Despite having one of the most awesome first names in existence, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. After all, he was known as a piano prodigy, as he has been playing music since he was four years old and many of his pieces such as Turkish March and Requiem are still recognized today. However, in 2021, it is going to be difficult to celebrate Mozart’s 265th birthday, but the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) have found a way.
Since 1978, the UNCSA has honored the works and magnificence of Mozart through their annual Mozart birthday concerts held annually on January 27 (Mozart’s birthday). This concert features chamber music conducted by faculty artists and experts in the world of music. What makes the UNCSA concerts so unique is that the concert hall where the music is performed is built in such a way that the reverberations of the music provide a harmonious experience to the listener. Unfortunately, with the spread of COVID-19, this listening experience will be a bit different.
In light of the pandemic, the UNCSA has moved their concert to an on-demand video collection of some of the best offerings from past concerts. These offerings include performances from past Mozart Birthday Concerts as well as improvised student aria performances. It will also feature showcases by the Chrysalis Chamber Music Institute as well as a performance by the UNCSA School of Music Emeritus Faculty member and founder of the Mozart Birthday Concert tradition Eric Larson.
The on-demand collection will be compiled and edited by Brooks Whitehouse. It will feature multiple camera angles of both the chamber itself and the orchestra. “It has been a great joy for me to review all of the splendid recordings of Mozart works we have celebrated over the past few years and I only wish we could share them all with you”, says Whitehouse. “We are just thrilled to keep the Mozart Birthday Concert tradition alive”.
According to UNCSA, the program will include selections such as Sonata in C Major K.14, Trio in G Major K. 564, Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Major, and String Quartet no 5 in D Major K. 593. These selection will be performed by various faculty members such as Kevin Lawrence, Ida Bieler, and Janet Orenstein. Additional performances such as solos and duets will round out the hour long program.
While many people are pleased to keep the tradition alive, many people admit that the experience will not be anywhere near as meaningful as the pre-2021 experience. According to musical analyst Steven Pinker, music is more valuable “knowing the audience will never hear the same rendition again”. Because an on-demand experience grants the listener the ability to listen to the music over again, the music doesn’t feel as special. Also, the musical sounds and vibrations do not sound as fluent on a television screen than at the actual concert hall.
Still, many fans of Mozart are looking forward to “tuning” in to the concert, now available online for free on the UNCSA website. Mozart was one of the most important influential thinkers in the history of music and not honoring his birthday, to classical music listeners, “just wouldn’t feel right”. “In spite of the these times, our performances have reached new heights”, says Whitehouse. “We hope you enjoy”.