A NIGHT OF MOZART IN NORDIC MOOD

On Saturday, January 28, Sinfonietta Rīga invites the concertgoers to the Great Guild Hall where Finnish conductor Juha Kangas, a brilliant interpreter of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and tireless promoter of Nordic music, will present the Haffner Symphony, written by the celebrated Austrian genius in 1782, as well as two contemporary opuses by composers Pehr Henrik Nordgren (Finland) and Onutė Narbutaitė (Lithuania). The final piece of the evening will be a captivating performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 by accomplished Latvian pianist Reinis Zariņš visiting from London.

 

Finnish conductor's return to Riga feels almost predetermined – after all, Juha Kangas is the laureate of the Grand Music Award of Latvia (1997). This time the emphasis is on his great lifelong passion – the study of Mozart's musical heritage. Together with the Sinfonietta Rīga musicians, Kangas will weave again the vibrant fabric of the Symphony No. 35 in D major, better known as the Haffner Symphony – named after the Salzburg noblemen.

 

The symphony has a history. Already in 1776, friend of Leopold Mozart and early supporter of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's concert tours – the magistrate of Salzburg Sigmund Haffner Sr. commissioned Mozart to write a piece for his daughter Marie Elizabeth's wedding. The Haffners were truly delighted – the majestic serenade had both the grandeur suited for venerable citizens of Salzburg and the effortless joy and effervescence characteristic to Mozart's music. Six years later the Haffners requested another serenade, this time for Sigmund Haffner Jr.'s nobilitation. It is not clear if Mozart, who in the July of 1782 worked on his opera The Abduction from the Seraglio and was about to marry Constanze Weber, completed the serenade in time for the ceremony, but by the end of the year he informed his father of his intention to present the serenade independently as a concert. Mozart returned to the score and decided to profoundly rework it, dropping the introductory march and one of the minuets, and  topped up the orchestration with two flutes and two clarinets. Thus the serenade acquired symphonic character, and in this form was first performed in the Vienna Burgtheater on March 23, 1783.

Along with the Haffner Symphony another outstanding piece by Mozart will be performed – his Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major. Written in 1786, shortly before the première of the celebrated opera The Marriage of Figaro, the concerto was evidently influenced by it, acquiring dramatic character. The exposition of the concerto feels somewhat operatic, and the throbbing, melancholic Adagio contains the theme from another acclaimed Mozart's stage work – his opera Don Giovanni – “Ah! taci ingiusto core!”

The performance of the Piano Concerto No. 23 in the Great Guild Hall promises to be an event in itself, as it will be interpreted by Reinis Zariņš, one of the top Latvian pianists of our times. His name would deserve recognition just for his passion towards performances of Latvian composers; but there is another lovely detail that is common to the seasoned pianist Zariņš, who has performed across Europe and North America, and Sinfonietta Rīga chamber orchestra – they both are three-time recipients of the Grand Music Award of Latvia. 

Along with his fondness for Mozart, Juha Kangas is well-known as a tireless promoter of Baltic and Nordic music. In 1997 the Finnish conductor was awarded the Grand Music Award of Latvia for his contribution to the promotion of Latvian music.

In the limelight of the Grand Guild Hall we will also be presented the Rock Score for 19 string instruments, composed by Pehr Henrik Nordgren, a colleague and compatriot of Kangas. Finally, the Baltics will be represented by the most prominent Lithuanian contemporary composer Onutė Narbutaitė and her piece "Was there a butterfly?"

 

Narbutaitė's works have been performed in Europe, North America and South Korea, and her recognition has come about largely thanks to Juha Kangas, who regularly performs and records her cerebral, exquisite compositions with the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra.

Without a doubt, the professional and spiritual connection between Kangas and fellow Finnish composer Pehr Henrik Nordgren is even tighter. The latter might be viewed as a sort of hippy of the academic music realm: he studied music both in his native Finland and Japan, but then settled down in Finland and spent the rest of his life in the tiny town of Kaustinen, known as the Mecca of Finnish folk music.

 

Each in their own way, both composers represent the vibrations of their native lands – their musical culture and sonic space, their Nordic sparkle and local traditions. Their music is saturated with an authenticity that is hard to express in words, but it is not an accident that this music remains a great passion of Juha Kangas, and, similarly to Mozart's heritage, continues to speak of the vitality and colourfulness of its homelands with a particular acuteness and honesty.

 

Photo by: Andris Sproģis  ©, Aiga Ozo © 

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