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8.550113 - MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 25, 32 and 41
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)Symphony No.25 in G Minor, K. 183
Symphony No.32 in G Major, K. 318
Symphony No.41 in C Major, K. 551 "Jupiter"
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a court musician, Leopold Mozart, whose important book on the study of the violin was published in the same year. Leopold Mozart was to remain for the greater part of his life in the service of the Archbishops of Salzburg, rising in 1763 to the position of deputy Kapellmeister, the summit of his career. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the second and youngest surviving child of his father's marriage, showed prodigious gifts as a child, and these abilities were carefully nurtured by his father, whose own interests were thenceforward sacrificed to his son's advancement in pursuit of w hat Leopold Mozart was to regard as a divinely appointed mission. In material terms his final achievement was a failure, but in musical terms a miraculous success.
Young Mozart spent his precocious childhood in a series of concert tours that took him to the cities of Austria and Germany, to Paris and to London, greeted wherever he stayed with curiosity and wonder. The boy had remarkable ability as a keyboard-player, as a violinist and as a composer, and all these gifts were displayed, in conjunction with the less remarkable talents of his eider sister, Anna Maria, known in the family as Nannerl.
It was in the 1770s, in particular, that Mozart began to feel particular impatience with his surroundings. In 1772 the old Archbishop, an indulgent patron, had died, to be succeeded by a more modern churchman, Hieronymus von Colloredo, son of the Imperial Chancellor and a man thoroughly in sympathy with the ecclesiastical reforms to be initiated by Joseph II. As an employer the new Archbishop was unsympathetic, while Salzburg itself had its own inevitable provincial limitations, compared with the obvious and seductive attractions of the capital, Vienna.
In 1777 Mozart left his position in Salzburg, where he had been appointed Konzertmeister, to seek his fortune elsewhere. Leopold Mozart was not given leave of absence, although he was told that he too could leave for good, if he wanted, a course he was too prudent to adopt. Mozart set out with his mother for Paris, taking in, on the way, his father's native city of Augsburg and, more fruitfully, Mannheim, where he spent some months, learning from the famous orchestra there, an army of generals, in the words of one contemporary, and enjoying the company of a young singer, Aloysia Weber, with whom he planned a wildly impracticable tour of Italy.
Paris proved a disappointment. As a child Mozart had caused a sensation: as a man he proved less of an attraction, although he endeavoured to prove as best he could that he was not just "a stupid German", to be treated with haughty disdain by the French nobility. In the summer of 1778 his mother died and in the autumn Mozart began his slow return to Salzburg, where he was given another position in the court musical establishment, a place from which he was to secure final dismissal only in 1781.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in initially successful but precarious independence in Vienna. Here he was able to realise more fully his greatest ambition, as a composer of opera, a skill that he had hitherto exercised only in occasional commissions outside Salzburg. He excelled as a keyboard-player and pleased his audiences, until the novelty of his playing began to wear thin, while attracting amateur and professional pupils. An imprudent marriage in 1782 increased the expenses of living, in spite of his own optimistic forecasts, and his final years were rendered uneasy through the uncertainty of his income, coupled with the expectations that he and his father had long entertained.
Mozart died after a short illness in December, 1791, at a time when his new German opera, The Magic Flute, was drawing good audiences, and when it seemed that the tide might once again be turning in his favour. In his lifetime there were always contemporaries who had a proper estimate of his worth, including the composers Haydn and Beethoven. It has been left to posterity, however, to accord him something of his due as "the miracle that God let be born in Salzburg".
The Symphony No.23 in G Minor, K. 183, was completed on 5th October, 1773, in Salzburg, shortly after Mozart's return from a visit with his father to Vienna, where it had been hoped he might secure some position at court. The new symphony, his first in a minor key, shows a new passion and urgency, a mood evident in the syncopation of its opening and the falling interval of a seventh in the first theme. The work is scored for pairs of oboes and bassoons, four horns and the usual strings, and was among those that Mozart asked his father to send him ten years later, in Vienna.
The first movement of the little G Minor Symphony, so called to distinguish it from the greater work in the same key that was to be one of the last three symphonies Mozart w rote, is in the usual form, its dramatic first subject contrasted with a second theme in B Flat Major, marked by the repetition of a short rhythmic figure. An E flat major slow movement follows with all the simple yet subtle clarity of Haydn, in its close imitation of a figure played by the violins, followed by the bassoons, which in the first movement merely doubled the bass line and were consequently omitted from the surviving autograph score.
The Minuet returns to the key of G minor, with a G major Trio scored for wind only, allowing the bassoons once more to enjoy brief independence. The last movement offers its first theme in bold outline and a gentler contrasting second subject, which is to return in the final section of the movement in the dramatic rather than triumphant key of G minor.
The Symphony in G Major, K. 318, is dated 26th April, 1779, in Salzburg, its composition marking Mozart's return from his abortive expedition to Paris and his reinstatement in the service of his father's patron, the Archbishop. The work is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, trumpets and drums, four horns and strings, and is in the form of a theatre overture. Alfred Einstein suggested that the piece was written specifically for the uncompleted Singspiel later to be known as Zaide, detecting in the themes Sultan Soliman and the heroine Zaide, and a love idyll in the central Andante. Others have proposed a different purpose, possibly for a comedy or operetta performed in Salzburg by the company of Johannes Boehm, which was in the town in 1779 and 1780. Whether we imagine a Turkish element in the Allegro spiritoso or a scene of love in the middle section, with its delightful use of wind instruments, the work shows clearly enough something of the effect that Mannheim and Paris had had on Mozart's orchestral writing.
The so-called Jupiter Symphony is the last of the final group of three symphonies that Mozart w rote down in the space of a few weeks during the summer of 1788. The same period found him writing a series of letters of increasing desperation to his fellow freemason, Michael Puchberg, asking for loans, the more substantial the better. Puchberg, who possibly was aware of an element of Mr. Micawber in Mozart's management of his domestic economy, sensibly refused to give him all he asked, but was generous enough in his help.
The Symphony in C Major, K. 551, bears the date 10th August, 1788, and is scored for flute, oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, and strings. It was presumably intended to form part of the programme for a series of public concerts that Mozart had envisaged but that were never to take place. The first movement opens with an immediate and striking call to our attention, followed by a gentler addition from the strings, elements of great importance in what is to come. The strings introduce a second theme and a third, towards to close of the exposition.
It is this last that opens the central development section of the movement, contrapuntal activity leading to the premature re-appearance of the opening figure and ultimately to the recapitulation proper.
The slow movement, in the key of F major, makes use of a richness of harmony that sets off the characteristic pathos of the melodic material. It is followed by a Minuet and Trio that lead to the final movement, the contrapuntal features of which persuaded later commentators to describe the work as "the symphony with a closing fugue". Some element of counterpoint is not altogether unusual in the last movement of a symphony, but Mozart here provides an inspired example of the technique, with a remarkable series of canonic imitations in the coda, as the instruments imitate in turn a series of thematic fragments from earlier in the movement.
In 1987 while retaining his connection with both Royal Ballet Companies as guest conductor, Barry Wordsworth also worked with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, the Ulster Orchestra, the BBC Concert and the London Philharmonic Orchestras. He also continued to work with New Sadlers Wells Opera, with whom he has recently recorded excerpts from Kalman's Countess Maritza and Lehar's The Count of Luxembourg and The Merry Widow. He has also recorded for the Naxos label (Smetana: Moldau & The Bartered Bride/Dvorak: Slavonic Dances) and for the Marco Polo label (Bax: Sinfonietta: Overture, Elegy & Rondo).
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