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Now Hear This “Becoming Mozart”

Travel with host Scott Yoo and pianist Stewart Goodyear as they visit Yoo’s Festival Mozaic where Goodyear learns to direct an orchestra from the piano while improvising the solos of Mozart’s twentieth piano concerto.

Transcript Print

♪♪ -I'm Scott Yoo.

Next on 'Great Performances,' the great Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear will join me to try to do what no living pianist has done.

♪♪ These are masterpieces. -One after the other.

-He'll play one of Mozart's most famous piano concertos... You know the piano part.

How well do you know the orchestra part?

...while conducting it... and improvising the solos... Each one of those today is a full-time job.

...lust like Mozart would have done.

This is not relaxed. is.

This is not bone and skin. It's spaghetti.

Late!

They need a conductor to sit there and go, 'Boom!'

As he trains and rehearses for this incredible feat... One of your jobs is to become inspired.

-Every artist has their own point of view.

-...we'll both gain a deeper appreciation for Mozart's genius.

♪♪ When you're playing great music, it makes you try to be more than you are.

♪♪ Coming up on 'Now Hear This: Becoming Mozart.'

[ 'The Marriage of Figaro' overture plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -If you've seen this show before, you may know me as a violinist.

But for more than 20 years,my main job has been conducting.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ During the season, I conduct the Mexico City Philharmonic.

But every summer I come ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ We now play works from all composers, but the festival began 50 years ago to focus on the works of Mozart, like this overture from 'The Marriage of Figaro,' one of his 22 operas, among 41 symphonies and 500 other works.

♪♪ Good. Let's rehearse.

Can you make more fortepiano?

[ Vocalizing ] Okay. Let's just hear David and -- and Liz.

[ French horns playing single note ] Kate.

[ French horn joins ] Thank you. Great. Let's keep it there.

By the way, I hear -- [ Vocalizing ] There's too many ornaments on the tree.

Let's go from 236, please.

♪♪ ♪♪ Mozart was inventive and successful in all formats.

♪♪ But there was one where he set the standard for all who followed -- the piano concerto.

And whenever he premiered one, the piano soloist was Mozart himself.

♪♪ [ Finale plays ] Great.

Tomorrow, Stewart Goodyear will be coming here to play Mozart's 20th piano concerto, and he's going to try to do what Mozart did.

He's going to play the concerto, he's going to conduct the concerto from the piano -- and he's never conducted before -- and he's going to improvise the cadenzas.

Think about how hard that is.

It's really, really difficult.

Anyway, be patient with him. He's really a huge talent.

Okay? See you tomorrow.

♪♪ ♪♪ Festival Mozaic happens each year in San Luis Obispo, on the central coast of California, a place famous for vineyards and ocean views.

But what's less known are its miles and miles of rolling hills which, after the rains, feel more like Ireland.

On a nearby ranch, a festival board member lent us a place to rehearse.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Stewart's been performing Mozart piano concertos since he was 12 years old, but never like he'd try to do it here.

I'd have to teach him enough about conducting in just one week to successfully lead the orchestra.

♪♪ Oh, man. -22.

-That's how old he was? -22 years old, yeah.

-Yeah. That's incredible. -Unbelievable.

-So, we're here to talk about conducting.

-Yes, we are.

-Rule one -- you've got to know the score.

I mean, not just part, but -- -Every part.

-What you're buying is credibility, okay?

So, if they know that you know what they have and you're kind of guiding them in like air-traffic control, 'I got you, I got you'... -They'll be able to trust me.

-...they trust you, and then they'll go with you.

'Oh, you want that? I'm going to go with you.'

-Yeah. -And then it becomes a much more unified experience on stage.

Now, obviously you know the piano part.

-Yeah. -Okay.

How well do you know the orchestra part?

-I feel like I'm skimming the surface every time I study it.

-So we've got to work on that, 'cause that's the most paramount, important thing... -Yeah. -...I would say.

Um, this is how I learn.

I just play it. -Okay.

-Can you play the first violin part -- the viola part, second-violin part, and first-violin part with your right hand?

And close the music so you can't read it?

-Right. Yeah.

[ Piano playing ] ♪♪ -That's good. Okay.

I'll play the first-violin part, second-violin part, and viola.

I'll sing the viola line.

And can you play the cello part and the bass part with your left hand, and then, when the horns have to come in, I want you to sing that D.

[ Vocalizing ] -Okay. -Okay? Let's try it.

-All right.

-[ Vocalizing ] ♪♪ -Late! It's late.

The horns come in there. You've got to sing that.

-The horns come in late?

-Look at the score.

They come in on the downbeat. You didn't sing it.

-Right! -Yes. Okay.

And that's super-important because the horns, they really need your help.

You know why you're conducting, right?

It's because people can't hear each other.

If you're sitting back there where the horns are, you can't hear anything.

[Muffled] It sounds like this. -Yes.

-[Normal voice] And it's impossible.

So they need a conductor to sit there and go, 'Boom,' so that they know when to play.

Otherwise, it's just terrifying for them.

-Right. -So that's super-important.

Okay. You're never going to make that mistake again, okay?

That's page one.

I don't know. There are like 70 pages in the score?

You got to go through page 2 like that, page 3 like that, 4.

You've got to do -Okay. -Okay?

♪♪ [ Birds chirping ] ♪♪ Stewart is known for his interpretations of Mozart and Beethoven as a pianist, but interpreting a work for an orchestra is a much larger challenge.

I took him for a hike above thehouse to give him some pointers.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ So, one of your jobs while you're here in California is to, you know, walk around and become inspired and imbibe a piece like Mozart's 20th and figure out what you want.

-First time I heard this concerto, I was 4 years old, and it scared me.

-Really? -I had this notion in my head that I was hearing a musical depiction of a storm coming through, and you felt the thunder before you heard it.

And then suddenly there was this crack that just alerted you.

-I mean, who knows what inspired Mozart to write this piece, you know? -Yeah.

-But I think, since you're going to be conducting this piece, it's not so important what inspired Mozart, but what inspires I still remember my first conducting lesson.

It was 26, 27 years ago.

And my teacher said to me, 'The most important thing when you conduct...' -- And I was sort of waiting for it and thinking, 'Oh, it's, you know,your right hand has to do this,' or, 'Your left hand has to do this.'

And he said, 'The most important thing is to have a really strong point of view.'

And your job as a conductor is to get other people to do it your way, to play your idea.

And that's what I hear from orchestra musicians.

The single biggest complaint of any conductor is, 'We didn't know what they wanted.'

And that's what you have to -- -Convey.

-You have got to convey that. Absolutely.

-Yeah. -It's got to be specific.

Hone your interpretation and make it more vivid, more poignant, more delicate, whatever.

-Yeah. -But maybe you'll find something new, you know, that extra 10% you need to make a really memorable performance.

-Right. -That's what we're all search-- -That's what we're all striving for.

-That's what we're all searching for.

[ Instruments warming up ] ♪♪ ♪♪ Stewart, two really quick things before we go on stage.

This festival orchestra is unlike anything you've ever played with.

I know you've played with some of the greats, but this one is like the all-star team.

Each person has been hand-picked, and it's all the best people from all the best orchestras.

And if they smell even an ounce of fear from you, or hesitation, they'll just...tune you out.

-Then it's over. -It's over.

You're a novice conductor, but you are an And you have to go in with that confidence.

The other thing is, since you've never conducted, I think it might be better for you to start in the middle, right when you come in.

Let them hear you play the piano and say, 'Wow. This Stewart is wonderful. I love the way he plays.

You know, and his conducting's not so bad.'

Rather than beginner conductor who also plays the piano.

-Right. -And that is a razor's edge.

And you want to be on side of that edge.

-Yes. -Okay. Let's go.

-Right.

[ Thumping ] Good morning.

Such a pleasure working with all of you.

We're going to be starting the Mozart, bar 77 where the piano solo comes in.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Orchestra joins ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -When the soloist also conducts the orchestra, as Mozart did, they have to concentrate on delivering a masterful performance while listening to and leading the other musicians.

It's phenomenally difficult.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Great, Stewart! Terrific! Let's stop there.

You didn't really give them a good cue, so they were late and slow.

Remember. They can't hear you.

-Okay. -Okay?

They have to be given something very clear and affirmative.

-Okay. -Okay?

-[ Page turns ] -And even places like here, your left hand is not playing the piano here.

Your right hand is not playing the piano here.

Think about if Mozart were playing this concerto.

He is conducting with his left hand while his right hand is playing and vice versa.

Use all of the weapons in your disposal, meaning your two hands, to either be playing the piano or the orchestra.

-Yes. Got it. -Okay?

-Yeah. So as I'm playing on the piano, is it, like, a quarter-note -- a head tilt beforehand?

-Head tilt. You can stick out your tongue.

-[ Chuckles ] Okay. -You know, wiggle your ears.

But you got to do something definite.

-Right. Okay. -Okay. Let's do it.

-Right where we left off.

♪♪ ♪♪