Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Mozart Quartets?

Hi all. I am in the midst of a project to record the Mozart Flute Quartets, scheduled for January 2011.

I will perform them in New York this fall to prepare for the recording: Tues, Nov 30, Christ and St Stephen's Church, 120 West 69th Street, 8pm.

Here is the backstory of the project:
2 years ago, I bought a wooden headjoint, designed to fit on my silver flute. I had had some previous interest in wooden flutes for their dark and mellow sounds, but had no idea when I attended the NY Flute Fair that I would buy one that day. The maker is David Chu, from Boston, and I really fell for this particular one, made of boxwood. It blends effortlessly with (wooden) oboes and clarinets, and brings me to a sound world of earlier period music, yet it has plenty of guts when I want that.

I have since used it with success in both the Opera pit and Symphony concerts. I have played it on Gluck and Mozart operas, and on symphonic works of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, all the way up in time to Robert Schumann.

So my wooden headjoint and I were ready to do more together, and I reached out to a favorite New York violinist, Krista Feeney, to discuss the quartets. She alerted me to the fact that Mozart scored his D and C Major Quartets for flute, violin, viola and DOUBLEBASS, not cello. I had no idea! Apparently the bass was held in high regard back then, and was often featured in material we now routinely perform on cello. To our knowledge, noone has recorded the quartets with bass instead of cello. Krista's husband John Feeney is a terrific bass player, so we brought in an excellent violist and cellist (for the 2 non-bass quartets), and we were good to go. Krista also chooses to play on gut strings, not metal, which deepens and darkens the violin sound, and fits so nicely with my headjoint.

Playing throught the quartets with bass last spring was a revelation. The lower octave and added bass energy brought out a rustic-ness in the pieces, took them entirely out of the "salon" , and brought them into the vernacular folk music of the day.

Rehearsals this fall have been so stimulating. We talk about every musical aspect: tempo choices, ornamentation, character, phrasing, all is open for discussion. It is thrilling to get rid of years of cobwebs and programmed thinking about such familiar works. I believe our equipment choices allow us to access some of the flavor of earlier period sounds, but the result seems to me to be absolutely fresh and energized.

Funding a recording is always a challenge. The expenses are so numerous: fees for the studio rental, the engineer, my colleagues, the pressing and copying of the disc, publicity, marketing. Fortunately, there is a foundation available to allow interested people to help pay for the recording, tax-deductible. The foundation is the Classical Recoring Foundation, at classicalrecording Please visit their website and see what they are about.

Then, join us on Nov 30 for a trip back in time, hearing familiar works in a new way. And consider making a gift to help fund the CD. I feel it will be a meaningful project and am very enthused by it.


Zara Lawler said...

Hi, Bart. sounds great...too bad I will be heading to DC that afternoon. If you find yourself needing an audience for a dress rehearsal let me know!

Ruth Ann McClain said...

Sounds like a great project, and looking forward to the cd. I love the Mozart quartets, and really anticipating hearing D, particularly, with double bass.
Had a former student up earlier, Jenny Davis, who loved her lesson with you. Glad she is considering Rutgers for her MM.