XM Beams Mozart Live from Salzburg

Extra-terrestrial radio is poised to celebrate Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th birthday. From Wednesday January 25 through Friday, January 27, XM Satellite Radio will broadcast live performances by many of the most celebrated Mozartians of our time direct from the Carolino Augusteum, a 17th-century castle and former home of the Archbishops of Salzburg that overlooks the Salzburg Cathedral and the Mozart Platz. Artist interviews and sound portraits of the Salzburg milieu will spice up the proceedings.

Culminating with a live broadcast of Salzburg's "official" Mozart Commemoration Concert, XM's programs will be hosted direct from Salzburg by Martin Goldsmith and Paul Bachmann. While Europe can see the performances on EuroArts TV, and New Yorkers and Chicagoans can hear them on WQXR-FM and WFMT-FM, XM Satellite radio promises the only comprehensive coverage throughout the US and Canada.

Caught on the run, as he was preparing to fly to Europe, XM's Goldsmith revealed that it took nine months of persistence and negotiation to make the broadcasts possible. He was especially enthused about some of the participating artists.

"Mitsuko Uchida is one of my favorite pianists," he told Stereophile. "She's a deeply spiritual person with an unparalleled commitment to Mozart. And baritone Thomas Quasthoff is extraordinary. It will be a real thrill to be at the epicenter of this very important anniversary."

Artists and critics have always waxed poetic about Mozart's music. The words can get quite flowery at times, contributing to a burgeoning mythology that can almost threaten to overwhelm the man's accomplishments. But perhaps no one has summed up the man's genius more eloquently than Uchida. In a recent conversation with David Vickers, part of which appears in the January 2006 issue of Gramophone, the famed Mozartian said of the man's music:

"Mozart is special for the whole of humanity because it is not about grand ideas or great concepts. It is about 'I love you,' 'you may love me,' 'I am sad,' 'you are so happy.' It sounds simplistic, but at the core of it, he is like Shakespeare; he uses the simplest means to elevate us into a universal world of absolute joy and sorrow."

Broadcasts begin Wednesday, January 25, 12 noon EST on XM Classics Channel 110 (encore broadcast at 9pm EST) with the Camerata Salzburg, Juilliard String Quartet, Emmanuel Ax, and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Thursday the 26th at 12 noon EST (encored at 9pm EST) on the same channel brings the return of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, as well as performances by the Rachlin-Golan-Maisky Trio and Mitsuko Uchida joining members of the Hagen Quartet.

Major coverage is saved for the four different broadcasts of Friday, January 27. At 9 am EST on XM Classics Channel 110 and XM LIVE Channel 200, Thomas Quasthoff, who possesses a voice of such beauty that it can literally take one's breath away, begins the day with three of Mozart's concert arias, followed by Lars Vogt and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in the Piano Concerto No. 20. At 12 noon EST there will be a live broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti, and featuring pianist Uchida, violinist Gidon Kremer, violist Yuri Bashmet, soprano Renée Fleming, and baritone Thomas Hampson (encore at 8pm EST on XM Classics). You can't beat that line-up for star power.

At 4pm, XM welcomes the return of Ax, members of the Juilliard String Quartet, and the Camerata Salzburg. Coverage concludes at 6pm EST with a reappearance by the Vienna Philharmonic, this time with pianist Leif-Ove Andsnes and one of the conductors most responsible for the revolution in modern Mozartian performance, the great Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

PBS will probably broadcast one or more of these concerts later this year, and EuroArts is expected to release them on DVD. For now, there's no better way to ease oneself into tax season than with XM Satellite Radio's Mozart. The entire schedule may be found here.