News & Reviews
250 years ago the history of music very nearly took a significant turn for the worse when, in November 1767, the eleven-year-old Mozart contracted smallpox. He completely lost his sight for nine days, and only the timely intervention of a family friend from Salzburg prevented him from dying. By the start of 1768, though, he was fully recovered and he and his family were on their way back to Vienna, where they were to spend most of the year. Our musical survey of 1768 begins with our annual retrospective concert at Wigmore Hall. Unlike in previous years, our programme for this concert focuses almost exclusively on Vienna and its environs, although our journey does also incorporate London, with our wonderful principal flautist playing a charming flute concerto by ‘the London Bach’. Vienna was of course one of Europe’s leading musical capitals, and the music he heard there during his formative years had a significant influence on the young Mozart. Our concert is framed by two dynamic D minor symphonies, including an electrifying work by Vanhal which surely deserves to be better known, and also features a haunting aria by Jommelli, whose Il Vologeso caused such a stir when we gave its UK première last year. The soloist, who will also be singing arias by Mozart, Haydn and Hasse, is the exciting young Swiss-Belgian soprano Chiara Skerath. MOZART 250 continues in March with a rare performance of Haydn’s Applausus cantata. This fascinating work has been unjustly neglected, largely because of the length of several of its arias, but my view is that music can never be too long when it is this beautiful! We have assembled a superb cast of young British singers, three of whom – Ellie Laugharne, Thomas Elwin and David Shipley – are company Associate Artists, and this concert promises to be a significant and memorable event. The highlight of our journey through 1768, though, is Mozart’s first full-length opera, La finta semplice. We are delighted to be returning to Birmingham Town Hall, and this work will also mark our début at the newly renovated Queen Elizabeth Hall at London’s Southbank Centre. Further details of this important project will appear in our next newsletter. Away from MOZART 250, our season ends with an exciting programme of arias by Mozart, Gluck, Benda and Mysliveček (sung by soprano Ana Maria Labin) and symphonies by Koželuh and Vanhal, as part of Martin Randall Travel’s ‘Music in Prague’. There are still places available for this private festival, which also features performances by The Sixteen, the Wihan Quartet and the Prague Symphony Orchestra among others.