To borrow a line from advertising, “Come for the music, but stay to develop your brain and know God.”

Both phenomena are likely to occur when to listening to Mozart, San Antonio Symphony conductor and Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing told the Rivard Report. 

The Symphony’s final concerts of its 2017 Mozart Festival will take place Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

For tickets, click here.

“Mozart is a composer who is never boring,” Lang-Lessing continued. “I think I’ve conducted The Magic Flute 150 times in my life but I have to say I’ve never had a boring moment during any performance because [something new comes up every time]. I think that’s why people say listening to Mozart makes you smart.”

Performing Mozart makes performers sharper since he didn’t provide a lot of guidelines explaining how to play his music.

“He appeals to your own logic and taste and creativity to come up with something,” Lang-Lessing said, “but everything you do has to be logical and consistent. It’s so demanding and so challenging and cleansing at the same time.”

People who really listen to the music will have the same experience, he added.

“It shows what classical music is really about – you don’t need to know much to understand the music of Mozart and so many other composers. It takes us onto a different level. It brings us that much closer to God, to something superior.”

The concert will open with Eine kleine Nachtmusik, which Lang-Lessing quipped is “commercially abused in elevators and shopping malls,” but also featured in prominent productions such as Amadeus. Mozart wrote the piece late in his career – around the same time as the featured symphonies – so it is “quite an intense piece though lighter and shorter.”

Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 is one of Lang-Lessing’s all-time favorites, he said.

“It is a very lyric, powerful piece,” he said. “The absence of the oboe and dominance of the clarinets gives the piece an interesting coloring which is quite unique and becomes much brighter in ‘The Jupiter’ when the oboes come back and the clarinets leave.”

No. 41 is the longest as the culmination of the triptych, as it modulates from darkness to light.

Will Lang-Lessing miss Mozart when the Symphony’s season continues without the composer?

“Mozart will always be with us,” he said. “I don’t have a favorite composer but I can tell you I need to come back to Mozart every now and then. It’s like re-setting your values, your understanding. He centers you like nobody else.”

Lang-Lessing’s regrets that the Festival didn’t include what he views as Mozart’s greatest contribution to music history: opera.

“He invented opera that is written for the people of the time, real people, not heroes from the antique period like in Händel’s [work].  And by destroying the class system in his operas, like in The Marriage of Figaro, the whole plot – that’s why it was censored – made you ask, ‘How is it possible that the servant talks to the count in that manner? Being bossy with his superior?’”

Mozart was a member of the Freemasons who at the time were underground rebels and influenced the composer’s view of the world.

“And look, at the end of the day, art is political,” Lang-Lessing continued. “With Mozart it’s this perfect beauty, but it kind of puts a gloss on top of something that is far deeper.  And I think that’s the exciting thing about Mozart: He never compromises on beauty but like Beethoven he has a lot of inner struggle to communicate and a lot of strong statements.”

This will the be the Symphony’s last performance as part of The Mozart Festival, but it continues after this weekend with concerts by other local performing groups. For more information, click here. 

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Nancy Cook-Monroe

Nancy Cook-Monroe is a local freelance writer and public relations consultant. She has written about San Antonio arts and civic scenes since she could hold a pencil.