Tessa Petersen: Concertmaster on ‘Why we love/hate to play Mozart’

Performing music has a lot in common with high level performance sports. Picture the line up of All Blacks as they pass off the ball one to another to score a try; the tennis player acing a serve; the basketball effortlessly dropping through the hoop without touching the rim; Lydia Ko guiding a golf ball across the green and straight into the hole. Of course, we all know the hours of preparation that go in for great sports people to make their sport look effortless.

There is nothing I hate about playing Mozart, but to make his music sound as it should does demand of the musicians great refinement of detail and the highest level of physical and musical synchronisation. Only then can we create the purity of sound and the seemingly effortless simplicity and clarity of classical musical expression at it highest that Mozart’s scores demand. Playing Mozart is utterly revealing as not one note can be out of place without one noticing- no pressure!

As I write this blog, I am contemplating the hours I am about to spend bowing the string parts in preparation for the first rehearsals of the orchestra. Articulations and bowings in classical music were, and are still, very particular because certain bowings create and reflect particular sounds and phrasings. In this way I have to be sure that the strings synchronise their bowings and speak as one musical voice.

However, this is only the very first step in crafting a Mozart orchestra to accompany the opera. In the pursuit of pure chamber music, my colleagues and I will strive for the perfect balance of melody, countermelody and accompaniment in a way that supports and enhances what you see and hear on the stage. I look forward to revisiting and continuing my relationship with Mozart’s “Magic Flute” in this latest version created by John Drummond.

Twenty-four years ago I toured the original work around the UK with the company Opera North, performing in delightful old opera houses of a similar size to the Mayfair theatre  and loving every moment of the experience. I just have to remember to keep my eyes on the music and the conductor, rather than the glow of the stage!


Post by Tessa Petersen, Concertmaster

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