The Festival takes place on an annual basis on and around 27 January – Mozart’s anniversary – at a time when the regular subscription series of the South African classical music scene come to a halt for their summer break and audiences will particularly enjoy the more informal character of festival music-making.
The Johannesburg International Mozart Festival provides a unique combination of classical performances on the highest international level with a keenly intelligent and creative approach to programming and an enterprising portfolio of all-encompassing education and outreach projects for children, students and audiences of all corners of society. Both the Festival’s logo and its website domain www.join-mozart-festival.org (“join” being an abbreviation of “JOhannesburg INternational”) reflect the Festival’s ambition and desire to invite people of all backgrounds and ages to join in and be united in the enjoyment and celebration of music.
Mozart’s firm hold on the public’s fascination can be traced back to the archetypal notion of the child prodigy, triumphing over a potentially fatal brew of precociousness and a tyrannical father figure, to become one of the greatest composers in music history. The development of Mozart’s genius was articulated through a whirlwind of achievements which pushed every musical genre and every musical instrument Mozart wrote in and for to its very limits and beyond.
Mozart’s oeuvre comprises more than 600 works that are widely acknowledged as pinnacles of operatic, symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, vocal and choral music.
Today, Mozart must be perhaps the most widely performed and broadcast classical composer of all times whose name alone meets with recognition – even for those who would not describe themselves as classical aficionados.
One of the most exciting aspects of Mozart’s life and work is his natural ease with and consummate command of the various compositional styles of his era. Mozart lived in an age in which the so-called Viennese Classical style was actually a synthesis of a number of outgoing and incoming minor stylistic lines, such as the highly complicated and contrapuntal late Baroque versus the galant style. From an early age onwards, Mozart had a peculiar gift for imitating the music he encountered. His travels, of course, provided him with a rare collection of experiences from which to create his unique compositional language.
In a wider sense, Mozart felt equally at home with writing “serious” and “light / entertainment” music, and though he and his contemporaries must have been aware of the distinction between these two categories, in the eighteenth century such differentiation did not necessarily suggest any qualitative, let alone moral judgement that is so inevitably attached to these classifications in our time.
Constantly pushing the boundaries, departing from and developing the canon and creating new frameworks of experimentation, Mozart regarded almost anything as an invitation for his creative genius and even today must remain one of the most versatile yet profound musical figures of all times: as composer, arranger, performer, conductor, teacher, writer, commentator and scholar.
Over the years to come it is the ambition of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival to reflect upon Mozart’s genius and ingenuity and to create a setting that might translate at least some of Mozart’s truly inspiring characteristics into the twenty-first century.
As Franz Schubert put it: “O Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many, how infinitely many inspiring suggestions of a finer, better life have you left in our souls!”