In November the Southbank Sinfonia perform a selection of works responding to Mozart’s operas at St. John’s Waterloo and St. John’s Smith Square in London. On 22 November Sian Edwards conducts John Woolrich’s The Theatre Represents a Garden: Night, a “necklace of fragments” in homage to the great composer; the following day wind players from the orchestra perform Jonathan Harvey’s Serenade in Homage to Mozart and Jonathan Dove’s Figures in the Garden at their lunchtime concert ‘Mozart Reimagined’.
Woolrich’s 15-minute piece for chamber orchestra draws on Mozart for its material, principally unfinished pieces and sketches, including music for wind band, string ensemble, and piano. These fragments are re-orchestrated and placed into the harmonic framework provided by the final act of The Marriage of Figaro; Woolrich sometimes borrows from Mozart instrumental hallmarks in the form of divided violas and horn pedal points. It received its first performance from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Frans Brüggen at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1991, and has subsequently been conducted numerous times by Christopher Hogwood; in April 2024 Thomas Adès will conduct the piece with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
On 23 November the wind players of Southbank Sinfonia perform another two pieces composed for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in 1991, albeit for the Glyndebourne Festival, which marked 200 years since Mozart’s death. Harvey’s Serenade in Homage to Mozart prefaced performances of The Magic Flute, drawing extensively on its music: the 10-minute piece ends with a loud, fulsome E-flat major chord – the same that begins the singspiel. Papageno’s pipes are also represented at the beginning of the first movement, inspiring the rising, running figures of that section; Harvey also quotes his opera Inquest of Love (1993), elements of whose narrative are shaped by The Magic Flute.
Dove’s Figures in the Garden was inspired by The Marriage of Figaro. The 17-minute piece for woodwind octet is cast in seven movements, reimagining various scenes and characters from the opera: Suzanna sings her aria in the rain (it is an English garden, after all), and Figaro and Suzanna enjoy a moment of shared repose denied them in the opera. “I had the idea that with all the performances of The Marriage of Figaro that had taken place at Glyndebourne, sounds from the opera had in some way impregnated the garden: snatches of recitative, musical figures, instrumental colours”, Dove notes. Figures in the Garden was also recently performed by the LSO Wind Ensemble in new Assistant Conductor Nicolò Umberto Foron’s first concert with the orchestra in September.