Anton Bruckner Choir, Bath Responses, Brahms, Dittersdorf, Figaro, Haydn, He Makes His Messengers Winds, Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir, Mozart, Nunc Dimittis, Occam Singers, Parliament Choir, piano quintet, Requiem, Skull Of Yorick Opera, St Mary Abbots, Vanhal
It seems that the final chord of the Brahms Requiem performance on Wednesday evening heralded (note this word) the beginning of the Christmas silly season, for, since then, the email and phone requests to play at various carol services have been arriving apace. Some of these performances are going to come with O’Neill pieces attached, the Parliament Choir and the Occam Singers in particular being thick with my notes. There are also the Bath Responses this coming Sunday at Mary Abbots and other bits and pieces dotted here and there, the first performance of He Makes His Messengers Winds, and the Nunc Dimittis for example.
Meanwhile there are things to be doing, such as concerts with the Anton Bruckner Choir, Skull of Yorick Opera and the Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir, all in the next couple of weeks. It will be a busy time, tough to incorporate my writing, but it is something I am determined to do, so it might mean late nights and early mornings, not my favourite things, but needs must and January will undoubtedly be much quieter.
There are also a couple of lectures to tidy up, one on film music and two about Mozart. For all that it is fun to explore the lesser trodden paths, there is a reason why the name of Mozart keeps cropping up, and the focus of these two classes, the years from 1781 to 1791, means that I am overwhelmed with music of the very highest calibre from which to choose and, of course, to learn. I have also managed to dig out a couple of hidden gems from my CD collection, especially the Piano Quintet in Eb, which is simply glorious, a kind of concerto reduced down to its very smallest dimensions. Watching Wolfgang learn and grow throughout this decade is a thing of wonder, but it always comes with the sad knowledge that he would gamble it all away and die at the height of his success with nothing to his name.
I am trying to keep my head up over the coming days, trying not to get too stressed or – my particular bugbear – too tired, but I need to accept that there will be days when I am unable to do my work, as opposed to other people’s, but such is the way of the freelance composer. Go to Mozart’s apartment in Vienna and you can see the manuscript paper on which even he doodled while he taught a piano pupil, clearly doing it for the money and with his mind elsewhere. The cards and the billiard table are also there, also, happily, the very room in which he, Haydn, Vanhal and Dittersdorf sat down and played through each other’s quartets. What a time that must have been.
One of the joys of exploring a composer’s works is that at times one can enter into that writer’s mind and follow their very thoughts at that point of their life. To 1786 it is clear that Mozart’s focus is on the piano concerto, and it produced a rich succession of works, 15 between 1782 and 1786, but far fewer after that as his efforts shifted towards opera, the success of Figaro taking him, at last, into the genre he had always wanted to explore. It is in those chamber works written for specific performers, though, that I find myself closest to Mozart, sharing with him the joy of intimate music making amongst friends simply for the sake of music and friendship. There is no doubt that Mozart drove some people to despair, his father coming to mind most readily, but many others, Haydn included, felt fortunate to know him. At least he has left enough of himself behind in his music to enable us to make up our own minds.