|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
22 - 28 November 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Mozartian sparkleDavid Blake sees illumination
The Masonic Funeral Music; Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in C minor; Requiem; Mozart; Soloists Yasser Mokhtar, piano, Dalia Farouk, soprano, Gihan Fayed, alto, George Wanis, tenor, Reda El-Wakil, bass; Cairo Symphony Orchestra, con. Ahmed El-Saidi, Cairo Opera House, Main Hall, 17 November Most people have delved into the copious letters and notes Amadeus wrote to the Mozarts. They, at least, were used to his astringency, unlike the rest of his contemporaries.
This concert showed at least some of the results of that Mozartian acid-- in the end he was, of course, alone. This terminal period is perhaps reflected in the Requiem which came towards the end of tonight's music. But this generously felt concert showed almost every aspect of the life of the composer: the luminous child may have quickly passed but the luminosity of the music remains. It was to the credit of all those taking part in tonight's performance that Mozart's special light shone to the finish.
Shadows we had, deep, dark and fearsome. After all Mozart did write Don Giovanni, possibly the greatest of all operas. But when his music is played properly -- with understanding -- it is this special light that shines and gives the music an appeal no other possesses. And the humour? That came with Yasser Mokhtar's reading of the piano concerto in C minor.
The first item was the Masonic Funeral March for two of Mozart's supposed friends. Their patronage helped European music to its golden age. The work is brief -- tuneful, without any inflated sentiment, though it contains one subtle change. The march itself is tender and tactful. Someone must have loved these two: the ending phrase is extremely sweet and hopefully comforting.
The next Mozart on the programme, the concerto, is quite something else. Yasser Mokhtar was the soloist. He displayed a refreshing attitude to this hackneyed piece. Some play it as the end of a classic period, others as a romantic new beginning for Mozart. Mokhtar had no such ideas. He just cleared the landscape and with the help of El-Saidi gave a performance of this old nut that lent it a new sound, a sound it has never had before and may never have again. It's a question of outlook with Mokhtar. He is neither moody nor capricious, but everything under his touch seems to change, even Mozart's music. For Mokhtar this concerto appeared clear as a pristine sea rolling onto a sandy shore. Everything seems magnified to Mokhtar. The technique was tactful and the tunes and structure were given immaculately, without ostentation. The trills and spin-offs gave the player real pleasure and it was this delight, perhaps, that made everything sound newly minted. Dappled, fresh -- without a stale moment. Never Jolie, yet delicate; not mannered, but elegant, an elegance spread over the keyboard. It really sounded like one movement except for a darkening moment in the second. Playing up the tunes is not one of Mokhtar's habits.
So to the Requiem and its legendary authority. So many stories, so much gossip, with poor Mozart disappearing in the middle of it all. Mozart became a media myth, Amadeus, but not his Requiem. It is too holy for that.
Mozart, who can turn the queen of the night into a ball of light which lit up Vienna also wrote the saddest of all operas, Cos“ fan tutte, turning it into a sex scandal. But the Requiem? It has seven parts, each a moment of prayer and an opportunity for the soloists to sing quartet, solo and trio. Dalia Farouk, soprano, opens and closes the Requiem. Her part is brief but important. The voice fits well in Mozart. She soars to the highest levels, maintaining a beautiful tone and with the Mozartian trick of letting the voice ring out over the chorus. It was authentic on this night.
Reda El-Wakil was in good voice, even to the deepest deeps. Like Farouk he maintained the Mozartian tone. George Wanis's voice is growing. He sang with some power. Gihan Fayed always sings well, giving the impression she's not a mezzo but a dramatic soprano who has temporarily lost her way. She did, after all, sing Turandot with style.
As Mozart's stately spelling out of man's path to eternity developed, the sound grew grander and grander, thanks to the A Capella Choir. They sang like honey. And they, too, were part of Mozart's magic. The fire, though, remained absent. What we had was honey with no spice, and the light they call heavenly.
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