Salzburg Festival Blog 14 bis (5 Aug)

19.00 One hour before the concert and I am shown to my makeshift dressing room in the sacristy. I enjoy a privileged stroll through the St. Peter’s gardens and inner cloister, a place of mesmeric beauty and tranquility not normally publicly accessible.

In front of the church guests and performers are arriving from all directions to congregate in the beautiful square accompanied by the sounds of first, our soloists and then shortly afterwards, the choir warming up. I am mistaken for a priest by a group of the same,when I explain that I come from London I hear them discussing amongst themselves that I am probably a member of the Franziskaner fraternity!!! This makes Thomas Graeff our redoubtable orchestral assistant roar with laughter. 20.00 With a full house in attendance, the concert begins. (Although in 2009 this means slightly fewer numbers than last year thanks to European ‘health and safety legislation. On this subject, the Salzburg Festival would like to use the famous Dom more for concerts, but due to fire regulations they may only sell 500 seats, in a venue that regularly hosts more than 2000 souls for the Mass. Concert activity in churches has been adversely affected in so many countries due to these selectively applied ‘rules’).

The next hour is a sheer joy. The Mozarteum orchestra play brilliantly, the brass are virtuosic and our woodwind soloists (Ingrid (Hasse), Tamar ( Inbar) and Philip (Tutzer) sublime along with Patricia (Petibon)in the ‘Et Incarnatus’. The choir rise magnificently to the occasion. Bravo Alois! I have had the privilege to conduct this annual performance four times in the last nine years (other conductors have been Minkowski, Christie and Nezet-Seguin) and I have to say, that on balance this was my most enjoyable with possibly the finest quartet of soloists and orchestra playing as fine as one can hope to hear.

Afterwards there is a reception in Mozart’s birthplace hosted by the Stiftung Mozarteum. Stefan Pauly (the Artistic Director of the Stiftung and therefore the famed Mozartwoche Festival in January) pays generous tribute to our orchestra and we are given a quick tour of the house which has been preserved by the curators in a remarkably unstuffy way. Patricia Petibon’s vivacious young son certainly enjoyed it! I am charmed by the German habit of translating the term ‘musicologist’ into English, as ‘music scientist’. I initially thought this a little self-regarding but I now see it as symbolizing the deep seriousness and respect with which classical music is held in this society. I am also reminded of the brilliant wave of German-emigre musicologists who transformed this discipline in the United States and the UK many of whom taught me at Cambridge University. These same ‘music scientists’ have performed the fantastic service of putting the whole New Mozart Edition online, accessible for no cost! Every music student should know this.

After this, a more informal party, at the home of Markus Tomasi (our concert-master ) to celebrate his birthday. As well as, of course, many Mozarteum orchestra members,there is a snapshot of Salzburg musical life in the names of the guests. Hans Graf (one of my predecessors at the Mozarteum-now doing great work as Chief Conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, James Ehnes (Canadian virtuoso violinist hot -foot from his Festival concert and our fine ex-pricipal bassoon Eddie Wimmer (who retired from the Mozarteum six months ago) Food is as ever, sensational as are a bewildering selection of fine wines-French wine producers must love their Salzburg clientele! I bring two guests from Germany, Petra Richter from Munich who updates me on the recent Munich Opera Festival and Hans-Georg Kaiser with whom I have spent a wonderful day.