If you ever watched the 1984 movie Amadeus, you may have wondered what it would have been like if the rival composers Wolfgang Mozart and Antonio Salieri had set aside their differences to make beautiful music together.
Wonder no more: this Sunday, the San Jose Symphonic Choir will celebrate its 90th season -- and Maestro Leroy Kromm’s 30th anniversary as the Choir’s Music Director -- by performing Salieri’s Requiem Mass in C minor followed by Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor at San Jose’s California Theater.
So are these requiems the product of a bitter rivalry between the mediocre Salieri and the genius Mozart? According to Kromm, the reality is less dramatic.
Although Salieri never wrote a hit like “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” he did compose more than 30 operas over the course of his life that received great acclaim from 18th century audiences, including the Requiem. The real rivalry had more to do with style: Salieri’s Requiem can be seen as a form of protest against the radical changes he witnessed occurring in music. Mozart embodied these new styles, which is why you still hear his Requiem Mass in D minor at memorials.
“Seeing the two requiems is a good way to hear and compare two iconic works of an era,” Kromm says. “Salieri is looking back at music from the Classical era and Mozart is looking forward at Romanticism.”
Incidentally, they also make for a great contrast, which Kromm discovered when he first paired the two requiems together in 1985 for his debut performance as conductor of the San Jose Symphonic Choir.
Given that it’s been 30 whole years since he last played this program, Kromm says revisiting the program been a bit of a sobering experience. But he takes great pride in directing the oldest volunteer choir in California, and in what its 135 members have accomplished over the years. And he certainly doesn’t consider this season’s performance to be a requiem for his career.
“I don’t think I’d retire from conducting this group,” Kromm says. “They do some amazing things.”
For ticket holders interested in learning more about Mozart, Daniel Leeson, world-class Mozart scholar and former bass clarinetist for the San Jose Symphony, gives a lecture before the concert at 2pm. The lobby of the Theatre also hosts a History San Jose exhibit showcasing highlights from the city’s history over the past 90 years.