Soloists enjoy back-and-forth melodies during Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante
Think of your favorite buddy flick with a cast of three or four hapless dudes. This year it was "Wild Hogs." A few years ago it was "City Slickers." In the '80s it was "The Three Amigos." You know the genre: Middle-age men go off on an adventure and come back transformed.
Honolulu Symphony, conducted by Heiishiro Ohyama:
» In concert: 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday
» Place: Hawaii Theatre
» Tickets: $22 to $75; $10 students and as many as two accompanying adults
» Call: 528-0506 or visit hawaiitheatre.com
That's the closest analogy I have to describe Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn and Orchestra, which the Honolulu Symphony will perform this weekend. In our case, the "Four Amigos" are our principal wind players: J. Scott Janusch on oboe, Scott Anderson on clarinet, Wade Butin on horn and myself on bassoon.
Each solo instrument has its moment in the sun, tossing around melodic ideas like players on a basketball team. If you're itching to hear beautiful woodwind playing, this is the concert for you.
Not to be confused with the "other" Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, in the same key of E-flat major, our work is one of the most popular pieces in the orchestral repertoire. There were more than eight performances of the piece this summer in the United States alone. In June the Philadelphia Orchestra played it 10 times as it toured the country.
There is some question as to whether the work is actually by Mozart. The doubt is evident in its catalog number: "K(3) 297b (K. Anh. C 14.01) (spurious)." Let me explain what that means. Although Mozart was only 35 when he died, he wrote an amazing amount of music. The first catalog of his works was compiled by a man named Köchel. That's the K in the number. As works by Mozart were discovered, additions to the catalog were drafted: eight revisions, or "Anhang," in all. That's the "Anh" and explains the two sets of catalog numbers. "Spurious" means musicologists have reason to suspect that the work is not genuine.
Mozart wrote the Sinfonia Concertante in 1778 while in Paris trying to drum up commissions. The solo instruments at the time featured flute instead of clarinet, as this was the instrumentation of the group that commissioned the work. The original manuscript vanished in what Mozart considered to be a plot against him. We know this because of a letter that Mozart sent to his father, lamenting the loss of his music but claiming he could write another copy. The version we'll perform this weekend is based on a copy found a century later.
Experts don't question the orchestral music as authentically Mozart; the doubt is about the solo parts. Mozart was famously not fond of the flute, so replacing it with the clarinet -- a new instrument in his day -- is a likely development but cannot be proved due to lack of an original manuscript.
In this day of photocopies and hard drives, it's easy to forget how fragile the link to the past can be. Mozart was known to have written four bassoon concertos, but only one survives. Bassoonists hope that the missing concertos will be found in an attic someday!
Whether you're a fan of Mozart, have a craving for the sounds of woodwinds or simply love the key of E-flat major, be sure to join us this weekend.