Mozart Week music fest reborn in his birthplace

Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:49am EST
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By Michael Roddy

SALZBURG, Austria (Reuters Life!) - If the percussion, tam-tams and gongs did not give the game away, all was revealed when conductor Pierre Boulez strode onstage.

The appearance of the man who has been the Greek chorus of modern music for decades is a potent symbol of how Mozart's birthplace city of Salzburg has embraced contemporary classical music in a big, bold way.

And the audiences, who have descended on this picturesque town in the foothills of the Alps, appear to be loving it.

A concert on Thursday night in the main hall of the Mozarteum, a venue three years ago for the 250th celebration of Mozart's birth in a house across the River Salzach, pulled no punches.

First up was "Akso," a piece for chamber orchestra by the 100-year-old dean of American modernists, Elliott Carter, a specialist, as one commentator put it, in "non-measured time."

Next came "Verzeichnete Spur" (Wandering Trail) by Carter's junior by 60-plus years, 38-year-old German Matthias Pintscher who, in addition to the percussion, had electronic mixing and a double bass with clothes pins damping the strings.

Last, but not least, Boulez, who once suggested blowing up opera houses because they were outmoded, conducted his own carefully constructed "Derive 2" for 11 instruments. It showed his flair for blending one instrument into another to create an amalgam of sound that is sheer ear candy.

And did those veteran Mozart lovers Salzburg is famous for get up en masse and walk out?   Continued...