MOSTLY MOZART…AND SOME FRANK MORGAN
One of the best things about staying in the city in August is attending the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART: I, for one, have always preferred the city to the country. While my little Constanze often departed to take the healing waters at Baden-Baden, Vienna was the only place for me. The vibrancy of the city inspires me.
MM: I’m talking about New York City, Amade'. Although I’d be happy to spend some time in Vienna before this summer ends. But for now we’re staying in Manhattan.
WAM: And we are having such fun, are we not?
MM: You bet! This weekend we attended the eponymous festival that celebrates your music and heard virtuoso pianist Jeremy Denk perform your D Minor piano concerto—
WAM: —with grace and perfection, I would add. The man is a consummate artist.
MM: Yes. He captured the range of emotion of your composition flawlessly and with exquisite nuance. It made me cry at times.
WAM: Which was my intent, my dear. D minor is the death key, you know.
MM: I know. On the other hand much of the concerto is soaring and hopeful. Life-affirming.
WAM: Well, one does not wish to spend too much time wallowing in tears, does one? There is so much to enjoy in life.
MM: Most particularly music. For me, it’s the best thing in life. A healing force. Which leads me to yesterday’s adventure, a screening of Sound of Redemption: The Frank MorganStory at the Lincoln Center Film Society.
WAM: Frank Morgan…this is not a name familiar to me. Is he Viennese?
MM: No, Amade', he was an American jazz musician. Virtuoso alto sax player and protégé of Charlie Parker. The film is a moving and emotional experience that uses a memorial concert at San Quentin as a springboard to tell Morgan’s story and trace his journey from young prodigy in the Midwest to the heights of the L.A. Jazz scene, and on to San Quentin, imprisoned for crimes relating to his heroin addiction. The redemption comes after his release, when he resumes his career and conquers new audiences, including those at the pinnacle of the jazz world in New York City.
The screening featured a Q&A at the end with author Michael Connelly, who was one of the producers, and N.C. Heiken, writer and director. Afterwards, virtuoso alto players Grace Kelly and Marc Gross, both of whom appear in the film, treated us to an impromptu performance.
Years ago, Morgan’s music so inspired author Michael Connelly, he used it as the underlying soundtrack in many of his books. His lead character, Detective Harry Bosch, finds peace and comfort in Frank Morgan’s music, escaping into his CDs at the end of the day to help wash away the pain. Much the way I find peace in your music, Amade', at the end of my day.
WAM: I am happy you find solace in it, my dear. I found solace in composing it.