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PSO's Mozart Festival turns to sacred in Week 2

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Pittsburgh Symphony
Baritone Lucas Meachem
Pittsburgh Symphony
Soprano Sunhae Im

The catalog of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's compositions numbers more than 600 pieces, a bewildering accomplishment for a man who lived only for 35 years. That may make it tough to select just a few for a concert or a series of concerts — but that's a good problem to have.

Manfred Honeck will conduct two vocal soloists, the Mendelssohn Choir and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in the second-and-final week of the Mozart Festival at concerts May 2 and 4 at Heinz Hall, Downtown.

“The whole thinking behind this two-week festival is to celebrate Mozart in the first week with instrumental and solo works,” Honeck says. “Our second week is for sacred and operatic music.”

The program for the final week of the festival is filled with excerpts from longer works. Honeck says there's a danger to programming selected pieces, but hopes he's found a line that will tie the concert together.

“I asked Don Marinelli to guide us through the evening,” he says. Marinelli founded Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center, along with the late Randy Pausch. “He will have quotes from Mozart or about Mozart. He will do some theatrical things to not be stiff. He'll come on stage as (Emperor) Joseph II and Joseph Haydn, but also as Leopold (Mozart, the composer's father) and Emanuel Schikeneder (librettist for ‘The Magic Flute').”

Honeck found himself making compromises with himself. He wanted to program the “Coronation Mass,” the first piece of Mozart's music he heard. And he wanted to program the Mass in C minor, which the Pittsburgh Symphony has never performed.

While the program includes nothing from the “Coronation Mass,” it will open with two movements from the Mass in C minor, including the “Laudamus te,” which features gorgeous soprano solos Mozart wrote for his wife, Constanze, to sing. Three selections from the last music Mozart wrote, the “Requiem,” will complete the first half.

The second will include excerpts from three operas, featuring performances by soprano Sunhae Im and baritone Lucas Meachem.

“We start with the overture to ‘Don Giovanni,' which summarized the opera,” Honeck says. The other selections from the opera include the Champagne Aria and an exquisite seduction duet.

The Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” does not summarize that opera, and will be followed by three selections, including the exquisite “Porgi amor” aria, which opens the second act.

The selections from “The Magic Flute,” an opera especially close to Honeck's heart, will include examples of the comedy and spirituality that make it so memorable an experience.

“For me, there was enormous pressure to take things out, but I think this will be a very good picture about Mozart,” Honeck says. “Many people who come to the concert will understand Mozart better. This guy is so fantastic. What he composed in his short years is amazing. We should have another Mozart festival next year.”

Mark Kanny is the classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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