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What's so great about Mozart? 

Why, over two centuries after Mozart lived, is he still such a fixture in our cultural consciousness? Why, as we near the 250th anniversary of his birth, is a worldwide celebration mounting, with orchestras clamoring to produce concerts of his music, tourists tracing his footsteps in Austria, and Steinway and Sons giving away an all-expenses-paid trip to Salzburg, the city of his birth? Here in Rochester, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has devoted a sizeable portion of its 2005-06 season to answering just those questions.

There is Mozart's legend, of course, memorialized in the entertaining (if historically suspect) film Amadeus --- the boy genius, the 18th-century party boy, the unmarked pauper's grave --- but more importantly there is his music, which is what the RPO turns its attention to this fall.

"Dramatic Openings," the season's first concert, will feature soloist Jon Nakamura performing Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 27, K. 595. The piano concerto was a genre especially important for Mozart. A renowned pianist himself, he wrote more piano concertos than any other major composer, and they span the entire length of his career, from age 11 to shortly before his death. This one was the last he ever wrote, and is considered one his finest. The RPO will perform the concerto, alongside works by Mahler and Michael Torke, on October 6 and 8 at 8 p.m. in the Eastman Theatre. ($24-$54)

While the RPO's entire season features a generous sprinkling of Mozart, it is in the Symphony 101 series that his music and legacy take center stage. Symphony 101 presents an insider's guide to the orchestra as music director Christopher Seaman leads the audience through an exploration of Mozart's influence on many types of music, from classical to contemporary. Part concert, part entertaining and informative talk, the series is a perfect introduction for anyone who is curious about classical music but hasn't spent much time with the orchestra. Audience participation is even encouraged, with a question and answer session after each performance.

RPO will present two Symphony 101 programs this fall, "Music before Mozart" on October 7 and 9, and "Mozart and the Opera" on November 11 and 13. The series continues in 2006, examining Mozart and the symphony, the concerto, and more. Symphony 101 concerts take place on Friday nights at 7:30 p.m. in the Hochstein Performance Hall, 50 North Plymouth Avenue, and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. in Hale Auditorium, Roberts Wesleyan College. Tickets are $20.

For tickets, information, and more, visit the RPO website: www.rpo.org or call 454-2100

In This Guide...

    Fall Guide 2005

    A big autumn embrace Jewel-bright leaves trapped between sheets of wax paper.

    Sounds good to me

    Here are music writer Frank De Blase's concert picks for the fall.
    Leon Redbone September 21

    Of particular note

    The opening of the concert season is a cause for celebration any time, but this year is particularly noteworthy. Resident musicians --- in the Rochester Philharmonic and smaller classical groups, from the Eastman School's outstanding faculty, and in churches and other venues --- will continue to provide exceptional performances.

    The best of all grapes

    Late this summer there were at least two terrific "Winemaker" dinners at Ravines Wine Cellars overlooking Keuka Lake --- Chasing Pinot: In Search of the Perfect Pinot Noir and Meritage: The Art of Blending. "Meritage"?

    How'd you get so lucky?

    When people stumble upon my not-so-secret identity as a movie critic, they often start chucking questions at me. Most believe that getting paid to give your unsolicited and subjective opinion sounds like a dream, and I do spend a great deal of time pinching myself. But when the clock strikes midnight and I'm trying to get enthusiastic about a film I had zero interest in seeing, it can seem a little nightmarish.

    Let them entertain you

    It's time for the local theatrics to gear up and people to start dancing. You will have your pick of performances to attend, from community theater shows in school gymnatoriums to visiting blockbusters --- along with a matching range in ticket price --- but here's what we're excited about.

    Turn on the reading light

    Well, the Rochester Arts and Lectures series is already sold out. If you don't have tickets, you may be able to get standing-room-only tickets to hear Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner)and Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Sunday Philosophy Club) --- both worth it.

    Satisfy your inner nerd

    The autumnal re-opening of school doors calls us back inside to the world of books. Summer paperbacks with sand trapped between the pages get shelved.

    Keep it on ice

    Not too many things have lasted for 50 years in Monroe County, but the Rochester Americans have. Since the Amerks were founded a half-century ago, the demographics of its hometown have completely changed, Kodak has withered away, and countless other American Hockey League teams have come and gone.

    They'll fight their hearts out

    There's a certain smell to freshly mowed grass on a high school football field, a mixture of chlorophyll and dew and mud that wafts into a player's nose and triggers a release of adrenaline and testosterone that carries him through the picturesque violence that will consume his mind and body and soul for a quartet of 12-minute quarters. Books and movies like Friday Night Lights can only go so far in relaying the passion and release that is a high school football game.

    It's the season for eating well

    "It is a time when every cook wishes time could stand still and the bounty of the fall last forever." So says Max chef-owner Tony Gullace, and you'll get no argument from the dozens of food-loving friends who jumped to say what they like best about food in the fall.

    The learning never stops

    School is great, but why stop there? There are plenty of museums offering kid-friendly exhibits and events to keep the structured (but fun!)

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