T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month but for the minority of us classical music aficionados who aren't particularly fond of Mozart, the cruelest month is January. Yes, Mozart and January go together like Aunt Skullmonkey's tuna surprise and botulism. But most people are not of my self-basting bent and so find January much to their liking, except for the sub-Arctic Indiana weather. Plus, those new to classical music find Mozart's music enjoyable, easy to understand and palatable, like a good gumbo.
That said, the first Philharmonic performance of this millennium contains not one lick of Mozartian mayhem. Yessum, I'm talking about the Freimann shows on the 10th and 14th, both at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art where they will tackle such a broad range of composers as 18th century Danzi (NOT Danzig you dolt!) to a piece written in 1984 by American composer Robert Muczynski which is neither harsh nor abrasive and yet cleans amazingly well. Beethoven will be making an appearance with his String Quartet in G Major, a piece that is rich in humor and tongue-in-cheek wit, at least for those nimrods schooled in Haydn. Between these two shows on the 12th is the Unplugged show at the Performing Arts Center where classical music is presented and explained in a way that everyone can enjoy and understand. Multimedia, music, television personalities, free food and beer, and a special game of musical chairs, all for less than the cost of a Britney Spears CD.
On January 20th, the Mozart glove is officially thrown down and the bacchanalia begins with the Chamber performance at the Performing Arts Center. All Mozart, all the time*. Two pieces being played are divertimentos. These were essentially pieces composed as background music for prestigious parties, music that was not meant to draw attention to itself like a glowing boil on your chin. If you bribe the maestro a sawbuck, he might be convinced to play Mozart's Symphony No. 41 in C Major, know in certain dingy circles as "The Jupiter." This was Mozart's last and most celebrated symphony and is indeed one of the few pieces of his that this anti-Mozartian writer enjoys. It's got those melodies that you've heard all your life (just like that voice that tells you to drink that expired milk) but never known the source, plus like all of Mozart's symphonies, it's about twenty minutes long. Go to classicalgas.tripod.com and you can hear a rendition of this symphony in glorious MIDI if a rogue snowstorm or bad case of flatulence prevents you from attending this performance. The entire show will be repeated the next day at the First Wayne Street United Methodist Church as part of the Stained Glass Series, though no stained glass will be harmed during the performance.
January caps off with a big Mozart bash for the January 27th Masterworks performance. All attending will be wearing feather boas and enjoying Mozart's "Magic Flute" overture, his Concerto for Flute and Harp, and his Symphony #29, which although less famous that it's younger sibling #41, could easily take it in a fist fight. The Fort Wayne Philharmonic will also be playing Russell Peck's Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra, subtitled "Harmonic Rhythm". For those in Palm Beach, a timpano (singular of timpani) is one of those big drums (sometimes called a kettledrum, sometimes called Earl) that the percussionist can tune to play specific notes. For this performance, five of these bad boys will be lined up and hammered on by the dashing Eric Schweikart as he attempts this wrist-cracking wonder. The music itself is very rich and sweet, much like drinking straight corn syrup, but not overly modern. If you've never seen a percussionist in a solo role, I strongly urge you to attend... very entertaining and perspirey. As always, you can visit my web site at the above address for details such as exact times, phone numbers, costs, and the number of tines on a salad fork.
This month's pseudo-classical recommendation is either of the two CDs by New York guitarist Scott Johnson where he melds European classical and American popular musical forms without resorting to chemical adhesives. By taking tape loops of conversation, he finds the inherent melodies and rhythms therein and then adds rock guitar, bass and drums based upon these melodies. Together they create a wild ride of classical forms using traditional rock instruments. My favorite is the piece called "Involuntary Songs" that is based upon various tape loops of laughter. It's a funky fusion of rock and classical that will drop your jaw and wonder at the age of the jerky sticks ingested that brought on these bizarre compositions. That's it until next month so enjoy the veal!
* MSG added to enhance the flavor.
Copyright 2001 Jason Hoffman