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5 Questions with Bill Klingelhoffer

Bill Klingelhoffer is the featured horn soloist on the Sinfonia Concertante for Winds at the 2022 festival.

What do you love about the music of Mozart?

It develops facility and clarity of thought. It is complicated enough to appeal to the most knowledgeable connoisseur and its simplicity is connected to the child in all of us.

Do you have a special memory of any of Mozart’s works?

The first piece I ever performed on the French Horn was the Romanze movement from Mozart's Concerto No. 3, K447 when I was 11 years old. The sound and musicality I learned in order to play that piece, the striving to play up to the level of his genius, is an essential part of my foundation as a musician.

Last October my niece Maria Klingelhoffer was getting married (to Billy Ritzenthaler!) and she asked me to play for her wedding. My sister Mary Stolper is an excellent flute player and she had hired a fine harpist. The wedding was outside by a clubhouse on a hill overlooking Lake Michigan, and it was a warm and beautiful afternoon. From the Magic Flute I arranged Tamino's aria "How soft, how strong your music sounds, for through your playing wild beasts feel joy.." for the trio. The Flute starts the aria, so she played and I played the tenor part on the Horn as the Harp provided lovely chordal accompaniment. It's the part on the stage where they have little kids come out in animal costumes and dance around. It was fun to play and I felt like we were blessing the occasion.

I also transcribed the last movement of Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 2 K417 for Flute, Horn, and Cello for a wedding in Napa. it's surprising how well it sounds with just those three instruments! The groom loved it and wanted to hear it over and over.

How is learning or performing a Mozart work different than other composers?

Every composer has his own sound. In order to play Mozart one has to develop a tone that is clear and warm with the facility to sound effortless and natural.

There is a grace about it even in minor--and Mozart in minor is coming from a very high, profound place.

I always enjoy the part of the development of a Mozart composition when he is coming back to the recapitulation. He always does something extraordinary. In the 3rd Horn Concerto in E flat, 1st Movement the development at one point comes all the way down to a single note, a G flat on the horn. I always play it hand stopped, as soft as I can, and have the conductor wait and start the next part slowly, because at the moment of that one note, the development begins a long series of harmonic sequences that return to the opening theme of the piece.

What role has Mozart’s music had for you during the pandemic?

Healing, like always.

Any other thoughts on Mozart and his music?

Tschaikovsky: "Every time I hear a piece of music by Mozart I feel as if I have performed a good deed."

Did you know that the first 9 notes of the final movement of Mozart's G minor Symphony K 550 and the first 9 notes of the third movement of Beethoven's 5th are identical?

Ravel: "Mozart! To us, adherents of the younger modern school, he is the greatest musician, the musician par excellence, our god!"

Rossini took Mozart's opera melodies and wrote his own harmony, then compared it with Mozart's original, as a compositional exercise.

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