The Great Mozart Hunt

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 studying,
Sylvia enjoys her work as a writer/researcher and producer for CFRC radio,
and organist for Saint Matthew's United church.



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