Arts and Entertainment

Maestros will talk Mozart

Gary Cannon, artistic director of the Vashon Islandhorale and Cascadian Chorale, will explore questions about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with his mentor and former teacher, Abraham Kaplan, in the Arts & Humanities lecture “What’s So Great About Mozart?” this weekend.

By anyone’s standard, Mozart created a prodigious body of music ­— over 600 works — in the short span of his lifetime. But not everyone agrees upon how he did it. Was Mozart a musical genius or extremely driven and hardworking?

Using excerpts from some of Mozart’s greatest works, Kaplan and Cannon will talk about the composer’s life and vast range of musical forms from chorale to orchestra, chamber and opera. They’ll look at what makes Mozart’s music so universally beloved, why his compositions are so accessible and examine just what is so great about Mozart.

“Kaplan knows the answer to that question,” said Cannon in a recent interview, “and I’ll answer the question about Mozart as genius versus hard worker.”

The former teacher and student enjoy bantering about ideas and have become good friends over the past decade after Kaplan retired in 2004 from the University of Washington. Two years ago, the chorale performed a cycle of Kaplan’s Hanukkah compositions, and, according to Cannon, Kaplan fell in love with the island.

As former director of choral music at Julliard for 20 years, Kaplan is reputed to be one of the greatest choral conductors and composers of his generation. Leonard Bernstein, who collaborated musically with Kaplan for 13 years, called him “a heaven-sent maestro.”

Cannon’s reputation as a dynamic conductor, singer, composer and musicologist is well known throughout the Northwest. He’s been artistic director of the Vashon Island Chorale since 2008.

The evening provides a timely preamble to the chorale’s upcoming performance of Mozart’s masterwork, “Great Mass in C-Minor,” March 30 at Benaroya Hall.

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