More than one Mozart

More than one Mozart

I try to empathize with Leopold Mozart (that's him in the picture). A competent professional musician with a decent, I guess middle-class career, Leopold certainly knew a good musician when he met one. And shortly after his son Joannes Chrisostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb (that’s what Leopold wrote to friends as the name he’d given the boy) was born, Leopold saw a good musician.

There was probably some jealousy – there must have been. Picking out notes at three, performing at five, composing shortly thereafter, Wolfgang must have raised his father’s hackles. Still, Leopold encouraged the youngster, and soon saw the opportunity the “wunderkind” presented.

Here’s where the empathy comes in. Why not share the child’s talents with the world, and make a pfennig or two while you’re at it? The problems came with young Wolfgang’s maturity which, musically, he had in spades from a young age – but which, in pretty much every other aspect of life, he never really achieved.

Leopold was not only father, but was talent scout, booking agent, impresario, financial advisor, and probably a few other potential conflicts of interest. It made for a messy, complicated and ultimately doomed relationship that never managed to reconcile itself by the time Leopold died in 1787, and his son only four years later.

Like his son, Leopold Mozart was a composer. Unlike his son, only a smattering of the older Mozart’s works survive, and even fewer are regularly played. But what we have shows a decent, if perhaps not brilliant, musical mind. And for proof, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra presents Music of the Mozarts: Father & Son as its final QuikCard Early Classics Midweek concert on Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 pm.

The concert will be led, much as it would have been in the Mozarts’ day, from the desk of the first violin. ESO Concertmaster Robert Uchida leads the performance, and is the soloist in Wolfgang’s Violin Concerto No. 1, written while the younger Mozart was still a teenager. Another early work, a divertimento for strings also called “Salzburg Symphony No. 1,” completes the concert’s first half.

The second half is taken up with the unusually scored Serenade for Trumpet and Trombone by Leopold. It is part serenade, part mini-concertos: one for trumpet, one for trombone. ESO Principal Trumpet Robin Doyon, and the talented Thunder Bay Symphony Principal who spent last season with us, Erik Hongisto, are the soloists.

The concert will thankfully be free of Freudian analysis of the fraught and difficult relationship of Leopold and Wolfgang. As an organization, the ESO frankly sucks as family counsellors. But the music will be lovely.

D.T. Baker