Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756. For the 15th consecutive year, Roger Wiesmeyer’s Mozart in Nashville will present concert celebrations in honor of the Austrian wunderkind’s birthday. As in years past, this year’s events feature an ensemble of local musicians – including members of the Nashville Symphony, free-lance professionals, and amateurs – who will perform two benefit concerts for a local charity featuring music by Amadeus.
This year’s concerts will take place:
Friday, January 13, noon, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Road, Nashville.
Monday, January 23, 7 pm, at Edgehill United Methodist Church, 1502 Edgehill Avenue, Nashville.
This year’s concerts feature:
Piano Sonata in B flat Major, K. 333
Roger Wiesmeyer, piano solo
Bassoon Concerto in B flat Major, K. 191/186e
Gil Perel, bassoon solo
Mozart Birthday Festival Orchestra
Proceeds will benefit the Mary Parrish Center for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
This week I sat down with Roger and Gil to talk about the program.
Roger Wiesmeyer (English horn) and Gil Perel (bassoon) have played together as members of the Nashville Symphony’s wind section for more than a dozen years: Roger joined the orchestra in 2001 and Gil in 2003.
“I sit in front of Gil all the time, and he’s a beautiful bassoonist,” said Roger. “He never gets to play (solo) and I thought ‘well I love the Mozart Bassoon Concerto, why don’t we get Gil to play it?’ because he plays mostly contrabassoon with the symphony.”
“Sitting in the solo chair is very, very different.” said Gil. “The Mozart Bassoon Concerto is such an audition piece – it’s the audition piece. Absolutely every audition I’ve ever taken on the bassoon since I was 16 years old has been that piece. I’ve played it a million times! It’s so nice to play it and not have to worry about ‘putting it in a box’ for the audition – to just be able to do what I want to do, and not worry about the way it’s ‘supposed to go’ more than the way I think it should go.”
I asked Gil if he’d ever performed it before.
“Other than as an audition, I’ve never performed it. I’ve been playing it for 23 years! And I’ve never performed it.” he said.
“That is why the Nashville Concerto Orchestra is here!” said Roger.
“It’s a very early piece.” said Gil. “It’s beautifully written. The joke is: ‘the nicest thing that bassoon players get to play is the worst thing Mozart ever wrote!'” and he laughed. “The first melody is a very simple melody – a simple theme. The second movement is really operatic. The opening measure is used later in (the famous aria) Porgi, amor from The Marriage of Figaro – after the first measure it goes to a different place but you can tell it has the same kind of ambience.”
“The last movement is just a minuet. Roger and I were talking about it, and we think it seems like he was in a rush to finish it. He just….did it. You can tell, when it’s over, it’s just like: five, one! It’s over!
“It’s one of those pieces – as early as it is in Mozart – it’s perfect for the bassoon. It sits in the register beautifully, it’s easy to project the right way for that piece, it fits on the instrument well, even though the instrument is quite different now that it was in the 1770s.
It’s always been in the repertoire. No matter how many times the instrument has been updated, and modernized – bassoonists still have to play the Mozart on it. Nothing compares to the Mozart.”
Gil enthuses about Mozart nearly as effusively as Roger does, and he has long been a participant in Mozart in Nashville concerts. When the Nashville Concerto Orchestra was launched last year, Gil performed a Vivaldi Bassoon Concerto on the first program.
I asked Roger about the B flat piano sonata, which he is performing on the program.
“People say that this sonata is written on such a grand scale that he’s anticipating the piano concertos he was going to write later.” he said. “In fact, he throws a cadenza into the middle of the last movement! which normally we would only have in a concerto.
“I’ve never performed this – this is only the second Mozart piano sonata I’ve performed. He wrote it in 1783, so he was 27, and he was coming back from Linz, on the road – he started it in Linz and finished it in Vienna.”
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Mozart in Nashville is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to bringing classical music to those who might not otherwise encounter it. The organization’s activities include the annual Mozart Birthday Concerts; quarterly performances of the Nashville Concerto Orchestra; and small ensemble and solo performances throughout the community, all year round. For more information click here to visit the Mozart in Nashville website.
Proceeds from each Mozart Birthday concert will be split between the venue (the church where the concert takes place) and the Mary Parrish Center in East Nashville. The suggested donation is $10 – no one will be turned away.