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  • Zandra Wolfgram

Classi-Palooza is March 12

Some “music notes” as you head to the concert

If Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) were both alive today, it’s unlikely that they would be friends. Although both their music and their careers share many common themes, the two had strong – and opposing – opinions when it comes to the meaning of music.

For Stravinsky, music was not about expression. He contended, “Expression has never been an inherent property of music. That is by no means the purpose of its existence.’

But Mozart could hardly disagree more saying, “‘Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.’

Despite their differences, Stravinsky learned a lot from his predecessor and many of his greatest works owe their inspiration to Mozart’s masterpieces. Stravinsky was also outspoken about his respect for Mozart’s genius. In the mid-1920s Stravinsky began to explore the music of the past in what became known as ‘neoclassicism.” So what of the suggestion that Stravinsky’s neoclassical works are just cheap rip-offs of Mozart’s best party pieces? Stravinsky had his own answer for that. He supposedly said, “‘Lesser artists borrow, greater artists steal.’

“Music is given to us with the sole purpose of establishing an order in things, including, and particularly, the coordination between man and time.”— Igor Stravinsky

The Soldier's Tale (L'Histoire du soldat) is Stravinsky's greatest work for narrator and orchestra. It is the story of a soldier, on leave from the army, who trades his old violin for a magic book that can tell the future and make him rich.

Stravinsky's life spanned a world of musical change, and probably no other composer wrote in as many styles as did he.

The Soldier's Tale comes from 1918, a lean post-war time when jazz was just beginning to emerge into the mainstream. Stravinsky was broke, deprived of his royalties because of the Revolution, and his other source of income, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes was also going through lean times.

Stravinsky invented a new style, pared down to essentials, in melody, rhythm and instrumentation. The Soldier's Tale is scored for just seven instruments: clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone, violin, double bass and percussion. The concert version also features four speaking parts, those of the Devil, the Soldier, a Princess and an unseen Reader.

Sinfonia Gulf Coast assistant conductor Aaron Vaughn King will also conduct Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A major K. 201.

“I cannot write poetically, for I am no poet. I cannot make fine artistic phrases that cast light and shadow, for I am no painter. I can neither by signs nor by pantomime express my thoughts and feelings, for I am no dancer; but I can by tones, for I am a musician.” — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This four-movement piece is the yin to Stravinsky’s yang. It is a very hushed and refined movement using muted strings, courtly double-dotted rhythms, exquisite ornamental figures, and chromatically altered notes for rich harmonic color. Yet while it has the manners of rococo court music, it also has a sadness, a depth of feeling that is pure Mozart.

Where the first movement demonstrates mastery of counterpoint, this finale shows mastery of form. This finale is small but mighty, with a bold spirit in its rushing scales and other energetic outbursts that captures Mozart’s attitude as he ventured out from Salzburg.

And … there’s even more to this riveting Classical Connections concert evening. Purchase tickets online at

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