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Symphony celebrates the music of Mozart with Winterfest

Jaime Laredo will be the Wichita Symphony Orchestra guest conductor for Mozart Winterfest.
Jaime Laredo will be the Wichita Symphony Orchestra guest conductor for Mozart Winterfest. Courtesy photo

When he’s not teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Jaime Laredo divides his time between playing violin and conducting.

But he said there’s no comparison in the stress level of the two.

“It is much harder to play than to conduct, simply because when you play you’re the one that’s making the sound,” Laredo said in a phone interview from Miami. “When you’re conducting, you’re not. That is the main thing.

“I’m not saying anybody can get out and take a stick and conduct,” he added. “But I find that definitely it’s harder to play than conduct.”

Laredo comes to the podium at Century II next weekend for the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, as guest conductor for its “Mozart WinterFest” concerts.

“I love Mozart, and I was so happy to do it,” the 76-year-old native of Bolivia said. “The whole world of music knows Mozart is one of the great geniuses of all time.”

Like many musicians and audiophiles, Laredo said Mozart is one of his favorite composers.

“His music just speaks to me, from the heart to the heart,” he said. “I love the simplicity of it, and at the same time very complex. He’s one of the most human of all composers.”

The program includes:

▪  The overture to “Cosi fan tutte,” which Laredo has conducted many times. “It never gets stale,” he said. “You always learn something from it. It’s one of the most delightful of his overtures.”

▪  Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major, featuring guest soloist Christopher O’Riley, host of the National Public Radio show “From the Top.” “I’ve always been very jealous of pianists, because Mozart wrote five violin concertos but 27 piano concertos,” Laredo said. “Most of them were in his much later years. While (the violin works) are great, they don’t have the incredible depth of his piano concertos.” (O’Riley also will be featured in a concert of music by the band Radiohead, Tuesday night at Distillery 244 in Old Town.)

▪  “Prague,” Symphony No. 38. “It is one of the sunniest, most cheerful, happy works,” Laredo said. “He has some of the light symphonies that are sad and brooding and almost tragic, but this is very sunny, upbeat.

“When you leave the hall, if you don’t have a smile on your face, something went wrong,” Laredo added.

Laredo has been playing in chamber groups since he was 9, but didn’t consider conducting until he was in his 20s.

“It just sort of evolved,” he said. “It wasn’t something that I set out to do, but when I did it became very natural and something that I love very much to do.”

“To me, being in front of an orchestra is like being with a large chamber music group. That’s how I think of it,” Laredo added. “I’m just one of them, one of the members. It’s like being the first violinist of a very, very large quartet.”

Laredo teaches alongside his wife, cellist Sharon Robinson, at the Cleveland Institute.

He said teaching feeds into his performing, and vice versa.

“I remember when I was 15, my teacher said you learn by teaching. He was so right,” Laredo said. “At my age now, I still say the same thing. Every once in a while I’ll have a student come in and play something, and I’ll think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’”

Laredo also conducts annual Christmas concerts at Carnegie Hall for performers 16-23 years old.

“Every single year the level just goes up and up and up and every year it just gets better and better,” he said. “There’s a lot to be very optimistic about.”

The down side, he added, is that American orchestras are downsizing and players have to consider performing overseas. A number of his students, Laredo said, are now starring in orchestras in Germany, Spain and India.

“I often think, ‘Where are these incredible kids going to go? What are they going to do?’,” he said.

MOZART WINTERFEST BY WICHITA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21

Where: Century II concert hall, 225 W. Douglas

Tickets: $20 to $65, are available through wichitsymphony.org, by phone at 316-267-7658 or at the symphony box office

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