Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Mother of All Encores

One of the things I love about classical music is discovering a new work or a piece by a composer you may not be all too familiar with.  Such was the case this afternoon when I decided to escape our mini heatwave here and indulge in a few tunes.  While Mozart is of course familiar to most, oft listened to and performed one of the unfortunate side effects with music of the Classical era is that there is a great deal of other great music out there that deserves to be better known but often isn't simply because....well, it's not Mozart.  Anyhow, I came across some small ensemble works by Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa and its been a great listen so far.

I can perhaps be forgiven for not being overly familiar with the man given that I probably only played one or two of his piano pieces growing up, nothing of his during university and also for the fact that he was known in his day (like many an Italian) as an opera composer.  He wrote more than 80.  Cimarosa also had the misfortune of being a Mozart contemporary.  He was a child prodigy, didn't die young or have fiery romances.

He DOES however, have one very interesting claim to fame for having the best encore in operatic history.  Following the premier of his opera, The Secret Marriage in Vienna in 1792, a mere two months after the death of Mozart, Cimarosa received the mother of all encores, so to speak.  So impressed was Leopold II with the opera that he ordered dinner for the entire company and asked for the entire work to be repeated.  When I first read about this, I didn't know what to make of it.  I had to go look it up.  I did attend a performance once by English pianist Murray Perahia at the University of Michigan 20 years ago where he played 4 or 5 encores of some smaller pieces and I thought THAT was impressive.  But apparently, this mammoth encore actually did happen.  Having an opera heartily endorsed by the Emperor is certainly a good for the resume, especially since unlike with some earlier composers, Cimarosa didn't always have a powerful patron.

In this one respect, though Cimarosa certainly trumps Wolfgang hands down.


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