By Christina Linhardt
Cal Phil Staff Writer
On January 27th, 1756, one the world's greatest master's of music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was born. Two hundred and sixty two years later, Maestro Victor Vener, conductor of the California Philharmonic, threw the great composer a fitting natal tribute at the breath taking Saracenic Brand Library and Art Center. Formerly a private mansion, built in a combination of Moorish, Spanish and East Indian architectural style, The Brand is an extension of the Glendale Public Library, complete with a respelendent view over looking the city.
The concert was created in conjunction with Brand Music Librarian Blair Whittington, and the Cal Phil's Outreach Program. Cal Phil Executive Director, Gina Bacon began the Outreach Program at the end of the summer season 2017. Ms. Bacon was so proficient in promoting the event that the Recital Hall overflowed with audience members of all ages, with not an open seat, spilling into standing room only, with people lining up along the side walls. Fortunately there was space in front of the stage where Gina was able to guide the youngsters of the crowd to sit on the ground. Children between the ages of 2 and 8 sat actively engaged and even a bit entranced with the live musicians in front of them. Maestro Vener contracted not only the creme de la creme of the California Philharmonic, but truly internationally renowned orchestral and solo players, Concert Master Katia Popov, principal cellist Dennis Karmazyn, violist Ben Bartelt and principal oboe Francisco Castillo.
The program began with Maestro Vener doing what he does so well; sharing his wealth of knowledge about the subject with the audience in an accessible, entertaining yet informative way. "Are you ready to celebrate Mozart's birthday?" he began, jubilantly igniting the crowd. To give chronological perspective, he explained that Mozart was born 20 years before the United States began. Young Wolfgang, known as "Wolfie", was born in Salzburg to a famous musician father. He had a sister Maria Anna or "Nannerl", who, it has been ascertained was as skilled a musician as her younger brother, perhaps even better, however, at that time, being female, there was no option for being a "professional musician." The Maestro alluded to the topical subject the Women's March and the ongoing trials, in response to an audience member's question about Anna Maria Mozart. By age 5, young Wolfie wrote his first Andante for piano, by age 8 his first symphony and by age 12 his first opera. His father, Leopold, was the ultimate stage dad, forcing Mozart to play piano, organ and viola for kings and princes and popes, traveling about Europe in cold carriages hobbling along cobblestone roads, eventually contributing to poor health. It is not entirely proven what Mozart died of at the young age of 35, and he does not have a tombstone as he was buried in a common grave on a rainy day in the St. Marx Cemetery on the outskirts of Vienna on December 7, 1791.
But Mozart's music lives on, as it did at the Brand Library on January 27, 2018 with the Cal Phil Quartet's vibrant and masterful performance. The instruments instantly filled the recital hall, as they began with the Mozart Oboe Quartet in F, the oboe played by Francisco Castillo richly soaring over a bed of lush oak toned strings. He sailed smoothly through the runs in the final Rondeau movement, with his string cohorts accompanying along with great precision and warmth. The second piece on the program was Mozart's Divertimento #2 for violin, viola and cello, again executed exactly and flawlessly with such cohesive ensemble playing. For the final piece, the Allegro movement of Divertimento KV 563, Concert Master Katia Popov announced that it was chosen, so as to give an example of Mozart's later writing and growth. The first two pieces were written during his youth, picked to cater to the young audience at the Brand.
Still possessing the signature charm and grace of Mozart, the melodies of the Allegro moved into more intricate variations and textures. Throughout the performance,the children in the audience were transfixed, excitedly wanting photographs with and autographs from the musicians and the Maestro after the concert. And the parents can feel satisfied, that due to the Mozart Effect, they gave their children an extra high dose of brain juice that day, not to mention benefiting their own cognition as well. Over two and half centuries later, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart still has invaluable gifts to bestow upon us all.