Chamber orchestra to celebrate Mozart

The Washington University Chamber Orchestra will launch a yearlong celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with a concert of his music at 8 p.m. Jan. 23 in Holmes Lounge.

The orchestra is directed by Elizabeth Macdonald, director of strings in the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences. The program will range from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, probably Mozart’s most popular and best-known work, to the less-familiar Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K. 546, written in the last three years of his life.

Also on the program are arias from several of Mozart’s operas, including La Finta Giardiniera (The Pretend Gardener), a lighthearted work written when the composer was 18; Il ré Pastore (The Shepherd King), written the following year; and his witty, mature Abduction From the Seraglio.

Performers include soprano Megan Higgins, tenor Joseph Michels and baritone Nathan Ruggles, all graduates of the Department of Music’s master’s program in vocal performance.

Interspersed throughout the event will be biographical readings about Mozart by members of the orchestra.

Mozart was born Jan. 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. His father — the composer, violinist and theorist Leopold Mozart — was dedicated to his son’s musical education, displaying Wolfgang’s keyboard and compositional skills at major courts across Europe. For Wolfgang, such travel resulted in a broad knowledge of the symphony and Italianate opera, genres in which he would excel as a composer.

His early career was spent unhappily as a violinist in the service of the powerful archbishop of Salzburg and under the watchful eye of his father.

In 1781, he moved to Vienna, earning a living through teaching and the commission and publication of his works. Though he never received a hoped-for position at the Habsburg court, whose music was under the dominance of Antonio Salieri, he did receive a lesser appointment to compose music for dancing.

Mozart died in 1791 at age 35. His compositional output of over 600 works includes 41 symphonies; 27 renowned piano concertos; chamber and keyboard music of all varieties; and operas unparalleled in their musical treatment of complex character delineations.

The performance is free and open to the public. For more information, call 935-4841 or e-mail