Hawaii Concert So­ci­ety opens its 56th season by “Set­ting the Record Straight on Salieri”

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Poor An­to­nio Salieri: de­famed and slan­dered in the Os­car­win­ning film “Amadeus,” por­trayed as Mozart’s jeal­ous ri­val, who sup­pos­edly was ob­sessed with de­stroy­ing Mozart so that his in­fe­rior com­po­si­tions would be ac­claimed.

Ac­tu­ally, Salieri was noth­ing like that. He was one of the most re­spected, tal­ented and suc­cess­ful com­posers of his day who wrote mu­sic of con­sid­er­able charm, ap­proach­ing the level of ge­nius. In his time, Salieri’s op­eras were more pop­u­lar than Mozart’s.

On Sept. 14, the Hawaii Concert So­ci­ety’s 56th season will open with a spe­cial concert, “Ma­ligned Mas­ter: Set­ting the Record Straight on Salieri.” The concert, which in­cludes com­po­si­tions by Salieri as well as a taste of Mozart, will be per­formed by Honolulu’s Spring Wind Octet and will be nar­rated by Hawaii news broad­caster Joe Moore. The event be­gins at 7:30 p.m. at the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter.

KHON-TV an­chor­man Moore has been a Mozart afi­cionado for decades. He even had his own Mozart mu­sic pro­gram on Hawaii Pub­lic Ra­dio for five years. What has both­ered him for a long time, how­ever, is the de­pic­tion of Mozart’s so­called ri­val in “Amadeus.”

“Salieri was held in much higher es­teem than Mozart,” says Moore, who not only has care­fully stud­ied the mu­si­cal lives of both com­posers, but also wrote the script for the concert. “And there was no an­tag­o­nism be­tween the two. Salieri was ac­tu­ally more of a men­tor to Mozart. In fact, we get a rich pic­ture of the late 1700s in Europe by en­joy­ing them both.

“Salieri com­posed 42 op­eras. Many of those were what to­day we would call smash hits,” Moore con­tin­ued.

“Mozart had 26 op­eras, but in the 10 years they were both in Vi­enna, if you look at box of­fice at­ten­dance and re­ceipts, Salieri’s op­eras were more pop­u­lar, and re­ceived bet­ter crit­i­cal re­views.”

Ob­vi­ously, Mozart’s mu­sic has stood the test of time bet­ter than Salieri’s. How­ever, as Spring Wind Octet bas­soon­ist Mar­sha Sch­weitzer sees it, “For ev­ery com­poser who be­comes well known or well rec­og­nized, there are a hun­dred or a thou­sand oth­ers, con­tem­po­raries, who are ba­si­cally lost to his­tory. Many such as Salieri wrote “great mu­sic,” she says. “It’s just that they didn’t push the but­tons that the fa­mous com­posers pushed that got them fa­mous.”

The evening concert will open with Salieri’s most widely heard piece of mu­sic, but Moore and the mu­si­cians are keep­ing it a secret. The concert will close with mu­sic from one of Salieri’s most pop­u­lar op­eras, ar­ranged for wind band by Jo­hann Wendt, a con­tem­po­rary of Salieri and Mozart.

“Wendt ar­ranged many of Mozart’s op­eras for wind band (a pop­u­lar mu­si­cal group­ing at that time) and he ar­ranged this Salieri opera for wind band,” Moore said. “This ar­range­ment has been in the Ester­hazy li­brary in Vi­enna for over 230 years. I was able to talk with those folks and get the parts for the piece. The Hawaii per­for­mances are the United States pre­miere, so it’s a pretty spe­cial deal.”

Other pieces by Salieri, along with Mozart’s over­ture to “The Mar­riage of Fi­garo,” also will be heard in the concert, in set­tings for the Spring Wind Octet. For many of these, the ar­ranger is Sch­weitzer, a mu­sic pub­lisher and a gifted ar­ranger, who has ex­panded the wind in­stru­ment reper­toire through her many ar­range­ments and tran­scrip­tions.

Courtesy photo

Hawaii news broad­caster Joe Moore will nar­rate dur­ing the concert.

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