particularly since the film might have distracted and detached the audience from the choruses, mezzo-soprano and the orchestra.

What about you? Tell us what you like/don’t like about Mozart, or your opinion of Prokofiev’s “Nevsky.”

Upcoming Jacksonville Symphony Classical Concerts:
Jan. 7, 2012

Joshua Bell
Bruch: Violin Concerto

Jan. 20 & 21, 2012
Orchestral Blockbusters
Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 2
with:
Inon Barnatan
Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol

Upcoming Elise Quagliata concert:
Jan. 20 & 22, 2012

Puccini: Madama Butterfly
Pensacola Opera, Fla.

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