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Mozart, Salieri rivalry takes centre stage

The legendary rivalry between Mozart and Salieri will be revived in the next Red Deer Symphony Orchestra concert, which features works by both composers.

The Angles of Amadeus concert, on Saturday, April 26, at the Red Deer College Arts Centre, will include a performance of Horn Concerto No. 2 in E Flat, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The lively work will spotlight the talents of soloist Allene Hackleman, of Edmonton, on the horn.

The RDSO will also tackle Antonio Salieri’s Overture to La Scuola de Gelosi — along with Piotr Tchaikovsky’s Mozart tribute, Suite No. 4, and an excerpt from an Antonin Dvorak violin concerto.

RDSO music director Claude Lapalme believes Viennese court composer Salieri was canny enough to realize that Mozart’s musical talents eclipsed his own. But he was hardly a scheming Machiavellian character who tried to derail his rival’s success out of jealousy — as depicted in the Peter Schaffer play, which was turned into the award-winning 1984 Milos Forman film, Amadeus.

According to historic records, Mozart’s father was initially resentful of the “Italian influence” in the Viennese court, which he blamed for holding back his son’s career. However, Lapalme said Salieri became a big fan of the younger composer’s works — in fact, he was observed avidly cheering at Mozart’s concerts. “He would even return to see them again, bringing friends.”

Lapalme believes Salieri, who tutored Ludwig van Beethoven and other students for free because an altruistic nobleman had paid for his own education, was actually an “excellent” composer.

If his biggest misfortune was that he wasn’t a genius, like Mozart, then Salieri was in great company. “It’s like saying, ‘He’s a good hockey player, but he’s no Wayne Gretzky.’ Well, there’s only one Gretzky, so what kind of comment is that?” Lapalme added, with a chuckle.

The Salieri work is a fun, light-hearted overture from his Moliere-like comic opera School of Jealousy. Lapalme considers the composer’s music — which has undergone a revival due to its creator’s undeserved notoriety — as a product of its time, while Mozart’s transcended convention in imaginative and unexpected ways.

“It might seem like (Salieri’s) music lacks pizzazz” — but that’s only because Mozart’s music is pure magic, he said.

Mozart’s “phenomenal” melodies and variations will be displayed during the RDSO’s performance of his horn concerto, featuring Hackleman, a principal horn player with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Summit Brass Ensemble of Denver.

The happy piece reveals Mozart’s comic side. Written for a horn player friend, who also loved to laugh, the composition includes jokingly insulting marginalia in which Mozart referred to his friend’s so-called laziness. He wrote things like: ‘I know you want to slow down here, but I’m going to keep going!’ said Lapalme.

Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 4 in G Major was written as an homage to Mozart because the Russian composer was a huge fan. “He adored Mozart,” said Lapalme, who believes Tchaikovsky does a great job of tipping his hat, musically, to the earlier composer with this four-movement work of melodies and variations. “It’s a very affectionate treatment.”

The RDSO will also perform the third movement of Dvorak’s Violin Concert in A Minor to showcase the talents of local violinist Heidi Baumbach, winner of the Red Deer Kiwanis Music Festival.

Baumbach, 22, is a member of the Canadian University College Chamber Orchestra. The “sweet” Dvorak movement she will play is based on Bohemian folk dances, said Lapalme, who believes this tuneful concert will be one of the most accessible the RDSO has ever performed.

“It will be very easy listening.”

Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $54.75 ($52.75 students/seniors, $39.25 youths, first four rows) from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

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