Does the saying "Like father, like son" hold true in the musical world?
The Redlands Symphony Orchestra's Saturday night concert of music by fathers and sons proved that while musical talent can run in families, the gene for writing music is not necessarily equally dominant in every generation.
The concert paired an orchestra suite by Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the musical geniuses of all time, with a sinfonia by one of Bach's sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and a serenade by Leopold Mozart with a symphony by his son Wolfgang, perhaps the greatest musical genius ever.
In between the two Bachs and Mozarts, the orchestra, conducted by music director Jon Robertson, played the Concerto for Horn by Franz Strauss (1822-1905), the father of the better-known Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
The younger Strauss composed "Also Sprach Zarathustra," part of which is featured in "2001: A Space Odyssey," and he wrote much more music that has endured into the space age of the 21st century.
His father Franz's Concerto for Horn is certainly not one of the top 10 or even top 100 concertos you're likely to hear on a symphony concert, but it's pleasant music. Franz Strauss was "one of the most gifted and musical horn players of his day," according to Anthony Suter's program notes, and the concerto shows off the beautiful tone of the horn.
Soloist Laura Brenes, who is principal horn with the Redlands
Symphony, made the most of every note. And she was applauded back onto the stage for an encore, "Waltz for Betz" by James Grant, accompanied by sometimes shimmering strings.
That piece, according to soundcloud.com, was Grant's 1999 Valentine's Day card to the woman he later married. For Saturday's Redlands Symphony audience, it was a chocolate heart of beautiful horn playing.
The concert, in the University of Redlands Memorial Chapel, began with two Bachs, first the father, then one his several musical sons.
J.S. Bach's Orchestra Suite No. 2 in B minor is a series of pieces in stylized dance forms, for flute, strings and harpsichord. In a Redlands Symphony season that has included music by Tchaikovsky on three concerts, the Baroque sound of Bach made a refreshing beginning for the evening. (That's not a put-down of Tchaikovsky; it's just an appreciation of a change of style.)
Sara Andon, the orchestra's principal flutist, was featured in extensive solo passages throughout the suite.
More musicians came on stage for the Sinfonia in F major by C.P.E. Bach, including horn players, woodwinds and more strings.
The Sinfonia of the younger Bach not only uses a larger orchestra than that of J.S. Bach's Orchestra Suite, but the sound and style are of another generation.
In his program notes, Suter explains that C.P.E. Bach's music is part of the transition between the Baroque and Classical periods. You could think of C.P.E Bach as a stepping stone on the path from his father's music and Handel's to the music of Mozart and Haydn.
Suter also points out that for a time C.P.E. Bach's music was "in much greater circulation than his father's, though that reversed by the mid-19th century. "
Now we recognize J.S. Bach as the greatest of several generations of musical Bachs, but C.P.E. Bach's Sinfonia in F major is still music worth listening to. It's also interesting to hear two Bachs back to back (don't try saying that at home), to hear the musical style evolving.
After intermission it was all Mozart - first Leopold, then his son Wolfgang.
Leopold Mozart (1719-1787) was a violinist, composer and music teacher. His Serenade in D major, written in 1750, does not measure up to the music his son Wolfgang (1756-1791) would later write, but it has many pleasant passages.
That may be faint praise, but Leopold Mozart achieved far more than most of us - and I include myself in that most - could do if we tried to write music.
Years ago I wrote bits of music as exercises in music theory classes. I followed the rules, which was the point of the exercises, but you wouldn't want to listen to any of that music.
I've occasionally tried since then to come up with a few measures of passable music, but though I can play, read and sing music, I don't have the gift for composing it.
Leopold Mozart had the talent to write musical circles around anything I could do.
But his son Wolfgang had not only talent but genius. The difference was obvious from the first measures of Wolfgang Mozart's Symphony No. 38, "Prague," which followed his father's Serenade on Saturday's concert.
Any music by Wolfgang Mozart is a joy to hear, sing or play, and the Redlands Symphony made Mozart's "Prague" Symphony a glorious conclusion to its fathers-and-sons concert.
The final concert of the season will be a full feast of Mozart. On April 6, the Redlands Symphony Orchestra will perform Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, with soloist Kathryn Nevin, the orchestra's principal clarinetist, and the Mozart "Requiem," with the University of Redlands choirs, the Community Chorus of Redlands and Ensemble XXI.