The next concert by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (PBO), conducted by Music Director Nicholas McGegan, has been given the title Essence of Classical Style. The nature of the classical style has been a matter of considerable discussion, much of it emerging after Charles Rosen wrote his extended study, The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven in 1971. Indeed the question of the nature of style itself has not really been resolved, which it why Rosen addressed it in his very first chapter.
One sentence from that chapter may help to frame the program that McGegan has prepared for the next PBO concert:
A style may be described figuratively as a way of exploiting and focusing a language, which then becomes a dialect or language in its own right, and it is this focus which makes possible what might be called the personal style or manner of the artist, as Mozart worked against the background of the general style of his age, yet with a more specific relation to Haydn and Johann Christian Bach.
In other words, while we tend to view style in terms of some array of normative practices, what matters most are the individual practices of those using those normative practices as “background.” For Rosen the individuals who mattered most were Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven.
The PBO program, on the other hand, has been organized around that more “specific relation” that influences Mozart’s individual practices. The second half of the program will present what many would take to be Mozart’s first major symphony, his K. 201 in A major. The first half of the program will then present music composed in the few years prior to Mozart composing this symphony in 1774. The composers of this music will be Bach’s youngest son and Haydn. Bach will be represented by the G minor symphony from his Opus 6 collection, published in 1770, and his F major sinfonia concertante for oboe and bassoon, whose specific date is not known but is probably in the same time frame. (The soloists for this latter work will be PBO members Marc Schachman on oboe and Danny Bond on bassoon). Haydn will then be represented by his E minor symphony, Hoboken I/44, assigned the name “Trauer” (mourning) by its publisher. Thus, the first half of the context should establish the stylistic context from which the individualism of K. 201 emerged.
The San Francisco performance of Essence of Classical Style will take place at Herbst Theatre (401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street) at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, February 15. There will also be a pre-concert talk beginning at 7:15 p.m. Tickets range in price from $25 to $95. There is an event page for this concert on the Philharmonia Baroque Web site, as well as a Web page for purchasing tickets from City Box Office. City Box Office may also be reached by telephone at 415-392-4400.