The Once and Future Mozart
"O Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many, how infinitely many inspiring suggestions of a finer, better life you have left in our souls!"—Franz Schubert, 1816
More than two centuries after Schubert penned this paean to the composer, Mozart's legacy continues to transcend time, geography, and genre. This summer, Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival—now in its 51st season—includes a special focus on Schubert's genius, whose work features prominently throughout the four weeks of the festival (July 25 to August 20).
"One of the great qualities of Mozart's genius is his boundless ability to inspire and connect us to art spanning all eras and locations," says Ehrenkranz Artistic Director Jane Moss. "This season provides us with a chance to rediscover favorite works, as well as unearth connections between his music and that of his predecessors, contemporaries, and those who followed him."
Opening the festival on July 25 and 26 is a special program, The Singing Heart, that offers a portrait of humanity in the time of Mozart, pairing his "Haffner" Symphony with traditional songs and spirituals from other parts of the world during the same era. The evening also envisions a hopeful future through the spirit of youth as the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and the festival's Renée and Robert Belfer Music Director, Louis Langrée, are joined by the Young People's Chorus of New York City in its festival debut. The program culminates in Beethoven's exuberant "Choral Fantasy," performed with pianist Kit Armstrong and the Concert Chorale of New York, in which Beethoven invites the audience to accept "joyously the gifts of high art."
Guest conductor Edward Gardner returns to lead the Festival Orchestra in a riveting program pairing Beethoven and Schubert. Under Gardner's baton, pianist Jeremy Denk performs Beethoven's poetic Piano Concerto No. 4, followed by Schubert's Symphony No. 5 (July 28–29). On August 4–5, in her New York debut, Beatrice Rana will join the Festival Orchestra to perform Beethoven's First Piano Concerto.
On August 1 and 2, the Festival Orchestra program takes a colorful journey from Istanbul to Paris as Mozart's Turkish-tinged Overture to Die Entführung aus dem Serail paves the way to the debut of David Lang's virtuosic percussion concerto man made, performed by the inventive ensemble Sō Percussion. "Mozart's music was contemporary in his time," Langrée points out. "Enlightening juxtapositions with music from the Baroque to a 21st-century piece by David Lang refresh the way we hear Mozart."
In that spirit, the pioneering musicians of the International Contemporary Ensemble will present How Forests Think, a program of nature-themed works by Pauline Oliveros, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and Liza Lim that revisit the Romantic aesthetics of Schubert and his contemporaries (August 14).
On August 8 and 9, star soloists Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis unearth the musical riches of Brahms's Concerto for Violin and Cello before British maestro Andrew Manze leads the Festival Orchestra in Mendelssohn's reverential and majestic "Reformation" Symphony. Manze returns on August 11 and 12 to lead Beethoven's Violin Concerto with soloist Thomas Zehetmair and Mozart's Symphony No. 40.
A poignant program on August 15 and 16 explores the intimate relationship between virtuoso musician Clara Schumann, her husband Robert Schumann, and their dear friend Johannes Brahms. The night begins with a pre-concert recital featuring the soprano Susanna Phillips, joined by Louis Langrée in his first Mostly Mozart appearance at the piano. They will perform Robert Schumann's song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben, which the composer wrote during his courtship of Clara. In the main concert that follows, pianist Kirill Gerstein makes his festival debut with Brahms's Variations on a Theme by R. Schumann, an ode that Brahms wrote for his mentor, and Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, composed for Clara. The program concludes with Brahms's Symphony No. 1. Gerstein continues the Schumann-Brahms theme in his August 16 late-night performance of Brahms's Piano Sonata No. 2, dedicated to Clara, as well as Clara's own Variations on a Theme by R. Schumann.
Following the success of last summer's staged theatrical production The Illuminated Heart, director Netia Jones returns to Mostly Mozart with The Dark Mirror: Zender's Winterreise, an imaginative staging of contemporary German composer Hans Zender's orchestration of Schubert's famous song cycle. Starring the acclaimed tenor Ian Bostridge with the International Contemporary Ensemble, this theatrical production refracts Schubert's wintry trek through Zender's 1993 version and layers it with a Weimar-era aesthetic.
"Zender stretches the music, interrupts it, subjects it to filmic procedures of montage and slow motion," wrote Bostridge in The Guardian. "But, projected by the figure of the singer, Schubert's original vision is always implicated. This new take on Winterreise is not an avant-garde assault or a confection of rebarbative modernism. Rather it is a work that offers us a conversation—and sometimes a confrontation—between the past and the present."
First performed to sold-out houses at Mostly Mozart in 2011, the Budapest Festival Orchestra's provocative staged concert of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni returns August 17, 19, and 20. Directed and conducted by the orchestra's founder, Iván Fischer, this presentation illuminates Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte's haunting work and stars one of the foremost interpreters of the title role, baritone Christopher Maltman, alongside Laura Aikin as Donna Anna and Lucy Crowe as Donna Elvira.
In the final Festival Orchestra concerts on August 18 and 19, Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, a clever, early 20th-century spin on the musical conventions of Haydn's time, precedes Mozart's own musical interpretation of Haydn in the "Little G minor" Symphony (No. 25). The program concludes with Gil Shaham performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.
At the candlelit A Little Night Music series in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, audiences will experience intimate concerts by international stars as well as new talents. The series kicks off with Sō Percussion on August 2. Trailblazing accordionist Ksenija Sidorova makes her festival debut on August 5 playing Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Piazzolla, and others. In his first appearance in the late-night series, Bell will join Isserlis and pianist Ana-Maria Vera in Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 1 on August 9. Additional concerts feature the Danish String Quartet, which will also present an all-Beethoven program in Alice Tully Hall (August 10); pianists Pedja Muzijevic (August 11) and Víkingur Ólafsson (August 12), both making their festival debuts; and Trio Solisti performing Schubert’s towering Piano Trio in B-flat major (August 15).
Rounding out the 51st festival are free offerings that include an innovative Schubertiade Remix evening from the International Contemporary Ensemble, pre-concert recitals, and thought-provoking talks.
Amanda Angel is Associate Director of Public Relations at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.