Wednesday 3 January 2018
“It’s a series worth following: this was an unalloyed pleasure from start to finish.”
Ian Page and The Mozartists continue their ground-breaking MOZART 250 series in 2018, exploring the music of 1768. This year explores music by Jommelli, J.C. Bach, Hasse and Vanhal, in addition to a new semi-staging of Mozart’s La finta semplice in Birmingham and London and a rare performance of Haydn’s Applausus at Cadogan Hall. All of these composers were at the height of their careers in 1768, though most were much older than Mozart, who was just 12 years old at the time. Mozart spent the year living in Vienna with his family, as his father, Leopold, tried to establish his son’s reputation there.
MOZART 250 in 2018
In 2015, Ian Page and The Mozartists launched MOZART 250, a 27-year project retracing the steps of Mozart starting from his childhood visit to London and culminating in the 250th anniversary of his death. The series explores the music that was being written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years ago, following the trajectory of his life, works and influences.
Ian Page, founder, conductor and Artistic Director of Classical Opera and The Mozartists, says:
“I am hugely looking forward to our exploration of the music being composed by Mozart and his contemporaries in 1768. La finta semplice is a particular favourite of mine, revealing several intriguing pre-echoes of his mature operas – Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte in particular – but also containing music that is genuinely entertaining, heartfelt and dramatically astute in its own right. Our programmes also feature composers such as Vanhal and Jommelli who deserve wider exposure and recognition, and a rare performance of Haydn’s Applausus, whose music is full of reflective beauty.”
2018’s exploration of the year 1768 begins with the annual ‘retrospective’ concert at Wigmore Hall with Ian Page and The Mozartists, contextualising the musical scene 250 years ago and including performances of Haydn’s Symphony No. 26 and Vanhal’s Symphony in D minor. Swiss-Belgian soprano Chiara Skerath joins Ian Page and his period ensemble to make her UK début with arias from Jommelli’s Fetonte, Haydn’s Lo speziale, Hasse’s Piramo e Tisbe and Mozart’s La finta semplice, following her company début performance on Classical Opera’s recent recording of Mozart’s Il Sogno di Scipione as part of their critically-acclaimed Mozart opera cycle. Principal flautist Katy Bircher is the soloist in J. C. Bach’s Flute Concerto in D major, and leading Mozart scholar Richard Wigmore gives a pre-concert talk at 6pm to provide an overview of the year 1768, introducing some of the repertoire and discussing the context of Mozart’s life in Vienna.
Continuing their exploration of the year 1768, Ian Page and The Mozartists present Haydn’s rarely performed Applausus cantata at Cadogan Hall on 15 March. The one-act cantata was written for the 50th anniversary of the Cistercian abbot taking his monastic vows in Zwettl, Austria, but has since been largely forgotten. The work was written by Haydn in 1768, and this performance allows audiences to understand the wider musical scene during the period in which Mozart was composing. The performance will showcase the company’s Associate Artists, including Ellie Laugharne, David Shipley and Thomas Elwin, who is making his company début having joined the scheme in 2017. Also joining the cast will be Elspeth Marrow and John Savournin, both making their company débuts. Ian Page gives a pre-concert talk at 6:15pm.
To mark their début at the Southbank Centre’s newly-refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall, Ian Page and The Mozartists present a new concert staging of Mozart’s first full-length opera La finta semplice (6 & 8 June 2018). In addition to two performances at the QEH, they are also taking a concert performance of the work to Birmingham Town Hall the week before (2 June 2018). Mozart reportedly wrote La finta semplice at the behest of Emperor Joseph II, but a series of jealous intrigues among the opera establishment prevented the finished work from being performed. The opera is based on a sparkling comedy by Carlo Goldoni, and combines situations of great comic invention and genuine humour with music of astonishing beauty, energy and emotional insight. The cast includes Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann making her company début as Rosina, Chiara Skerath, Lukas Jakobski (company début) and Božidar Smiljanić (company début) in addition to Associate Artists Thomas Elwin and Alessandro Fisher, and the staging is directed by conductor Ian Page.
Ian Page and Classical Opera are recording Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne as part of their complete Mozart opera cycle, which began in 2012 to continuing critical acclaim. The disc, which is the seventh in the series, will be released in autumn 2018 and coincides with a concert-performance of the one-act singspiel in London (further details to be announced). Bastien und Bastienne was composed in Vienna in 1768 (while Leopold Mozart was unsuccessfully fighting to have La finta semplice performed) for a private performance in the house of Doctor Franz Anton Mesmer. Mesmer was renowned for his controversial theories and research into animal magnetism – he was parodied by Despina in Act One of Così fan tutte and it was after him that the word ‘mesmerise’ was coined. Anna Lucia Richter leads as Bastienne alongside Alessandro Fisher as Bastien and Darren Jeffery as Colas.
The company also continues its important outreach work in Ealing and Birmingham with their MOZART 250 Schools’ Project, through which primary school children hear live performances of Mozart’s music, learn about his life and historical context, and compose their own operas, coming together to share their performances. The Mozartists are also creating a MOZART 250 timeline and archive for their website, providing historical information and context to their 27-year exploration of his life and work.
“[MOZART 250]… is among the most audacious classical music scheduling ever.”
“Typical generosity from Page and company; his programming always goes beyond the call of duty in bringing the obscure to light and offering true revelation.”
The Arts Desk