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WRTI Spotlight

These are our Mozart Memories. What's yours?

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A cracked case holding an old cassette of the soundtrack from 'Amadeus.'

We’re celebrating the 266th birthday of the wunderkind from Salzburg, born on January 27th 1756. His symphonies, operas, concertos, and compositions, in every genre of the time, remain to this day an incredible marvel of genius. Tune in for music throughout the day on Thursday devoted to the great composer. None other than Joseph Haydn said to Mozart’s father, “I tell you before God, and as an honest man, your son is the greatest composer known to me by person and repute.”

For many, it was an introduction to Mozart that helped launch a love of classical music, and our staff surely agrees! Check out their Mozart Memories, and share your own in the Comments section below. Be sure to celebrate Mozart's 266th birthday with us on Thursday!

Josh Jackson

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A Mozart album bought by Josh Jackson at a yard sale years ago

I bought a trunkload of historical classical albums from a yard sale many years ago, and this was one of them. Hearing the “Jupiter” on the A side is what encouraged me to learn more about Mozart’s music. I just loved the energy of this performance before I knew anything about Sir Thomas Beecham or the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This recording is more than 70 years old, and it still gives me the feels every time I play it. Great music is eternal!

P.S. Any Discogs nerds out there? It’s a mono repress from 1955, and a promo copy!

Zeviel Kane

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A (slightly) younger Zev Kane with a paper mache Mozart

As a member of the "playing Mozart for your baby will make them a genius" generation, my well-meaning and wishful-thinking parents inundated me with Mozart from infancy. I can't recall my first true Mozart memory, but I do distinctly recall the first time that Mozart clicked for me of my own accord. I was 10 or 11 and, almost hypnotically, drawn to the sound of my grandmother (an accomplished amateur pianist) practicing a piece she'd learned in her youth. It was Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 113, she told me. The piece ends with some of Mozart's most famous piano pyrotechnics, the great Rondo alla turca, but it was the opening theme of its first movement—simple, elegant, perfectly symmetrical, and tinged with sly humor—that took hold of me and has yet to let go. I hope it never does.

Melinda Whiting

So many memories… After years of butchering Mozart in piano lessons, the sense of revelation when I heard a great pianist play Mozart for the first time ("Oh.THAT'S what it's supposed to be.")... Singing the magnificent counterpoint of the unfinished Great C minor Mass and Requiem...

Hearing the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor on the radio, around midnight, and feeling destroyed by the earth-shattering bleakness of that first movement. What pianist found those hopeless depths? I don't remember, but I never heard Mozart the same way again...

Discovering the Salzburg Festival performances from the 1950s of the DaPonte operas, with early-career artists who would ultimately be recognized as legends...I could go on, couldn't you? Mozart never fails to satisfy.

John T.K. Scherch

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John T.K. Scherch in a sparsely staged production of The Magic Flute.

As an opera singer, Mozart encompasses a lot of firsts and mosts for me, and most of all the role of Sarastro in The Magic Flute. His two arias were the first I ever learned as a young bass, the role was the first I ever performed in full, and it's by far the one I've performed the most. It's also the only role I've performed as an emergency cover and as a guest artist in a primarily educational program. Here's a picture of a sparsely staged production of Flute in which we had fun with the Queen of the Night and her hench people's reaction to my having brought out the sun.

Mike Bolton

My Mozart memories start with the film Amadeus. I saw it two times in the movie theater, and it made such a huge impression—a big deal for a teenager who had to borrow his parent's car to get to what is now the Bryn Mawr Film Institute from Springfield to see the movie.

From the terrifying opening of Mozart's Symphony No. 25 in G minor, I was hooked! But nothing could have prepared me for the scene in which Mozart's mother-in-law took him to task for not being able to provide for his family as the Queen of the Night's vengeance aria from The Magic Flute, Der hölle Rache, played in the background. I literally lost my breath at its beauty and virtuosity. Thus started a life-long love of high notes, coloratura singing, and Mozart.

In addition to Amadeus changing my life in terms of classical music and opera, a very formative experience was seeing The Metropolitan Opera's production of Le nozze di Figaro on a Live from the Met telecast with an amazing cast including Carol Vaness, Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, Thomas Allen, and Ruggero Raimondi.

I recorded it on VHS and watched that video countless times. I was transfixed! I even had a "Figaro" party for some of my high school friends and we watched the video. Imagine my excitement when I was able to meet Frederica von Stade and even interview her several times through my work at Opera Philadelphia. It was a dream come true and a wonderful connection to a transformative moment in my life.

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Mike Bolton's impressive collection of 'Figaro' CDs

Figaro was the first opera I bought on LP and the first opera on CD. I've gotten rid of several CD sets over the years through downsizing. I think at the "height" of my collection I had 26 or so commercial recordings of Figaro. Now I'm down to these 17, not including the ones I have digitally only. While each recording has extraordinary individual interpretations, the EMI/Giulini, Philips/Marriner, Harmonia Mundi/Jacobs sets are my favorites.

Jessica Schultz

After seeing the movie Amadeus and falling madly in love with the soundtrack, I ran out and bought it on cassette, which I still have! It became my favorite tape to listen to, on my Sony Walkman of course, when I went on my morning jog in college. I’ve hung on to the 2nd cassette with sides 3 and 4 all these years later—the first one sadly fell apart after so much use. The experience led me to take a classical music appreciation class that literally changed the course of my life! I can still feel that energy soaring through me like it did on my morning jogs when I hear the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in D minor.

So, now that you know our Mozart Memories, please share your own in the Comments section below. Thanks!