In the summer of 1996, while stopping in Vienna during a concert tour of Germany and Austria, Utah musicians Marden Pond and David Glen Hatch attended a performance of the Vienna Mozart Orchestra, an ensemble that specializes in the music of Mozart and whose members dress in period costumes, complete with powdered wigs.
Seeing this orchestra perform gave Pond and Hatch an idea: Why not form a similar orchestra here in Utah?And so, amid some mixed feelings about its success, the chamber ensemble Nachtmusik was born.
"I had an idea it might work in Utah," Pond explained, "and we gave our first concert in January 1997 as part of the SCERA Encore Series."
Nachtmusik will perform Wednesday and Thursday, March 25 and 26, at 7:30 p.m. in the Provo Tabernacle. The program is themed "Friends and Adversaries," and will include Beethoven's 2nd Piano Concerto, with soloist David Glen Hatch. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for students and senior citizens and $5 for children, available at the door and through all Smith'sTix outlets. For further information phone 801-221-4599.
In addition to his work as "Kapellmeister" (musical director and conductor) of the Provo-based ensemble, Pond is also a well-known composer with numerous commissioned works to his credit. Hatch is president of the orchestra's board of trustees (which includes Sen. Orrin Hatch as a member), and a pianist who has traveled and performed extensively both as soloist and with orchestra. In March he'll be performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Nachtmusik.
As to the name and idea behind the orchestra, Pond explains, "The name ties in with Mozart - his "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" ("A Little Night Music") - and also the fact that we play entertainment music. Incidentally, we've also played at social events, and I enjoy doing that since it also ties in with the entertainment aspect of our orchestra."
"We don't restrict ourselves to the music of Mozart," Pond adds. "We play music of composers with some connection to the 18th century, from the baroque through the classical periods."
And like their counterpart in Vienna, the members of Nachtmusik also dress in period costumes and wigs.
How do the musicians of Nachtmusik feel about playing together and dressing in costume?
Tamera Cardon, concertmaster of Nachtmusik who has been with the ensemble since its beginning, says that it's "great fun" and that "everyone has a good time," although "you never know whose pants you'll be wearing at the next concert."
The wigs, too, can be a bit of a problem. "We try hard not to look like `(The) Coneheads' " while wearing them, she admits.
Finding musicians to perform in Nachtmusik wasn't too difficult, according to Hatch. "Marden and I both have known various players throughout the state, and we selected the best musicians in each instrumental group."
The orchestra consists of 30 members at full strength, all players from various backgrounds. Some are professional musicians, while others are students. There are also some BYU faculty members in the orchestra.
However, with such varied backgrounds, "it makes playing together in Nachtmusik difficult because of our ever-changing orchestral makeup," Cardon said. "And it's hard to get the same people to play together at all the concerts. People have too many other commitments that take priority. Some concerts have been stressful because of our changing size and numbers."
But Cardon, who has performed as a soloist for many years and taught at BYU, goes on to say, "It's worth it.
"We enjoy Marden as a conductor. He's very personable and not too critical. He gets his people, especially the string players, to play from the heart."
Typical for a Nachtmusik concert is the fact that the program (usually single movements from larger works, with an occasional complete work included) is centered on a specific theme.
A recent concert, for example, had "All in the Family" as its theme, and the works were by composers related to each other. In this way, Johann Sebastian Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3" was followed by a movement from a symphony by his son Johann Christian, and Joseph Haydn was followed by his brother Michael.
Both Pond and Hatch agree that this type of programming has proven successful. Hatch says, "The audience loves the familiarity with the works," and having several shorter movements "allows the orchestra to play more pieces that people know."
Another distinctive feature of these concerts is Pond's comments between the pieces, during which he relates anecdotes and historical facts to give the audience a little better understanding of the music they are about to hear. It also gives the concerts a more relaxed and informal atmosphere.
Audience response to Nachtmusik has been tremendous, Hatch says. "The audience has been enraptured" with the orchestra, and especially Marden's commentary. Pond adds, "Audiences are surprised by my comments - they're not used to it - but I think they like my fireside-like approach."
Nachtmusik will give 10 concerts during the 1997-98 season in the Provo Tabernacle, which is the perfect setting, both visually and aurally. But Pond, Hatch and Cardon agree that they would like to expand their performance venues to include other cities along the Wasatch Front. "I like the idea of taking the orchestra to the people," says Hatch. "It would make it easier for them to see and hear Nachtmusik." Possible sites would include the Eccles Theater in Logan, the Egyptian in Ogden and Park City's new performing arts center.
They would also like to build on the success they enjoyed last summer at Castle Amphitheater in Provo, with more outdoor concerts during the summer.
Everyone involved with Nachtmusik seems eager to see the orchestra succeed. Audience members enjoy watching musicians who are obviously having a good time. And where else can one hear professional players perform outstanding music that offers so vivid a feel for what a concert might have been like in Mozart's day?