Music Interview: Life starts at 250 for Mozart

By Darren Young

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is celebrating a big birthday this year; too bad he isn’t alive to see his 250th year.

“Mozart’s music is timeless,” comments David Ferguson, director of the Mount Royal Kantorei. “Even in his time, Mozart’s music has always been speaking to people.”

Ferguson is familiar with making music “speak” to people, having been heavily involved with choirs in Calgary for the past 50 years. In 1995, he formed the Kantorei, an auditioned adult choir consisting of approximately 80 voices. The Kantorei is contributing to Mozart’s big birthday bash this year by performing a series of choral works by the composer, including Ave verum corpus (K618) and Vesperae solennes de Confessore (K339).

“The music is obviously focused more on Mozart’s choral works,” states Ferguson, noting that it is not exclusively a vocal performance. “We also have a pianist performing the first movement of [Mozart’s] 20th concerto.”

The pianist is Jan Lisiecki, a local musician, who at only 11 years of age is catching the attention of many unsuspecting eyes and ears. He may be young, but Lisiecki is not unlike the youthful Mozart, who was considered a virtuoso early in life.

Mozart did not live a long life, passing away at 35, yet two and a half centuries later his name is still known worldwide. Though classical music may not hold the esteem today as it once did years ago, Ferguson believes an event such as Mozart’s 250th birthday is worth bringing to the attention of the public.

“Important names need exposure,” he says. “These events are used as a way to get people to recognize the presence of composers like Mozart.”

In essence, composers need publicity to make sure their works are not lost over time. Fans of classical music are acutely aware of this and advertise important events to preserve the culture of the music. So long as this tradition continues, the ghost of Mozart will be resurrected for many posthumous birthdays to come.

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