Mozart's 250th Birthday
Review on SF State's Symphony' s tribute to the late composer
March 14, 2006 12:26 PM
Conductor Cyrus Ginwala stood silently with his back against an almost full auditorium in the Creative Arts building’s Knuth Hall. With the raise of an eyebrow, instruments went up and the lively sounds and movements of SF State’s Symphony Orchestra took hold of its audience.
In celebration of Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 250th birthday, the Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus performed three of Mozart’s pieces on March 6 at 1:10 p.m. to both students and off-campus guests.
Since his heyday in the second half of the 18th century, Mozart’s music has had a profound influence on classical music. Revered by many, he proves to be one of the most enduringly popular composers of his time.
Since an early age, Mozart composed and performed his compositions from memory, even before they were written down, according to Ginwala.
“His music is so subtle and yet contains a wide range of ideas and feelings,” he said.
Mozart’s birthday was actually on Jan. 27, but since the Symphony did not start practicing until the beginning of the spring semester, the tribute was postponed.
This is Ginwala’s first semester as an associate professor of music at SF State, but he conducted several concerts at SF State last fall. He used to be the music director of Kingsport, Tennessee’s Symphony of the Mountains, in which he is completing his final year.
The Symphony and University Chorus consist of music majors and non-majors, as well as students and non-students.
Accompanied by the stringed instruments from the Symphony, the beautifully harmonized voices of the chorus reverberated throughout the auditorium in the program’s first piece, “Ave Verum Corpus,” which is Latin for “Hail True Body.” Under the direction of guest conductor Zane Fiala, the chorus showed impressive range and projection.
Antoinette Lim, an 18-year-old freshman majoring in international relations particularly enjoyed the University Chorus, although she said that some parts were a little off.
As the chorus members filtered off the stage, about 40 musicians sat down for the program’s next piece, the overture to “The Marriage of Figaro.” Ginwala charismatically led the Symphony with billowy movements and strong direction.
Depending on the music being played, the Symphony can have up to 60 players, but in Mozart’s time, orchestras were much smaller, so the music in the program was arranged for about 40 players.
The subject matter in Mozart’s opera, which is based on a French play by author Beaumarchais, playfully mocks the rigidly structured social class system of the era.
Sharon Abe, 43, an ESL volunteer at the Korean center on Post and Gough who tries to make it out to all of SF State’s musical performances, described the Symphony’s rendition of “The Marriage of Figaro” as having “a lot of sparkle.” She also thought the University Chorus did a wonderful job in the first piece.
“[Their voices] were very beautiful and balanced,” she said.
The final work in the program was Mozart’s Concerto For Piano in C Minor, K. 491. Definitely the most engaging piece out of the three, the concerto’s music was sometimes mysterious and dramatic, while at other times elegant and gentle.
Guest pianist and SF State music professor William Corbett-Jones, was gladly greeted on stage with cheers and applause from the audience. In swift and graceful movements, Corbett-Jones’ fingers glided gently up and down the piano keys, in a pleasing accompaniment to the Symphony.
The 50-minute concert concluded with an amiable hug between Ginwala and Corbett-Jones as the two were given a grand applause.
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