08 November 2006

Mozart vs. Salieri

This year marks Mozart's 250th Birthday, and as a tribute to him musicians from all over the world have spent much of the year performing his music. This is, of course, just fine by me since I think that Mozart was an exceptional genius and just can't get enough of his music, especially when it is performed well. So I was very excited to find out that even polyphony-saturated Flemish musicians know how to lighten up and dance their way through a good classical fugue.

Sunday evening two local choirs combined efforts to present the Requiems of Salieri and Mozart, back to back, in concert at the St.-Jan-de-Doperkerk here in Leuven. Now, everyone has an idea of the rivalry that (perhaps) existed between these two Viennese-based composers, but though Mozart's music is immediately recognizably to most, Salieri is little performed today. And if you do want to give Salieri a fair shot, do NOT put him alongside Mozart in a concert, on your IPod, in your stereo, or even on your CD shelf. Salieri will not stand a chance.

Though I planned on going to the concert alone, I was lucky enough to run into my friend D at the entrance. D is one of a small group of us that drives up to Bruges every Monday night for choir rehearsal. As a Belgian native he has a passion for architecture and history, the perfect combination for an evening at one of Leuven's most interesting churches, especially when one has a 20-minute intermission and no chance whatsoever of using the church's one bathroom. As a tenor, D is also keenly interested in sharing opinions regarding music and musicians. We exchanged ideas regarding European and American choral performances, conducting technique, and various other nerdy topics. Our verdict of the evening was the same: despite Salieri's lackluster piece, the performance was magnificent (old instruments, original key, superb musicianship.) And having the opportunity to hear Mozart's Requiem, one of my all-time favorite pieces, in Europe is one I will not soon forget.

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