WE HAVE SEEN FOR YOU – The improvising pianist dissects the musical introductions of the Marriage of Figaro, Cosi fan tutte, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute in an exciting number of “Keys to the Orchestra”.

In the company of the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Finnish conductor Emilia Hoving, Jean-Francois Zygel offers a little jewel of joyful and erudite teaching to help us better understand the genius of Mozart, Saturday November 19 at 9:10 p.m. on France 4 and Culturebox. Passionate, enthusiastic and with a greedy face, the pianist distils his knowledge, revealing the intention behind the notes, the chords, the musical phrases, the reason for the choice of instruments and modulations. In this detailed study of Mozart’s Grand Opera Overturesnice programming of Orchestra Keysthe music suddenly sounds obvious and becomes crystal clear.

The magnificent Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, with unfailing complicity, plays at will and at will passages from the overtures of the Marriage of Figaro , Cosi fan tutte , Don Giovanni and of The Magic Flute by Mozart before performing all the slow and fast parts in one go. These musical pieces traditionally serve as an introduction to operas and set the tone for the work that is played and sung afterwards. In past centuries, they were also used to beat the recall before the concert and the raising of the curtain in front of a room permanently lit by candlelight, and particularly noisy, as recalled by Jean-Francois Zygel. The operatic overture will be at the origin of three great genres which will mark the music of the 19th century: the overture given in concert as a symphonic piece in its own right, the symphonic poem with several significant elements telling a story and the symphony through the addition of movements to an opening music.

Opera buffa, opera seria and Singspiel

By miming, singing, humming or playing the piano, Jean-Francois Zygel first plunges us into the Viennese atmosphere of May 1, 1786, when Mozart conducts the overture for the first time. Marriage of Figaroopera taken from the aptly named play by Beaumarchais Marriage of Figaro or The Crazy Day. It highlights the murmur of the strings, the slightly funny melody and the crescendo of violins which carries the whole orchestra into total excitement and frenzy. In the opening of Cosi fan tutteZygel insists on the opening passage sounding like three coups de theater, a musical motif that will be repeated later in the opera, creating an auditory memory in the spectator.

To these two operas bouffa in opposition to the operas seria, succeeds Don Giovanni presented in Prague on October 29, 1787. Beginning on two chords in D minor of a rare and terrible gravity, on a treble of violins evoking the damned souls then rising and falling scales evoking the flames of hell, Don Giovanni, struggles to fit into the category of bouffa opera. Mozart saves the case by not concluding his work on death but by inviting all the victims of Don Juan in a spirited finale. The Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra makes us hear the two endings of the overture, that of Mozart, which incorporates a subtle modulation in F major, and that of Johann André, called concert, demonstrative and very banal. Hearing the genius express itself by comparative effect is particularly pleasurable.

Jean-Francois Zygel ends his lesson with The Magic Flute by Mozart, defining the opera as a “mystic-comedy” mixing mystical world and frank comedy without dwelling too much on the cabalistic symbols of the composition. The three chords in the opening, however, already symbolize the initiation of Pamino, the Egyptian prince of this Eastern tale modified to insert symbols of Freemasonry. The Magic Flute belongs to a third genre of opera, the Singspiel since it also contains spoken scenes.

Zygel points to Mozart’s introduction of the supernatural through the use of trombones, “the ideal instrument to sound… the awakening of the dead or the death of the livingwrote Berlioz in his Treaty of instrumentation and orchestration! “The keys of the orchestra” recalls on the occasion how Mozart discovered the art of the fugue in 1782 while listening to Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), a fact rare enough to be underlined since at the time only the music of living composers was played.

To complete our training, “The keys of the orchestra” recalls the three ways used to achieve a crescendo: playing an increasingly loud instrument, adding instruments to the tutti of the orchestra or increasing the range ( more and more acute or more and more serious). Thus we learn to hear music with three ears, the last being an ever more enlightened and refined understanding of what we are listening to!

Jean-François Zygel, pianist, composer, improviser, performer and scout musician at all hours. Personal photo

Jean-François Zygel introduces us to the heart of Mozart’s operatic overtures