Who was the greatest child prodigy of all time? Most people would say Mozart, but it was Mendelssohn who composed one of the greatest masterpieces of the entire classical music literature, his famous “Octet, “at the age of 16.
Experience the magic of composer Felix Mendelssohn, along with the romanticism of Reinhold Gliere’s “Octet,” performed by Maestro Michael Guttman and Symphony Napa Valley at Lincoln Theater when they present “Crown Jewels of Chamber Music” at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 28 at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville.
In 1821, German composer Carlos Friedrich Zelter introduced Mendelssohn, then 12 years old, to his friend Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was impressed by the child. Following the introduction, Goethe made perhaps the earliest confirmed comparison between Mendelssohn and Mozart, when he told Zelter, “musical prodigies are probably no longer so rare; but what this little man can do borders the miraculous, and I could not have believed it possible at so early an age.”
As Goethe notes, Mendelssohn’s talent, and at such a young age, was impressive. However, the most astonishing fact about the composition of Mendelssohn’s “Octet” is that such an intimate, mature musical language is evident throughout the piece, which is an achievement for a composer of any age. While the work’s lively mood and the organic development of its musical content would seem to indicate the piece was composed in a short, spontaneous burst of creativity, the work actually underwent significant changes before, and even after, its initial publication. These significant changes involved painstaking work on the young composer’s part. It is, therefore, amazing that the Octet appears to have lost none of its vigor in the process, and maintained its light, vivacious qualities.
The performers will include Maestro Michael Guttman, Yasushi Ogura, the Friction Quartet, Julie Michael, and James Jaffe. Friction Quartet, artists in residence at Lincoln Theater, gave their Carnegie Hall debut as part of the Kronos Quartet Workshop in 2016.
Their performances have been called “terribly beautiful” by the San Francisco Classical Voice, and the San Francisco Chronicle praised their “high-octane music-making... a fine blend of rhythmic ferocity and tonal flair.” Members of Friction Quartet include Doug Machiz, Otis Harriel, Taija Warbelow, and Kevin Rogers.
Ticket prices are $30 to $65. To purchase tickets go to lincolntheater.org or call the box office at 707-944-9900.