I'm gladly turning over my blog to our very own Principal Viola Michael Isaac Strauss, who performs as soloist this weekend alongside ISO Concertmaster Zach De Pue. Mike and Zach will be playing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra. This will be the first time the pair has played this piece together.The Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364 (320d), is a work that is dear to my heart. I have played the work with over half a dozen violinists. These performances with Zach De Pue are the first time I've played the work with him with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and represent the third ISO violinist that I've played with, as I previously performed the work with Hidetaro Suzuki and Philip Palermo. The difference this time is that we do not have a conductor with us. It will be more of a chamber music effort with the orchestra. That in itself will be very exciting for us as performers.
It is amazing to me that Mozart wrote this work when he was 20 years old. We have this perception that when he put his mind to a composition, he automatically came up with perfection. In this case, it is not true. He actually fooled around with this work for quite awhile before finally settling on the format of using the violin and viola only along with a small, string dominated orchestra. His conception for this piece probably came from his good friend and chamber music partner Carl Stamitz, who was the founder of the modern school for string playing in Mannheim, Germany... labeled "The Mannheim School." Mozart apparently tried incorporating a solo cello into the mix, different orchestrations and the like before settling and completing his masterpiece as we now know it. An interesting fact about the orchestration is that there are actually two tutti viola parts, which splits the viola section in half. But hey, the more the merrier I say, especially with regard to the violas.I have a love for Stamitz as well, as I had the opportunity to record one of his concertos for viola, and his son Charles' Concertante for Violin and Viola a number of years ago in Chicago with my good friend, Desiree Ruhstrat. The experience of studying the composers that were participating in this new, "modern" way of approaching the instrument has been a great one for me. The list of the "classical" music world's composers associated with the Mannheim School, that have written Viola Concertos that I have performed, are Carl and Charles Stamitz, Zelter (Mendelssohn's teacher), Dittersdorf, Wanhal, Hoffmeister and Mozart. The ironic thing some 250 years later,is that we have labeled all serious concert music, from Monteverdi through Philip Glass, as "classical music." In fact, at the Indianapolis Symphony, we are also at fault by using the label with regard to our "Classical" series. The general population generalizes that this is a correct label, and that this music is "old," sedate and stuffy. In fact, the Mannheim School of music making that dominated the "classical" period was actually a hugely controversial and revolutionary movement in music that broke with a multitude of ingrained habits, and tried to create a voice for the popular culture of its time. Classical music making had everything to do with bravura, technical fireworks, and introducing modern topics that were considered scandalous in public. This piece by Mozart was one of the shining examples of this kind of daring music making. From its heart-on-sleeve harmonies, to its romantic love duets, and finally with its "Mannheim School" stamp at the end of the piece, it was instantly successful with the general public.Listen for Zach and I to play these crazy, rising arpeggios at the end of the third movement, that culminate with a final declaration. This technique was labeled a "Mannheim Rocket" back in the day, and created quite a frenzy in the audience whenever anyone attempted it. I assure you this piece is anything but sedate and stuffy. Eh, don't take my word for it, come downtown and hear for yourself. This piece will give you a different ear for the word "classical." The performance will definitely give you a different look and listen for what the ISO is capable of on stage!
Title: Sinfonia concertanteArtist: Mozart
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