Paul and Kathy’s Picks: Mozart Requiem


Recommendations and insight from President & CEO Paul Dornian, and his wife Kathy Dornian.

Some of my friends mistakenly think that as a pianist, I gravitate towards listening to mostly piano music. Absolutely not true! I love most genres, although both Yuja Wang and I tease Paul about having FAR too much ‘weird’ contemporary clarinet music in our extensive collection. I will reveal a secret: although I think Paul is an absolutely terrific clarinetist and musician, my favourite instrument is actually the cello and I am also particularly fond of the oboe. But for larger ensembles, nothing beats some of the great choral masterpieces in the literature, such as the Mozart Requiem that we will be treated to this coming Friday and Saturday.

One of the most rewarding experiences of my student years was participation in choirs, both as a chorister and as a collaborative artist. Indeed, I fondly recall wrestling with the orchestral score of Mozart’s Requiem which, needless to say, sounds completely inadequate on merely a piano. I was also privileged to play piano in a ‘two piano’ concert version of the Brahms Requiem which we will also have a chance to hear in February. More about that concert later! Come to both and decide on your favourite which for me, is an impossible task.

My own listening experience is enriched by both observing the musicians in action and by educating myself about how a composition came into being. There is chilling and seductive mystery surrounding the Requiem. It is common knowledge that it was left incomplete upon Mozart’s death and completed by his student Sussmayr. But was it a premonition? Did he write it for himself or for naughty Count von Walsegg who commissioned the work and wished to pass it off as his own? If this sounds like a Hollywood potboiler, it is! The Requiem featured prominently in one of my favourite movies from 1984, Amadeus. In typical Hollywood fashion, the screenwriters did take some liberties with historical accuracy, but I digress. Be part of the intrigue and judge for yourself!

The music itself is at once heartbreaking and beautiful, intimate and tender, but certainly not without its moments of fire and brimstone. The traditional 18th century orchestra is paired with some rather unusual for the time combination of instruments and colours including trombones, basset horns and organ.

Combine our brilliant orchestra with the masterful Calgary Philharmonic Chorus under the masterful direction of Timothy Shantz, throw in some world class soloists, and I’m sure this will be an evening to remember. But that’s not all! I am also excited to hear the young American pianist Andrew Von Oeyen perform one of my personal favourites, the sublime Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto. Of Oeyen, the Chicago Tribute wrote: “ Oeyen leaves you convinced that he can do absolutely anything he likes with a keyboard.” That’s a great endorsement! He is not a pianist that I am too familiar with but who knows? Maybe he will end up counting among my favourites after this weekend. And finally, the evocative and simple choral work by Stephen Chatman of the setting of “Flanders Fields” will be a sounded as a most fitting tribute to our many fallen soldiers on Remembrance Day.

Paul and I look forward to seeing you this weekend!

– Kathy Dornian