Mozart's music has had unparalleled longevity. While more than 2½ centuries have passed since the Austrian composer's birth, he remains one of the most consequential figures in Western music.
“People think of classical music as far away from us,” said violinist Angelo Xiang Yu. “In my opinion, 200 years ago, Mozart composed those pieces for people around the world at that time. It is supposed to be music for everybody. In other words, I consider that to be the pop music of his time. It was something that you would’ve heard people playing on a daily basis. We should treat it that way.”
On Thursday, Jan. 17, Yu will join the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra in a concert celebrating Mozart’s birthday. The performance, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church downtown, will feature three works by Mozart, born Jan. 27, 1756, chosen from three different points in his life. Yu will perform as the featured soloist in the composer's Violin Concerto No. 5.
Yu, who in 2014 received a prestigious Artist Diploma from the New England Conservatory, was recently announced as one of the 2019 Lincoln Center Emerging Artists Prize recipients. Yu also has been a first prizewinner at the Menuhin competition and a prize winner at the Michael Hill and Wieniawski International Violin competitions.
The concert will open with Mozart’s Symphony No. 20, which was written when he was only 16 years old. Composed at a time when trumpets were almost exclusively used for ceremonial music, the piece includes two trumpets in addition to standard horns, oboes and strings.
“There is no surprise great music really stands the test of time,” Yu said. Mozart’s “music is perfect. I think if you take away something, it will be too little. If you add just a little bit, that would be too much. He found the right proportion for everything, harmonically and structurally.”
The program’s second piece will highlight Yu performing on a 1729 Stradivarius violin. The Fifth Violin Concerto features a feverish and intense third movement, earning it the nickname of the “Turkish.”
This violin concerto “is technically the most challenging one. It explores every single spot on the violin,” Yu said. Mozart “was an exceptional violinist. He started playing violin at the age of 5. Because he was such a great violinist, he knew how to maximize the potential of the instrument.”
The concert will close with Symphony No. 41, Mozart’s final symphony composition. The work is known for its high-spirited energy and grand scale, which most likely resulted in the piece's nickname, “Jupiter,” after the Roman god of the sky and lightning.
Mozart is Yu’s favorite composer, and he speaks of him almost as though he were an old friend. “The reason why I never get tired of his music,” Yu said, “is that it always feels fresh." Even after 10 years of playing the Violin Concerto No. 5, "every time I open the score, I see something differently. I discover new things every single day.”
Mozart Birthday Bash
Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra with Angelo Xiang Yu
7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 17
First Baptist Church, 529 Convention St.