The venue for the Schwetzingen festival is the town's vast palace complex. As it was actually founded in 1952 as a radio festival, all concerts during the month-long series of events can be heard on the radio nearly every day in parts of Germany, and are aired on over five hundred radio stations worldwide.
As the summer residence of Prince Elector, Carl Theodor of Mannheim, Schwetzingen attracted Europe's finest musicians in the time of Mozart – and still does.
"You yourself don't know how good a violinist you are," wrote the widely respected violin teacher Leopold Mozart to his son. "If you were to take it seriously and play with gusto and spirit, you'd be the best violinist in Europe."
Those words came from a father not known to be generous with compliments. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart considered himself first and foremost a pianist, but he did receive excellent violin instruction from his father, who had a bit of advice: he should preface his violin performances with an apology, saying "I'm not a violinist," before blowing them away.
Amadeus probably needed no such stunts, nor does our featured soloist, Gil Shaham. The US-born violinist grew up in Israel, learned to play the violin at age seven and performed his first concert at age ten with the Jerusalem Symphony — and soon after with the Israel Philharmonic and conductor Zubin Mehta. In 2012, the periodical Musical America named Gil Shaham "instrumentalist of the year."
We'll conclude the hour with a work by the "mature" Mozart, all of nineteen years old when he wrote his 29th Symphony, invigorated and inspired by the music he'd been exposed to on his travels, including fresh material from Italy and Haydn's string quartets.
Violin concerto in D Major, op 77: 2nd movement: Adagio (excerpt)
Gil Shaham, violin
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor
on Deutsche Grammophon 469 529-2
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Violin concerto No. 1 in B-flat Major, K. 207 (1773)
- Violin concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216 (1775), last movement
- Symphony No. 29 in A Major, K. 201 (1774)
Gil Shaham, violin
Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Recorded by Southwest German Radio in the Rococo Theater of Schwetzingen Palace on May 12, 2018Rick Fulker