CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – There’s a famous scene in the 1984 Oscar-winning film “Amadeus” where the Italian composer Antonio Salieri looks over sheet music for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Gran Partita” serenade. Salieri’s face contorts into a mixture of agony and ecstasy as he images the sounds of that serenade’s “Adagio.”
“This was a music I’d never heard,” he says. “Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing. It seemed to me that I was hearing the voice of God.”
Clarksville’s Gateway Chamber Orchestra (GCO) recorded one of the best modern versions of that famed composition five years ago for its “Wind Serenades” CD. The ensemble, made up of Austin Peay State University music faculty and other professional musicians, established itself as a major presence in the classical music world when it first performed its “Grand Partita.”
In 2010, Music critic Jerry Dubins wrote in Fanfare Magazine, “Of the recorded performances I know of the Mozart – which include those by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble and Consortium Classicum, I would pick the new Gateway Chamber Ensemble out of the pack, not only for its refined playing, but for finding that elusive balance between the music’s high-spirited playfulness and its sensuous soulfulness. Merriment and melancholy mix in matched measure in Mozart’s masterpiece.”
The orchestra first performed the work live in February 2009, and to celebrate the fifth anniversary of that concert, the GCO will host an encore performance at 3 p.m. on Feb. 9 in the APSU George and Sharon Mabry Concert Hall, and at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 10 at the Second Presbyterian Church of Green Hills in Nashville. The concert, “Wind Serenades,” will spotlight the GCO’s woodwind and brass sections.
“While we’re always going to be striving to find new and interesting pieces to present, it’s also important for us as an ensemble to revisit works that are our calling cards,” Dr. Gregory Wolynec, GCO conductor, said. “And this piece is perhaps the greatest work ever written for an ensemble of wind instruments. The music is very dramatic and has some of the most beautiful melodies Mozart ever wrote.”
The “Gran Partita” has influenced many composers over the years, including Richard Strauss. Around 1884, he paid tribute to the Mozart work with his often-overlooked “Serenade in E Flat, Op. 7.” The GCO will open the “Wind Serenades” concert with that piece, just as it did five years ago.
The Strauss serenade also was recorded for the GCO’s debut CD, and that track has been played regularly on National Public Radio classical music stations across the country.
The Mozart and the Strauss works pair together well considering they represent a glimpse into the ensemble’s unique method of concert programming. Each GCO performance follows a “three-legged stool” approach to programming, with the concerts featuring an established masterwork, an overlooked masterwork and a piece by a contemporary American composer.
“We’re going to finish the first half of the concert with American composer and astrophysicist/mathematician John Marvin,” Wolynec said. Marvin worked simultaneously as a computer programmer at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and oboe and English horn player at the Kennedy Center. “He wrote a piece paying homage to great composers of the past. It’s written in a neoclassical style, which means he uses a lot of the sounds and textures of these early composers. The piece is actually really quite beautiful and approachable.”
For more information on the “Wind Serenades” concert, the GCO 2013-14 season or to purchase tickets, visit the orchestra’s website, www.gatewaychamberorchestra.com.