Uncovering humanity in Mozart's music

January 24, 1991|By Peter Krask | Peter Krask,Special to The Evening Sun

British conductor Trevor Pinnock sits up on the couch in his dressing room and objects. "Mozart is not a composer whose music should just be pretty. He is not a chocolate box composer. We cannot take him lightly."

Pinnock will step on to the podium and conduct the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra tonight and tomorrow night in all-Mozart program. He hopes to help audiences uncover the startling, and often untapped, humanity deep in Mozart's music.

"There is a human basis in Mozart's writing, and if we miss that, we've missed the heart of the music," says Pinnock, the leader of the English Concert, one of the most acclaimed and prestigious original instrument ensembles performing today.

Such a sentiment seems surprising coming from the ranks of early music specialists who are often criticized for their dry, academic approach to re-creating historical "authenticity."

"I'm not setting out to prove a musicological point when I conduct," says the diminutive Pinnock, while sipping on a glass of Evian water. "You cannot underestimate any work like that." His aim is to create a clarity in the orchestral sound that allows the rhythmic life of the music to boldly emerge. "I want to achieve a vital and vigorous sound so you can hear all of the inner-parts of the music. We create the impression that the sound is chamber music that has been extended."

Pinnock, however, does not want the Baltimore players to sound like an orchestra of 18th-century instruments.

"For me, the difference with a modern orchestra is like that between a piano and a harpsichord," he says. "You take the instrument you've got and make music with that."

A visiting conductor does not have the time to explain his musical research to the orchestra. Instead, he can only establish a sense of style.

" I hope my research has been integrated into my musical personality. It has to be running in the blood. We can talk about detail, but unless the fundamental conception of the music is correct, there's no point."

For tonight's program, the fundamental for Pinnock, is to clearly reflect the changing and sharply contrasting emotions so deeply present in the music. "The concert is planned as a unit," he says, "opening with the Great G minor Symphony, moving to the choral motet 'Ave Verum Corpus' -- to set the mood -- and then closing with the Requiem Mass."

To Pinnock, none of the pieces are that different. They all contain "a tremendous yearning, and tenderness, moments of regret, and a wonderful relish in living," Pinnock says. "I see this music as a powerful force of good in the world, especially at this time."

The BSO concert, featuring guest conductor Trevor Pinnock, begins at 8:15 tonight and tomorrow night. Tickets are $11 to $37. Call 783-8000.

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