Mad about Mozart: Reagin, CSO bring Genius’ work to Amp tonight

mozart headLast week, and almost 700 miles away in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Brian Reagin practiced Mozart in a campground near the Airventure air show.

“The first time I came up here was 37 years ago,” he said. “I think this is the first time that I’ve brought my violin with me.”

Fresh off a family vacation, Reagin returned to Chautauqua from Wisconsin with his 30-foot travel trailer in tow last night — just in time for his solo performance with the CSO at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

“I have to jump back into that other role [of violinist], and hopefully the fingers still work,” Reagin said.

Tonight’s performance is the second of three Into the Music concerts put on by the CSO this season. The new series is meant to provide a friendly introduction for those who, for whatever reason, were never exposed to classical music. Titled “The Genius of Mozart,” the program features Reagin and School of Music pianists and vocalists as they perform some of the composer’s most recognizable works alongside the CSO.

Mozart is one of few composers with instant name-recognition, partially due to the Oscar-winning “Amadeus,” but mainly due to what many consider the near musical perfection contained in his scores. Reagin will perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, which, he said, is just one example of the composer’s characteristic style.

“It’s the crystal clarity of it, it’s what he managed to produce in such a short lifetime, and there’s just a beautiful symmetry to it,” Reagin said of Mozart’s genius.

Music Director Rossen Milanov agreed, noting how “there are no two opinions about his music.” According to Milanov, Mozart’s music largely speaks for itself, which is why he will only briefly set up each piece before performing it. Solo artists will also speak to the audience about their relationship with Mozart’s music. A Q-and-A session with the audience will follow the performance as well.

The orchestra will also be rearranged and reduced in size to mimic the proportions Mozart would have imagined. Milanov said this authenticity, combined with the music itself, make tonight’s performance the ideal concert for classical neophytes.

“If you want to know about classical music, I think you should start with Mozart,” he said.

And even if this is not someone’s introduction, Milanov said, it’s an entirely different experience to listen to Mozart in the Amp rather than through a pair of earbuds.

“This music was meant to be shared with people and has grand ideas and incredible beauty,” Milanov said. “Hearing it in a concert hall context is going to be completely different.”

As a violinist, Reagin has been followed by Mozart throughout his career. The composer’s concertos are a regular part of violin education and audition material. In fact, Reagin said, candidates for vacancies in the CSO’s own violin section were asked to play a Mozart concerto in their audition this season. Even so, this is only the second time Reagin has performed this concerto with an orchestra.

Reagin said he’s happy to relinquish his duties as concertmaster for an evening as soloist, joking it’s “nice to actually hear yourself once in a while.” Despite the pressure of performing in front of his colleagues — the experience is “like an audition,” he said — he has no complaints. Now in his 19th season with the CSO, Reagin said he’s happy performing with friends and neighbors, whether as soloist or as concertmaster.

“We get along about as well as you can expect any group of people who works closely together on something that’s so personal — when you talk about music, you’re kind of wearing your heart on your shirtsleeve,” he said. “There are some orchestras where I don’t think I would want to be sitting in that chair with all those knives aimed at your back.”