"All-Mozart with Lara St. John" -- Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
Thursday and Friday, November 14/15, 7:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre
Anyone who has seen the Milos Foreman film Amadeus and Tom Hulce's characterization of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart probably thinks they have a handle on the composer's often bizarre sense of humor. While the film portrayal (based on the Peter Shaffer play) is highly fictionalized and delves into the more adolescent side of Mozart, the truth is probably a bit more subtle and satiric than chasing girls around a 18th Century drawing room and tricking them into mouthing n-n-naughty words.
Mozart entered Ein musikalischer Spaß into his catalog at the same time of Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music). Both are divertimenti, but Eine kleine Nachtmusik has achieved a generic familiarity and a decided hum-ability. On the other hand, Ein musikalischer Spaß (in English translation, A Musical Joke) is a deliberately clumsy work, intended to satirize incompetent and shallow composers of the day. Some of the humor is obvious to modern audiences. Admittedly, other parts benefit from a knowledge of Classical Period history and a few of the now obscure composers that Mozart viewed as inept competitors. But, frankly, you just have to hear it.
The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra tells A Musical Joke (K. 522) this week on its Masterworks concert at the Tennessee Theatre, along with three other works on an All-Mozart program. Guest violinist Lara St. John will join the KSO for Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K. 218.
Maestro Lucas Richman will open the concert with the Overture to the opera Idomeneo and close with the Symphony No. 31 "Paris." The work gets its subtitle from the six month period in 1778 that Mozart spent in Paris. Preceding his time in Paris, though, Mozart spent five months in Mannheim, where he met the sisters, Aloysia and Constanze Weber, falling in love with the former, but later marrying the latter. In Mannheim, Mozart also was exposed to the successful Mannheim Orchestra and some of the works that the orchestra was known for. In fact, Mozart opens the first movement of his Symphony No. 31 with a quickly rising passage that has become popularly known as the "Mannheim Rocket." Feel free to add your own joke here.