Tomas Leakey – musical director of Mahler Players – withdraws from concerts on Saturday and Sunday in Inverness and Strathpeffer, now being conducted by Susie Dingle
The last three Symphonies of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are being performed on Saturday and Sunday by the Mahler Players in Inverness and Strathpeffer as planned – but with a new conductor.
Susie Dingle will step in to take the place of the Mahler Players’ founder and musical director Tomas Leakey who is having to withdraw due to Covid.
From self-isolation in London, Tomas said: “I’m delighted that Susie is able to step in at the last minute to conduct these concerts. She was such an inspiration musically when I was growing up and she was the conductor of the Highland Regional Youth Orchestra; performing Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony with her was a formative musical experience. When I took up conducting a few years later, I was fortunate enough to study with Susie and am grateful for the many things I learned from her. I’m thrilled for the audience and orchestra that this very special programme will be able to go ahead with Susie conducting.”
The programme will feature Symphony No 39 in Eb Major, KV 543, Symphony No 40 in G Minor, KV 550 and Symphony No. 41 in C Major, KV 551 Jupiter.
Another key figure in saving the concerts from cancellation has been Rob Farmer, the orchestra’s principal horn, who stepped in to conduct the rehearsal weekend.
“Rob was my brass teacher in the last few years of secondary school, and also an important figure in my musical upbringing,” Tomas said. “Rob heroically stepped in to conduct the rehearsal weekend at literally a few hours’ notice.”
When planning this concert, Mahler Players' musical director Tomas felt hearing all three symphonies in a single programme would be a unique opportunity for people.
He said: “These symphonies were composed during a few weeks over the summer of 1788, and we don’t really know what purpose Mozart wrote them for. Perhaps he planned a series of subscription concerts for the second half of 1788, to help his rather dire financial situation at that time.
“But there is no evidence that the concerts ever materialised, however, and although there are a handful of future occasions where they may have been performed it is not known for certain whether Mozart ever heard these pieces played.
"It is poignant to think that Mozart possibly never heard this music except in his head and we will likely never know the full story.
"But, whatever the truth, in these symphonies Mozart has left us three marvels of the repertoire, whose capacity to move, amaze and inspire has lost none of its potency 230 years later.”
And Tomas added: “The fact that we’re able to play this repertoire indicates how the orchestra has developed over the past few years, and especially after the pandemic.
"Recently we’ve welcomed many new players from all over the country and there has been a wonderful hunger among all of our musicians to get together and perform again, which has led to the orchestra expanding to a size big enough to take this music on.
“It sounds slightly counterintuitive to say the orchestra has got bigger and so now we’re able to play Mozart as well as Mahler, but the difference is that it is Mozart in the original versions, not reduced orchestrations.
"We’re an orchestra which has, over the course of our history, probably played around 75 per cent of our repertoire in reduced orchestration versions, and although we love doing that, it’s a real joy to play original works, and especially those of the calibre of these three symphonies.
"Playing Mozart is such a life-affirming experience – as soon as the music starts, whether it’s in rehearsal or performance, everyone’s face just lights up – there’s really nothing like it.
"In Mozart we find everything in the human condition – joy, despair, comedy, tragedy and everything in between, and the changes between the different characters are lightning fast, which is one of the most challenging elements of performing Mozart.
"We’re delighted to be playing these three symphonies in two of our favourite venues.
“We perform in Inverness Cathedral, to which we return for the first time since our Die Walküre of 2019, and Strathpeffer Pavilion, in which we had a residency this year.
“These are also the first live concerts since the official release of our debut album Richard Wagner In Venice, which will also be available to buy at the concerts.
“On this album is the world premiere recording of Richard Wagner In Venice: A Symphony, by Matthew King.
"Commissioned by the Mahler Players and composed in 2021, this symphony brings to life for the first time many of Wagner’s late sketches, left unfinished at the time of his death in 1883, and until now largely unknown and unheard outside specialist circles."
The album has been featured on BBC Radio 3 and Radio Scotland and has been critically acclaimed, being included on the Telegraph’s list of 'best classical CDs and DVDs of 2021'.
The concerts – supported by HRI-Munro Architecture – are on Saturday, December 4, 8pm, at Inverness Cathedral and Sunday, December 5, 3pm, at Strathpeffer Pavilion.
The Mahler Players say: “Advance booking through mahlerplayers.co.uk strongly recommended. Any remaining tickets are available at the door.”
Covid measures: ticket sales restricted to 75 per cent of venue capacity. The orchestra respectfully requests all audience members to remain masked whilst seated, unless exempt.
More by this authorMargaret Chrystall