Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich, who started his career as an indefatigable innovator, a brave soul pushing the limits of avant-garde music, stunned the music world when he switched to a traditional, melodic idiom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. What would compel an acclaimed, award-winning composer to profoundly transform his style, moving from an experimental spirit of composition to an unabashed lyricism? Mozetich was clear about his intentions: he wanted to explore the world of feelings, thus creating accessible, intelligible music, which listeners could enjoy without great mental effort. Was this a mistake? Not according to many of Mozetich's listeners, who greeted his new works with great enthusiasm. There were detractors, too. Allen Gimbel, reviewing Affairs of the Heart and other works in the American Record Guide, rejected Mozetich's new style as undramatic, implying that dramatic tension is a necessary ingredient of good music. Dramatic tension can be heard in Mozetich's compositions, as evidenced by his Postcards from the Sky, but his music is also described as serene, peaceful, beautiful, atmospheric, hypnotic, even relaxing. Above all, Mozetich's creative work can be defined as a quest for self-understanding, a quest that his listeners have found fascinating, intelligible, and deeply satisfying. Labels such as "minimalism," "postmodernism," and "neo-romanticism" fail to capture the essence of this quest. While a perceptive listener may define the openings bars of Affairs of the Heart, in which a repeated sonic pattern provides the background for an emergent melody, as "romantic minimalism," at a deeper level the music speaks directly to the listener, who immediately becomes part of a truly soulful musical experience.
Mozetich was still a student when he co-founded ARRAY, an ensemble dedicated to performing new music. His interest in musical innovation led him to Europe, and his teachers there included the noted avant-garde composers Luciano Berio and Franco Donatoni. Mozetich's talent as a composer was recognized immediately. Works such as Changes (1971) and Serenata del nostro tempo (1973) established him as an outstanding young composer. In 1975 Mozetich received the second prize at the International Gaudeamus Composers' Competition in the Netherlands, for his wind quintet It's in the Air. As Gary J. Hayes and Florence Hayes remarked in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, in the 1970s, Mozetich had already found his voice as a composer, successfully incorporating elements from the dominant European musical traditions into his works. Mozetich always remained true to himself, never subordinating his individuality to other musical idioms. There are traces of Ligeti and Penderecki in Changes, as the article in the Encyclopedia pointed out, but the work is nevertheless quintessential Mozetich.
Critics have agreed that 1981 was a watershed year for Mozetich, the culmination of a transformative process that had begun in the mid-1970s. For Mozetich, the crucial moment in his career was his decision to forsake formal experimentation for deeper soulsearching. At a superficial level, of course, his music provided a different sonic experience. Scholars used terms such as "melodic" and "post-romantic," citing Mozetich's Fantasia … sul un linguaggo perduto as a symbol, and proof, of the composer's return to the "lost language" of an earlier, supposedly romantic, musical idiom. Far from being the rediscovery of a forgotten language, Mozetich's decision to express himself in a more familiar, tonal idiom simply stems from his realization that idioms, traditions, and conventions do not define the creative act; in fact, it is the creative impulse that ultimately determines the artist's language. Music, as Mozetich's compositions have demonstrated, does not need cerebral complexity and formal opaqueness to express feelings, states of the soul, and illuminating insights.
A master of many genres, Mozetich has written music for a variety of ensembles, including small chamber groups and orchestra. Witty, charming, and engaging, his chamber music reveals the potential of individual instruments, particularly woodwinds, and deftly uses original combinations of color to capture fleeting moments of sadness or joy. Mozetich has also written music for dance, theater, and film.
In 1995 Mozetich was honored at the Ghent Conservatory Music Festival, and nationally broadcast concerts included his music. In the mid-1990s, many scholars discerned a heightened interest in spirituality in his music. Works composed in 1995 and later, particularly The Passion of Angels (1995), Postcards from the Sky (1996), and Affairs of the Heart (1997), which was nominated for the Juno Award in 2001, exemplified Mozetich's efforts to extend his creative imagination to questions concerning life, immortality, and humanity's ultimate destiny. What makes these works accessible, despite their lofty themes, is Mozetich's extraordinary ability to use familiar symbolism, such as sunlight, distant horizons, oceanic vastness, and fundamental human emotions such as sadness or joy, as steps toward spiritual illumination.
In 2000 the premiere of Mozetich's Piano Concerto (1999) was the year's great musical event in Canada. Performed by Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska, the work was composed to honor the distinguished Canadian novelist Robertson Davies. The following year, Steps to Ecstasy, written for baroque orchestra, was premiered by the Tafelmusik ensemble. Another brilliant premiere was the performance of the Concerto for Bassoon, String Orchestra and Marimba, in which Mozetich displayed his characteristic blend of instrumental color, tonal balance, sophistication, and imagination. As in his earlier concertos and works for solo instruments, Mozetich explored the instruments' sonic potentials, creating an extraordinary musical synthesis of timbres, colors, and atmospheres.
For the Record …
Born on January 7, 1948, in Gorizia, Italy; naturalized Canadian citizen, 1957. Education: University of Toronto, studied composition with John Weinzwig and Lothar Klein; Royal Conservatory of Toronto, associate diploma in piano performance, 1971, bachelor of music degree, 1972; studied composition with Luciano Berio, Franco Donatoni, and David Bedford, 1973-75.
Worked at University of Toronto Music Library; freelance composer; Queen's University, School of Music, adjunct lecturer, 1991-.
Awards: International Gaudeamus Composers' Competition, second prize, for It's in the Air, 1975; CAPAC (Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada), Sir Ernest MacMillan Award, 1977.
Addresses: Office—Queens University, School of Music, 99 University Ave., Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada. Website—Marjan Mozetich Official Website: http://www.mozetich.com.
Serenata del nostro tempo (string quintet), 1974.
It's in the Air (woodwind quintet), 1975.
Procession (clarinet, French horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and bass), 1979.
Dance of the Blind (accordion and string trio), 1980.
El Dorado (harp and string orchestra), 1981.
Trio in jest (clarinet, viola, and piano), 1983.
Baroque Diversions (viola), 1985.
Death and the Morning Star (baritone voice, chorus, and orchestra), 1987.
Angels in Flight (flute, clarinet, harp, and string quartet), 1987.
Fantasia … sul linguaggio perduto (flute and string trio), 1981; arranged for string orchestra, 1988.
Night Watch (soprano voice and gamelan ensemble), 1990.
Concerto for Oboe and Strings, 1991.
L'Esprit chantant (violin and piano), 1995.
The Passion of Angels: Concerto for Two Harps and Orchestra), 1995.
Postcards from the Sky (string orchestra), 1996.
Postcards from the Sky II (oboe, English horn, bass oboe, and string orchestra), 1996.
Affairs of the Heart: Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra, 1997.
Piano Concerto, 1999.
Steps to Ecstasy (Baroque orchestra), 2001.
Concerto for Bassoon, String Orchestra, and Marimba, 2003.
Affairs of the Heart, CBC Records, 2000.
Procession, Etc., CBC Musica Viva, 2001.
Kallmann, Helmut, and Gilles Potvin, editors, Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, University of Toronto Press, 1992.
Langer, Susanne K., Feeling and Form, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953.
American Record Guide, January 2001.
"Mozetich, Marjan," Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com (June 28, 2005).
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