Mozart / Rossini, Myung-Whun Chung
A long-time friend of Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice, South Korean pianist and conductor Myung-Whun Chung frequently works his magic on the storied opera house’s stage. Internationally renowned, his tenure includes stops in New York (both the Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera), Amsterdam (Concertgebouw), Munich (Bayerische Rundfunk), as well as orchestra and philharmonics in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. At La Fenice this season, Myung-Whun Chung leads the orchestra and choir through two signature works: Ave verum corpus, K 618 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Stabat Mater by Gioachino Rossini. For the latter, the soloists Carmela Remigio (soprano), Marina Comparato (mezzosoprano), Maxim Mironov (tenor), and Gianluca Buratto (basso) join the ensemble.
Mozart composed the motet Ave verum corpus in 1791, allegedly for his friend and musician Anton Stoll who worked at the St Stephan church in Baden bei Wien. Since the piece was written for the religious rite of Corpus Christi, the first performance must have been 23 June 1791. The sacred work is often seen as a prequel or a harbinger of the dramatic and powerful Requiem in D Minor, Mozart’s final, unfinished masterpiece from the fall of that same year. While Ave verum corpus contains some stylistic elements that Mozart would later reuse and reinforce in his Requiem, it is a much more straightforward and simpler composition. The motet illustrates nicely how Mozart could adapt his craft to the abilities of the performers, for whom he was writing, without sacrificing the quality or depth of his music.
Rossini’s Stabat Mater follows the classic liturgical text that describes the great trials of the Virgin Mary and imbues it with the Italian composer’s keen sense for melody and musical drama. While he first started work on the project in 1831, it took Rossini a decade to write his Stabat Mater in full. The first performance of the complete version took place at Théâtre-Italien's Salle Ventadour in Paris on 7 January 1842. Audience at this and all following showings around Europe were stunned. A veteran of opera, Rossini imbued the canonical texts with a liveliness and sensuality seldom seen in the religious realm. Under Myung-Whun Chung’s masterful direction, the religious works by Mozart and Rossini are a joy to hear.