The Mozart Classical Orchestra sat patiently as conductor Ami Porat sauntered out nonchalantly, despite being greeted by a roar of applause that rung loudly throughout the acoustically magnificent Irvine Barclay Theatre on Sept. 20.
Porat’s collected demeanor lasted up until the moment he raised his baton, seemingly sending a burst of life into the orchestra as they played their first note. It was clearly evident what this man lived for: music.
The opening piece was Haydn’s ‘La Vera Constanza Overture’ which crescendos with power in the middle of the piece, resonating vibrance throughout the Barclay.
The next number was Mozart’s ‘Piano Concerto in Bb, K. 595,’ and featured pianist Daniel Shapiro. Shapiro’s music was played with a fluency resembling that of water.
The third and final piece was Schubert’s ‘Symphony NO. 5, D. 485,’ a peaceful song that erupts with rapture and vigor, and was a perfect ending to an evening of musical brilliance.
The New U. spoke with Porat after the concert, where it became clear that the performance was not only one of musical education but one of spiritual awakening.
New University: What was it about Mozart that you were attracted to?
Ami Porat: Why Mozart? Because Mozart is the best! … I saw the voice of God in Mozart. Though we play many other pieces, we named the orchestra after Mozart because we aspire to be the best.
New U.: You studied at Rubin Academy in Israel first and then went on to Julliard. Was the transition between the two institutions difficult?
Porat: Yes and no. Clearly there was a culture shock; the U.S. is a huge place compared to Israel. On the other hand, there was no culture shock, because music is music. It served as a common language so I was still in my own element.
New U.: Of all the places you’ve played in around the world, what was your favorite place to perform?
Porat: Irvine Barclay Theatre, and I am not joking. I love the Barclay because it is a professional place and the acoustics are good. It’s a perfect-size audience. Playing in a chamber orchestra gives you a refined quality of music, and you can hear everyone clearly.
New U.: Your conducting career began when you were forced to be a substitute conductor. Did you always want to make this your profession?
Porat: The conductor got deathly ill the day before, and the orchestra voted me to conduct, saying that I was the only one that knew the piece by memory. As it turns out, the performance went far better than it should have. And of course, that gave me the conducting bug, the lifetime addiction. I was born to conduct. But I never realized it until they forced me to.
New U.: Why do you think classical music mostly appeals to people of older age groups?
Porat: We have basically pushed music out of the curriculum. This is one of the purposes of the orchestra, to enhance the musical education of the community. We have two educational outreach programs, Mozart on the Move and Mozart for Teens. We want to show kids that classical music is not something where they need to wear some prissy dress or some starched collar to listen to. They need to see it as human expression. Mozart accomplishes the expression of human feelings through music. The human emotion is universal, regardless of background, age and race. His music can speak to everyone.
New U.: You once said, ‘Every living soul can tune in and experience the spiritual magnificence born of a great performance.’
Porat: Music is clearly a language, and music at the hands of Mozart speaks directly to the soul … I’m going to stumble on words if I try to express it verbally. It expresses from the music to you heart. Good music is spiritual and it touches your soul.