Stephen Williamson Talks About Playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto for the Chicago Food Depository Benefit Concert.
Stephen Williamson will be performing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with Maestro Riccardo Muti conducting on June 13, 2016, during the special Benefit Concert for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. We asked him a few questions about the upcoming performance.
When did Maestro Muti first ask you to play the Mozart Concerto?
When I won the job as Principal Clarinet in May 2011, Maestro Muti said that he would like to perform the Mozart Clarinet Concerto together some day. We were scheduled to play the Concerto on four CSO subscription concerts in February 2016. At the last minute, Maestro Muti had to cancel his February concerts after suffering a fall and needing surgery. I ended up performing the concerto with Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky. When the Chicago Symphony Musicians decided to produce our own benefit concert, which Maestro Muti immediately agreed to conduct, it was only natural that the Mozart Concerto would be on the program.
How do you feel about performing on this Benefit Concert?
I’m looking forward to playing in the Studebaker Theater. This concert will have a deeper meaning for me because it’s for a great cause, helping our Chicago community members who don’t have enough to eat. Healthy food is a basic necessity. We take it for granted that we have food on the table. Music reaches people of all races, colors, and creeds. It’s food for the soul.
What is special to you about the Mozart Clarinet Concerto?
The Concerto is a late work of Mozart’s, written at the same time as his operas The Magic Flute and La clemenza di Tito and his unfinished Requiem. Mozart wrote only 199 measures of what was first intended as a basset horn concerto. He apparently decided that the piece would work better on a basset clarinet. Anton Stadler, for whom the Concerto was written, had a clarinet made that would cover a larger range than a standard clarinet. Mozart loved Stadler’s low register, and transcribed his original draft to the key of A. Mozart admired Stadler so highly that after two years of friendship, he invited Stadler to become a Mason like himself. I think that the Clarinet Concerto is the greatest wind concerto Mozart ever wrote. I try to play it from a vocal perspective, like an opera singer. The piece has little to do with the clarinet at all!
What is it like to make music with Maestro Muti?
We seem to have a unified idea about how music should sound. It seems effortless, because Maestro Muti knows how to nurture my playing in the moment to bring out my best playing.