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SEX, DRUGS & MOZART

Perth Symphony Orchestra Mozart

Pictured: Pascale Whiting, Paul Wright and Helen Shanahan – Image credit Perth Symphony Orchestra

Forget what you think you know about classical music and its creators. Perth Symphony Orchestra’s Mozart by Candlelight is sure to expand your perceptions.

18th Century Austrian, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, may have been a child-prodigy, genius musician and composer, but he was also a real human man, with libertarian desires.

…the reality is that the life of a classical musician is rock and roll…

The PSO’s acclaimed new production takes its audience beyond the powdered wigs and silken undergarments of one of classical music’s most revered figures, blending a selection of his works with pieces by contemporary composers, with a surprisingly risqué twist.

“The veneer of classical music is not the reality,” says PSO’s Founder and CEO, Bourby Webster. “There are as many flaws and scandals as there are triumphs and achievements.

Mozart’s music is incredibly formed, beautifully measured and meticulously crafted but the veneer of precision, demureness, poise and elegance gives the impression that he couldn’t be anything but virginal, when the reality is that the life of a classical musician is rock and roll. The more you read about him the more you realise he was a party animal with a wicked sense of humour.”

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As a child growing up in the classical world, I confess to being rather obsessed with Mozart in my early years, intrigued by the fourteen-year-old boy who had transcribed Allegri’s Miserere after hearing it just once in the Sistine Chapel in what was perhaps the first act of music piracy (the Vatican had forbidden its replication).

When learning one of his songs in school, I dutifully sang my part in German and was disappointed when the choirmaster refused to tell us what it meant (“Too rude!” he said). It wasn’t until my teenage years that I became aware of Mozart’s hedonistic lifestyle, devoted only partly to music, the rest to the pursuit of pleasure. I was shocked, of course. Classical musicians are prim and proper – they don’t behave in such a way! It’s a stereotype Bourby wants to break.

“Our tailcoats make people think we’re terribly formal and reserved. You imagine the musicians having a nice morning tea where they play Mozart and then they all go home and take an afternoon nap, when in fact the reality,” she says, “is that they might go home together after a concert, play a string quartet, get really drunk and end up in bed together, all four of them.”

For those who might consider classical music slightly off their radar, this is the perfect concert to whet the appetite.

Not only is it designed to make Mozart’s music more accessible, it offers an introduction to three contemporary composers, each known for their incredible work and collaborations (American composer Nico Muhly has worked with Björk, Rufus Wainwright, the National and Philip Glass; Michael Nyman wrote the multi-platinum soundtrack album to Jane Campion’s stunning film, The Piano; and Caroline Shaw won the Pulitzer Prize for Music and co-produced a remix with Kanye West). Their works were all featured in the television series, starring Gael García Bernal, based on Blair Tindall’s book, Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music.

Soloist, Pascale Whiting

Soloist, Pascale Whiting

The program includes performances by acclaimed virtuoso violinist Paul Wright in his PSO debut, soloists Pascale Whiting (violin), Julian Leslie (horn), Katie McKay (viola), Kathy Potter (viola) and Stephanie Nicholls (oboe), with a guest appearance by local singer/songwriter, Helen Shanahan. There’ll be readings from Mozart’s private letters, as well as some of the naughtier passages from the book.  “It’s a fantastic way for people to try something new and to experience a concert that contemporary music fans would love,” says Bourby.

While 2020 has proven tough on the arts (stay tuned for my extended article on this, coming soon!) the PSO were one of the first orchestras to start performing again, which has led to some electric gigs. “People are coming out,” says Bourby, “there seems to be a buzz among the public, a true acknowledgement of live music being something special, to be treasured.

It’s an amazing time to be performing.” It’s a buzz that has resulted in venue changes to halls and stadiums with much larger capacities, to cater for enthusiastic audiences while adhering to strict social distancing guidelines. Mozart by Candlelight is no exception. Designed to be an intimate concert bathed in sensual candlelight, demand prompted the move that will mark PSO’s Perth Concert Hall debut.

“Our musicians are outstanding and extraordinary and give people goosebumps,” says Bourby. “To have them play in one of the best concert halls in Australia, where people can truly appreciate their talent, is a very proud moment for me.”

As for Mozart, we ruminate on what musical path he might have taken were he alive in today’s world. Given his irreverence, Bourby muses, “he’d probably be punk!”

PSO Mozart Promo

Mozart by Candlelight will be performed as one show only. Ticket details below.


DATE: Friday, October 30, 2020

TIME: Doors and bar from 6pm, Concert from 7:30pm – 9.30pm

WHERE: Perth Concert Hall

TICKETS: Tickets are available from Perth Concert Hall

Website: www.perthconcerthall.com.au

Phone: (08) 9231 9999  
Email: boxoffice@perthconcerthall.com.au 

PARKING: Closest car parks are the City of Perth Concert Hall Carpark, or City of Perth Terrace Road Carpark.

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