Mozart in Italy Festival

Mozart in Italy Festival
The Mozartists, Ian Page
Cadogan Hall, 6-8 March 2020

The Mozartists (and their companions, Classical Opera) continue with their ambitious MOZART 250 project with a weekend exploration of music written by Mozart and others in the year 1770 when he was 14 years old. The project started in 2015 on the anniversary of Mozart’s childhood visit to London and continues with annual explorations of the music that Mozart wrote exactly 250 years earlier, alongside music that Mozart might have heard during the same year. Following their 2015 ‘Mozart in London’ weekend, this weekend focussed on the time Mozart spent in Italy. The Cadogan Hall weekend included three formal concerts together with related talks and performances. There was a focus on different versions of Mitridate, re di Ponto, by Mozart and others, together with extracts from little-known operas by Guglielmi, Piccinni, Mysliveček and Jommelli that Mozart heard in Verona, Milan, Bologna and Naples. Continue reading

Haydn: Applausus

Haydn: Applausus: Jubilaeum Virtutis Palatium
The Mozartists, Ian Page
Cadogan Hall, 15 March 2018

In what was almost certainly the first live UK performance of Haydn’s Applausus Cantata (Jubilaeum Virtutis Palatium, Hob XXIVa:6), the Mozartists (the concert-performing wing of Classical Opera) opened the 2018 season of their ambitious Mozart 250 project. This started in 2015, the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s visit to London where, incidentally, he stayed not far from the Cadogan Hall in Ebury Street, and wrote his first symphony, aged 8. The aim is to annually explore the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously.

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In 1768, this year’s focus, Mozart was 12 years old and Haydn 36 and well settled into the princely Esterházy court where he directed most of the musical life of the court. He received an invitation from the wealthy Abbey of Zwettl, about 120km west-north-west of Vienna to write an ‘applausus‘ cantata to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their abbot Rainer Kollmann, first taking his monastic vows. Although composed in quasi-operatic style, with a series of accompanied recitative leading up to da capo arias, a duet, quartet and a final chorus, there is no plot in any operatic or literal sense. The four Cardinal Virtues of Temperance, Prudence, Justice and Fortitude sing the praises of the Abbot in a convoluted Latin libretto, probably written by one of the monks. A personification of Theology/Wisdom moderates some of their utterances. I am sure the text meant something to the 17th-century monks of Zwettl, but I found its vaguely moralistic meanderings completely incomprehensible. The repeated references to a ‘Palace’ perhaps reflected the wealth of the monks of Zwettl, whose medieval Abbey buildings had been thoroughly reconstructed in the Baroque style a few decades earlier, complete with one of the largest and most expensive organs in Austria (1731, Egedacher) – all still existing. “How blessed I am to be an inhabitant of this building!’ is one of Prudence’s utterings, to which Justice notes that “our Palace is celebrated in the eyes of the highest”. So that’s all right then! Continue reading

Ex Cathedra: In a Strange Land

In a Strange Land
Ex Cathedra, Jeffrey Skidmore
Cadogan Hall, 26 April 2017

The latest in the Choral at Cadogan series of concerts featured the Birmingham based choir, Ex Cathedra, with their founder and director, Jeffrey Skidmore. Since they started in 1969, they have built an enviable reputation for their performing and educational work, and the encouragement they give to younger singers. On this occasion, they fielded 10 singers for music reflecting issues of captivity, religious conflict, freedom and a yearning for homeland, based on the verse from Psalm 137, How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?, . Their wide-ranging programme, including some of Ex Cathedra’s greatest hits, explored the search for heaven and earth in the Old and the New World during the 16th and 17th centuries with music from England, France, Holland, and Spain, together with the world of the Aztecs and Incas in present day Mexico and Bolivia. Continue reading

Hasse: Demetrio

Hasse: Demetrio
Opera Settecento, Leo Duarte
Cadogan Hall, 21 September 2016

Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) is one of those historically unfortunate composers who achieved great fame during their lifetimes but have since been more-or-less forgotten. A prolific composer of opera, he was hailed by Charles Burney as being superior to all other lyric composers. Married to the famed soprano Faustina Bordoni, the couple became the Posh and Becks of their day. Usually based in Dresden in the Court of the Saxon Elector Frederick III, Hasse  had special dispensation that avoided the need to travel annually to the Polish Court, where Frederick was also the elected King. He also maintained a post in Venice at the Ospedale degli Incurabili. He lived long enough to have performed in front of Bach and the young Mozart.

This was the modern première of the opera Demetrio, presented by the musically adventurous Opera Settecento.  Although the publicity suggested that we would hear the original 1732 Venice version, it was the later 1740 Dresden version that was performed. This included several new arias, but Continue reading

Jommelli: Il Vologeso

Niccolò Jommelli: Il Vologeso
Classical Opera Company, Ian Page
Cadogan Hall, 28 April 2016

It is when you hear music from composers like Niccolò Jommelli (1714-74) that you realise just how deep the musical well is, if you peep behind the wall of well-known composers. Writing in that fascinating limbo period between the Baroque and Classical era, Jommelli perhaps completed too many operas for posterity to master. Il Vologeso is one of his best-known works and, on the strength of this performance by Classical Opera Company (giving the UK premiere), deserves to be heard more, and in a full staging rather than this concert performance. This was another part of their MOZART 250 project, aimed at exploring the works of Mozart and his contemporaries on the anniversary of their composition – which, in the case of Il Vologeso, was on 11 February 1766, in the enormous theatre at the Duke of Württemberg’s Ludwigsburg Palace near Stuttgart.

The opening extended Overture showed many of the features of Jommelli’s writing that would be reinforced as the evening progressed, including Continue reading

Pergolesi: Adriano in Siria

Pergolesi: Adriano in Siria
Opera Settecento, Leo Duarte
Cadogan Hall, 16 September 2015

progamme_cover_a4Pergolesi is often seen as one-horse-wonder, rather unfairly as he died aged just 26, composing his famous Stabat mater just before his death.  His other works, including several operas, are usually ignored. He was one of the first composers (of around 70) to write an opera based on Metastasio’s take on Adriano in Siria (Hadrian in Syria), two years after the libretto was written, and two years before his death. The plot is based on the story of Hadrian in his days as Governor of Syria in Antioch (where he first became Emperor), and his love for his prisoner (and daughter of the Parthian King Osroa) Emirena who, in turn, is betrothed to Farnaspe, a Parthian prince. As these things inevitably go in opera seria, Adriano is married to Sabina, who, in turn, is loved by Aquilio. Rather bizarrely, Osroa tries to rescue his daughter by setting fire to the palace that she lives in. Of course, it all ends up well – the condemned Osroa is forgiven, Farnaspe marries Emirena, and Adriano stays with his wife Sabina.  Continue reading