GJSO principal clarinetist Jun Watabe performs Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in a weekend of performances also paying tribute to the musical genius

January 10, 2017

On Saturday, January 21st and Sunday, Janaury 22nd, the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra’s (GJSO) Classics season continues with Watabe Plays Mozart. Principal clarinetist Jun Watabe takes on the eloquence and sublime beauty of Mozart’s much-loved Clarinet Concerto in a weekend of concerts which also pay tribute to Mozart’s genius with Ibert’s Hommage a Mozart, Haydn’s Toy Symphony and Beethoven’s 1st Symphony.

Both performances will be held at the Avalon Theatre with Saturday’s concert beginning at 7:30pm and a Sunday matinee at 3:00pm.

A refined musician, Jun Watabe has appeared as a featured soloist in many national and international scenes to rave reviews. He travels across the country for concerts and lectures at conferences and universities. Watabe also lives an unusual career of single reed doubling with two completely different instruments – the clarinet and the saxophone. The diverse natures of the two instruments serve to enhance his artistry and refine his musical common sense, and at the same time make his musical interpretations and performances unique. Watabe received a doctorate in both clarinet and saxophone from the University of Northern Colorado with honors. During his graduate study at UNC, he won all the solo and concerto competitions. Watabe was the recipient of the Saxophone Fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival for three consecutive summers. Dr. Watabe has taught at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and currently is the clarinet and saxophone faculty member at Colorado Mesa University and the principal clarinetist for the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and the founder of the CMU faculty wind quintet Mesa Winds.

French composer Jacques Ibert was commissioned by the music department of French national radio to compose a tribute to Mozart in 1956 for the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. His Hommage a Mozart is a short one-movement work using a Classically-proportioned orchestra such as Mozart would have known.

W.A. Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto was written in October 1791, shortly before his death, for the clarinetist Anton Stadler. It was published posthumously and thus it is difficult to understand all of Mozart’s intentions. The only relic of this concerto written in Mozart’s hand is an excerpt of an earlier rendition written for basset horn. This excerpt is nearly identical to the corresponding section in the published version for standard clarinet. Most likely Mozart originally intended the piece to be written for basset horn, as Anton Stadler was also a virtuoso basset horn player, but eventually was convinced the piece would be more effective for clarinet. However, since several notes throughout the piece go beyond the conventional range of the standard clarinet, we can presume it was intended to be played on the basset clarinet, a special clarinet championed by Stadler that had a range down to low C, instead of stopping at E as standard clarinets do. Jun Watabe will be performing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with the GJSO on a basset clarinet.  A commercially made basset clarinet has a foot-long extension which allows an extra four notes below the lowest note of an ordinary clarinet.  Watabe had his clarinet custom-converted to a unique basset clarinet obtaining the fifth note with even longer extension.  This much longer, heavier “clarinet” with a range of 5 octaves will reconstruct Mozart’s masterpiece in the 21st century.

The Toy Symphony (Kindersinfonie), often attributed to Franz Joseph Haydn, a friend and mentor to Mozart, did not appear in published form until 1820. In the first edition, the composer was given as “Haydn” with no further identification. From that time it was assumed that Franz Joseph Haydn was the composer of this seven-minute, three movement symphony which calls for toys, a trumpet, ratchet, nightingale, cuckoo and drum. A fanciful story was even concocted in which Haydn composed this work after purchasing several toys at a fair, and then performed the result for delighted children at a Christmas party. The story has since been discredited and the authorship of the piece is still under dispute with some believing it was written by Mozart’s father Leopold, others believing it to be the work of Haydn’s brother Michael, and most recently the Toy Symphony has been attributed to Austrian benedictine monk Edmund Angerer.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, was dedicated to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, an early patron of the composer. The piece was published in 1801. It is not known exactly when Beethoven finished writing this work, but sketches of the finale were found to be from 1795. The symphony is clearly indebted to Beethoven’s predecessors, particularly his teacher Franz Joseph Haydn as well as Mozart, but nonetheless has characteristics that mark it uniquely as Beethoven’s work, notably the frequent use of dynamics and the prominent, more independent use of wind instruments.

Watabe Plays Mozart is proudly sponsored by Karen Combs & Lynn Wegener.

All seating is reserved and tickets are $20 – $40 for adults and $5 for students (Ages 12+ thru college). Tickets can be purchased online at GJSO.org, by calling 970-243-6787, at the Grand Junction Symphony office at 414 Main Street, or at the Avalon Theatre one hour prior to each performance.

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