Long Live Amadeus
Mozart Society bows out.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Clifton Hart used to spend months in Germany every year, attending performances at the Salzburg Festival and the Bayreuth Festival. In 1988, he convinced several European ensembles to come perform in Carmel. Thus was the Mozart Society of California founded, with the goal of presenting the music of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The first concert was in Carmel Woman’s Club. It was a performance by the Finnish baritone Jorma Hynninen (more often seen at the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala than at civic clubs) singing works by Jaen Sibelius, Hugo Wolf and an arrangement of Finnish folksongs.
“The response was what it has been ever since,” recalls the society’s current director, Rudolf Schroeter, “a deeply enthusiastic, passionate following by a relatively small group of people with a narrow range of musical interest.”
The Mozart Society included many European émigrés, mostly over the age of 50, and has averaged less than 200 members. In the beginning, Hart scouted the concert halls of Europe to attract musicians rarely presented in the US. Then Dr. M. Darnell Whitt took over that role, until Rudolf Schroeter accepted the responsibility nine years ago.
The Mozart Society will present its final concert this weekend, after 19 years and more than 90 Carmel performances featuring the pinnacle of European and American musicianship. Schroeter says the society has played an important role by presenting the great works of Bach, Brahms and—especially—the composer who gave the society its name.
“Even Richard Wagner, an egotistical, self-centered man who praised no one above himself, said that ‘Mozart’s genius raises him above all masters in all the centuries and in all the arts.’ That has not been said of anyone of any other genre. It is so important to keep this music alive.”
For many years the Mozart Society has done just that by taking visiting musicians to perform and lecture at Monterey County high schools. “Any serious musician, no matter what their idiom, benefits from learning to play music that was written in a formal manner, with rules of musical content and harmony, gaining the strength of technique and a fundamental understanding of the harmonic connections between one passage and another. This discipline is a foundation for any form of musical expression. Once you have these skills you can get the most out of any instrument and play with authority.”
The essence of the Mozart Society will be preserved by its merger with the Carmel Music Society, whose current season brochure offers a “Mozart Society Series.”
“They didn’t want us to die,” Schroeter says. “Thanks to [them], it seems that we will be reborn.”
THE MOZART SOCIETY OF CALIFORNIA presents pianist Gustavo Romero on Friday, April 20, at 8pm in All Saints Church, Dolores and Ninth, Carmel. Tickets are $10/students, $25/general, available at the door. Call 625-3637 or mozart-society.com