Flutist adds whimsy to Mozart concerto during a Deer Valley Music Festival chamber concert
Smith first learned piece in high school
Wednesday’s Deer Valley Music Festival chamber concert at St. Mary’s Catholic Church will give Utah Symphony Principal Flutist Mercedes Smith a chance to show her whimsical side.
Smith will perform Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 and is looking forward to adding her flair on the piece’s cheery elements.
“So much of Mozart’s music is happy and joyful, although they can be very structured,” Smith said. “There are some charming elements in this particular work, and it features some playful musical jokes that are up to the performer to decide what liberties can be taken.”
Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 originated as a 1777 oboe concerto, which was commissioned by Italian oboist Giuseppe Ferlendis, and the composer rearranged the work into the second of two flute concertos for Ferdinand Dejean, an amateur flutist he met a year later.
The biggest challenge of the work for Smith is to make sure she maintains its integrity while making it her own.
“This is classical music from the classical period,” she said. “You are given a lot of parameters in which you need to behave, but Mozart also had a great sense of humor, so he gives you permission to push the boundaries, while playing it in a pristine and crystalline way. So as a performer I want to make sure I project the energy the composer wrote into the music, but also make it my own and have fun with it.”
Smith also worked closely with Utah Symphony Associate Conductor Conner Gray Covington, who will direct Wednesday’s performance, on how to interpret the piece.
“We had a little chat before the first rehearsal to talk about how fast we wanted to play the piece, and where there were places where we would slow the tempo down,” she said. “Not all the dynamic markings are written in the work, and those are some of the things that are up to me or Conner to figure out and hash out before the first rehearsal.”
Working with Covington is always a highlight for Smith.
“Conner is a good friend of mine, and a fantastic, young and up-and-coming conductor,” Smith said. “He’s the perfect person for this type of repertoire. He’s a clear, clean and beautiful conductor.”
Smith first learned Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 while she was in high school.
“It’s such a standard piece, and while I’m sure I wanted to learn it I think my teacher said it was probably time to work on the two Mozart flute concertos,” she said. “So this piece has been with me for a while.”
St. Mary’s Catholic Church is a great venue for musicians to play the piece and for audiences to hear it, according to Smith.
“It’s small and surrounded by nature, which gives it an intimate setting,” she said. “The audience also has the opportunity to kind of wrap themselves around the stage, which also allows it and the musicians to create a strong connection.”
Smith was originally supposed to perform the concerto during last year’s Deer Valley Music Festival, which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m glad we were able to reschedule, because there is no substitute to performing the music live with your colleagues for an audience,” she said. “You just can’t do that on your computer through Zoom.”
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 21
Where: St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1505 White Pine Canyon Dr.
William Grant Still’s “Mother and Child”
Swedish composer Dag Wirén’s Serenade for Strings
Wofgang Amadeus Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2
Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in E flat “Dumbarton Oaks”
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