The Great Mozart
Like many others, my friend Alex and I were only too happy to brave
the chilly (yet thankfully, dry) November afternoon to journey to
St. George’s Cathedral for our first ever Kingston Symphony
Association performance: The Great Mozart Hunt. And I am pleased
to report that with its blend of mystery, comedy, and of course
plenty of lollipop-like Mozart favorites, the performance we enjoyed
was well worth our chilly fingers and wind-swept hair.
I confess that I am no expert when it comes to classical music.
After several years of music training, I pride myself on my ability
to differentiate Mozart from Madonna; however, when it comes to
the finer points of analysis, I can offer only a little more insight
than a hearing-impaired ostrich. So please bear with me.
After a short musical interlude, including a few bars from Eine
Kleine Nachtmusik, renowned Canadian bassoonist George Zukerman
started the afternoon off with the words, “you really must
take pity on the bassoon players of the world!” And I did.
Who ever pays attention to the bassoon, anyway? It always seems
to be hidden away at the back, pumping out those essential, yet
rather mundane bass lines while the strings bleed out the melody.
To me, the bassoon implied the angry grandfather on my cherished
Peter and the Wolf story-tape… and no more.
So you can imagine my surprise when Zukerman teamed up with Oboist
Barbara Bolt for Mozart’s beautiful Divertimento in F Major,
an unhurried, daydreamy gem that swept me into a euphoric stupor
and left me spouting images of warm summer afternoons spent napping
in the park. It was what I consider ‘good for the soul’
music: beautiful and unpretentious.
Between pieces, of course, my intellectual coma could not have
been more amusingly stirred than by actor Ron Hadler. Sporting period
dress and a wide array of accents, Hadler’s energetic performance
added just the right balance of comic relief and interesting fact
to the performance. A man of many faces, he began the afternoon
as a hired private investigator, and by the end of the show had
portrayed a total of nine different characters, including Wolfgang
Amadeus himself. Because of his rapid character shifts and thick,
often inconsistent accents, I did find him difficult to understand
at times; however, I still found his obvious passion for the roles
to be contagious, and enjoyed his parts immensely.
Although I adored all of the musical works (particularly the brilliantly
horrible Musical Joke, a childhood favourite of mine), the real
concerto star of the show was, without doubt, Mozart’s Concerto
Number 1 in B Flat Major. Never before have I heard a bassoon sound
so jubilant, neither have a seen a bassoon player move his fingers
so quickly. The orchestra’s entries during the allegro were
majestic and warm, filling the cathedral with an audible glow. The
Adagio - my favourite part—was sweet, pastoral and contemplative,
filling my mind with memories of Thanksgiving hikes through the
country and the mixed smell of freshly-fallen leaves and mom’s
pumpkin pie. (Of course, in true un-Kingstonly fashion, the autumn
afternoon I envisioned had not one drop of rain.) I was sad to hear
the Adagio go as the piece slipped into the rondo and then the finale.
Zukerman performed his lead role brilliantly, with only a few forgivable
fingering and tuning errors towards the end of the lengthy work.
I left St. George’s that afternoon with a grin on my face,
a spring in my step, and an entirely new take on the bassoon. I
would like to give a huge bear-hug thank-you to Mr. Zukerman, as
well as actor Ron Hadler, guest conductor Michel Brousseau and the
wonderful Kingston symphony artists. Thanks to you, not only did
I pass a wonderful Sunday afternoon, I left knowing a little more
about poor Amadeus’ history, and will continue my musical
education with a newfound respect for the big bassoon.
by Sylvia Blake
Sylvia is in her third year as a Political Studies major at Queen's
University. She grew up in Georgetown, Ontario, where she throughly
enjoyed taking in the local music scene, through chamber orchestra
work in the Georgetown Bach Chorale, teaching piano, and as
many musical activities as possible at her high school. When not
Sylvia enjoys her work as a writer/researcher and producer for CFRC
and organist for Saint Matthew's United church.