Mozart concerto a highlight of Philharmonic concert
The composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was 35 when he died.
Before that, he married, had children and created more than 800 pieces of music. Although he could play many instruments, it is suspected that he preferred the viola.
His Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat is often given as proof.
“It’s one of the highlights of Mozart’s string works. It’s very highly regarded, even among violin concertos and so forth. This one is known as one of his string masterworks and it's beautiful because of the shared partnership between the viola and violin,” said Breanna Thornton, a violin soloist who will perform the piece with Ryan Beauchamp, a viola soloist, and serve as conductor.
“Both instruments have equal importance to the solo role. It's not like one outshines the other. The piece in and of itself – I enjoy it for its buoyancy and clarity and luminosity where it's just a very bright, cheerful, pure tonal type of piece that is just very joyful. I would think most any audience member would simply enjoy it because of those qualities. It's a beautiful work, to say the least.”
The pair will play as part of Rediscovering the Classics, a concert the Bermuda Philharmonic is holding on Sunday at St John’s Church in Pembroke.
Melodie, a piano arrangement by a female composer Louise Farrenc, is also part of the programme along with Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and Symphony No 2 by Joseph Bologne, a composer who was a contemporary of Mozart and “was of part African heritage”.
“What we've done is taken two very standard pieces as part of the performance canon – Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and Schubert's Unfinished Eighth Symphony – and we paired them with lesser known composers who complement them. So in this case, Bologne, he was a contemporary of Mozart and Louise Farrenc, a contemporary of Franz Schubert,” said Dr Beauchamp, the Suzuki strings director at the Bermuda School of Music.
He believes it is a concert that can be enjoyed by anyone, not only people who play or are top fans of classical music.
“It's the visuals I find that my non-musician friends and family are most intrigued by, especially with string musicians because it's your whole body that's involved physically – with the bow …[with the] choreography,” he said. “I think sometimes for people it is fascinating to watch the uniformity of creating sound together and using our bodies. That's something that I know my grandparents always ask me about – how they find it so amazing that a group of musicians who don't know each other that well are able to come together and move together and create sound together regardless of the calibre at the end of the day.”
He started taking group violin lessons at the age of eight in a public school in Virginia. By the time he hit his teenage years he had moved into a school specifically for people with a passion for music. In university he continued on that same course.
“Although I started my musical education on the violin, I eventually started playing viola in my early twenties and have since primarily performed on viola,” said Dr Beauchamp who was teaching at a public charter school in Los Angeles, California before he moved to Bermuda in September 2019.
He is glad that he got to know the island and his students a bit before the pandemic moved lessons online the following spring.
“I'm incredibly grateful that we have this strong community and an appreciation for music [which allows me to] engage with my community in an ensemble-based atmosphere,” Dr Beauchamp said. “My instrument was made to play with other instruments and to make music, and make art, and communicate with others.
“Although as a violinist and violist there is solo repertoire – specifically for my instrument, even pure solo without any type of accompaniment – I do find that the foundation of being a string musician is collaborative and [encourages] performance with your community.”
Mozart was born in 1756 and died in 1791. He composed Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat when he was 23.
“Although he had such a prolific career and output he had a very relatively short life – he passed away in his mid-30s,” Dr Beauchamp said. “So this is actually considered more of his mature period, because he began composing as a child.”
Also interesting is that at the time Mozart wrote Sinfonia Concertante, the viola was not a star instrument.
“The viola really was regarded as the middle sister in the string family – between the violin and the cello. It didn't really have a lot of repertoire or attention that was going for its development and this piece really stands out as being important for that reason,” Dr Beauchamp said. “For a lot of violists it's almost a dream to be able to play this piece because of its historical significance. It's one of the very few pieces that represents that period of music and that really embraces the viola.”
Rediscovering the Classics begins at 4pm on Sunday at St John’s Church in Pembroke. Tickets are available at www.bermudaphilharmonic.org
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