In The Wings
Poof! They suddenly vanished from the Friends of WILL Library shelves!
And that’s not all. I found blank spaces on years and years’ worth of playlists, where I had entered information from those CDs. I know I played them!
I also know that I borrowed an idea from Clarence, the angel who comes to the aid of George Bailey in Frank Capra’s film It’s a Wonderful Life. Clarence gave George the chance to see what the lives of his family and friends would have been like if he never had been born. Turns out he made a big difference. And Clarence earned his wings.
I simply applied the idea in imagining what Classic Mornings and the classical music world would have been like if two conductors, who recently celebrated milestone birthdays, hadn’t been born – or, if they hadn’t decided to become conductors. I have to admit that my imagining wasn’t as compelling a story as Capra’s. The vanishing scene in the library was rather plain, without special effects. Shelves didn’t come crashing down. And no, I didn’t imagine big name actors portraying the conductors. They’re already big-name conductors.
One of them spent a number of years getting to know the contemporaries of perhaps the biggest name in classical music history: Mozart. He didn’t do it via Clarence-type time travel. Matthias Bamert, the Swiss-born conductor who celebrated his 80th birthday on July 5, spent seven years as music director of the London Mozart Players. During those years, they recorded the music of composers including Antonio Salieri, Johann Georg Vogler, Joseph Mysliveček, Vaclav Pichl, William Herschel, Ignaz Pleyel, Luigi Boccherini, and others who lived in Mozart’s time.
Even if you’re just an occasional Classic Mornings listener, you’ve heard me play lots of those performances. Some are the very first recordings of the works that were selected for the project. I understand there were some 75 symphonies he recorded in that “Contemporaries of Mozart” series, as well as other compositions. In all, 24 of Bamert’s 80 CDs were made with the London Mozart Players.
I wouldn’t hesitate to call those composers Classic Mornings regulars. Bamert has given us a chance to listen to a bit more of the “playing field” from Mozart’s time. He never took attention away from Mozart. Those composers weren’t Mozart. They were who they were. And their music was enjoyed by audiences of their time. Now it’s our turn to enjoy them. In many cases, we were lacking fine recordings of their music.
Add to Bamert’s the discography of German conductor Reinhard Goebel, who celebrated his 70th birthday this past Sunday. I know you’ve heard me say his name. Most often, it’s in conjunction with the early music ensemble from Cologne known as Musica Antiqua Köln – Köln is the actual name of the German city. Cologne is the French version, which we say with an anglicized pronunciation.
Reinhard Goebel founded the ensemble back in 1973 with student colleagues of the music conservatory in Köln. He led it for its entire 33-year history. Goebel was a violinist with the group as well. At one point, focal dystonia caused paralysis in his left hand. He retaught himself to play using his right hand to hold the instrument and bowing with his left hand. Eventually, he was forced to stop playing and to concentrate on conducting.
He’s an internationally respected early music scholar and specialist. Over the years, Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln introduced us to quite a few composers from the time of Bach. They probably helped rescue some of those composers from obscurity, including Johann Heinichen and Francesco Veracini. You’ve also heard me play their recordings of works by Heinrich Biber, Johann Joachim Quantz, Georg Philipp Telemann, Leonardo Leo, Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin, Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, and Johann Adolph Hasse.
Goebel is still a busy conductor these days, 16 years after Musica Antiqua Köln disbanded. He still works with early music ensembles including the Berlin Baroque Soloists (Berliner Barock Solisten). He conducts modern orchestras as well. And he’s been continuing his rescue efforts with lesser-known works from the time of Mozart and Beethoven.
OK. So now you’re probably anticipating some tie-in to the happy ending of the famous film I mentioned at the outset. I thought about it. The point of my imagining was indeed to help you realize what a “wonderful” assortment of recordings we have on hand – in the wings, as it were – to share on the air. The milestone birthdays of Bamert and Goebel within the past few weeks helped remind me of that. And just as so many of you have expressed your gratitude for what we do, I wanted to give credit to all the musicians whose artistic efforts make it possible for us to touch the lives of so many with classical music.