The Brevard Music Center Institute and Festival formally opened its 70th summer with David Effron working his penultimate season as Artistic Director and Conductor. He chose an all Mozart program, representing the 250th birthday celebration continuum taking place worldwide this year.
The program began with a brisk reading of the Overture to Don Giovanni, followed by the first movement from Eine kleine Nacthtmusik. Both are memorable and favorites among audience members and good warm-up pieces for the student orchestra. Prior to intermission they played the Symphony No. 38 in D major. That’s the one sub-titled Prague, and it has no minuet. Effron joked that that’s the most research scholars and musicologists could find about the piece(!).

After intermission came the unusual aria, “Per questa bella mano,” for bass voice and double bass ,with Max Wier and Craig Brown as the guest artists. Even with a thunderstorm in the distance, Wier’s clear, round and well-modulated bass voice was solid while working the upper part of range – almost baritone. Brown’s double bass work was impressive, but these instruments tend to be finicky in the upper register, and sometimes it sounded like a cello, sometimes a bass, and sometimes something else!

The real fun started with a reading of the Toy Symphony, a three movement Cassation for toys, two oboes, two horns and strings. Six students performed on percussion and slider tone toys, bringing many rounds of laughter and admiration from the audience. After hearing this performance, the argument this piece was actually composed by Haydn makes sense. The program listed Leopold Mozart as composer.

The final works on the concert were Magic Flute arias sung by students of the opera program. Each year I marvel at how mature these young singers appear and in fact sound. Soprano Clara Rottsolk and baritone Joseph Legaspi sang a duet from Act I. Elisha Weiner and Carl Rosenthal sang the roles of Papagena and Papageno from Act II. The house then came down for good when Jennifer Rosetti sang the famous Queen of the Night aria from Act II. These were tremendous performances by these young singers, and word going around at intermission suggested that the upcoming opera performance (of Così fan tutte) would be the best in years.

Thanks to generous donations to the Center the orchestra performed on a newly revamped stage at the open-air Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium. Since the end of last season, the stage area has been extended twelve feet toward the audience and fitted with a hydraulic lift system to double as a pit during stage productions. This expansion/renovation has brought the orchestra out from under the proscenium and yields a better sound. Over all the season has started off well for 400 students (from 1,800 applicants), representing 49 states and territories and numerous foreign countries. They also represent 70 of the top colleges and universities in the U.S. They will be in Brevard, studying for seven weeks and offering 48 major concerts and numerous recitals.

From the stage Effron remarked about the business side of a musician’s life and made the analogy that one must think like a sports figure to succeed in such a competitive environment. Perhaps with just that in mind the Center will host the first Conference on Music Entrepreneurship July 14-16 to address all the important and often neglected business elements necessary for survival.

No doubt current technology advances will be a big part of the subject block, and therein I am reminded of an article by Allan Kozinn published May 28 in The New York Times. Here are excerpts, “Because the traditional protocols for measuring classical music popularity have changed, it would seem we’re looking (for trends) in the wrong places. The new evidence reveals downloading music from the web is actually expanding the number of listeners. In reality the business model (for record sales and self promotion) has changed. Internet deep-catalog shops like offer virtually any CD in print, something no physical store can do today. The Internet has become a primary resource for classical music: the music itself as well as information about it. Representing our new mobility; potential ticket buyers are less inclined to commit to performances months in advance, hence audiences have shifted their attendance habits. As a result, season concert subscriptions, always a harbinger of a season’s success, have dropped away, replaced by last minute ticket purchase[s]. “

Young musicians would be well advised to learn about all the tools currently available. I further expect Brevard Music Center itself will take advantage of recent trends and begin to offer more of their products via Internet.

It’s a brave new world, even for Mozart.