|About this Recording
8.550412 - MOZART: German Dances
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756- 1791)
Twelve German Dances/Zwölf deutsche Tänze/Douze danses allemandes, K.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a court musician who, in the year of his youngest child's birth, published an influential book on violin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy the position of Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, but sacrificed his own creative career to that of his son, in whom he detected early signs of precocious genius. With the indulgence of his patron, he was able to undertake extended concert tours of Europe in which his son and his older daughter Nannerl were able to astonish audiences. The boy played both the keyboard and the violin and could improvise and soon write down his own compositions.
Childhood that had brought signal success was followed by a less satisfactory period of adolescence largely in Salzburg, under the patronage of a new and less sympathetic Archbishop. Mozart, like his father, found opportunities far too limited at home, while chances of travel were now restricted. In 1777, when leave of absence was not granted, he gave up employment in Salzburg to seek a future elsewhere, but neither Mannheim nor Paris, both musical centres of some importance, had anything for him. His Mannheim connections, however, brought a commission for an opera in Munich in 1781, and after its successful staging he was summoned by his patron to Vienna. There Mozart's dissatisfaction with his position resulted in a quarrel with the Archbishop and dismissal from his service.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in Vienna in precarious independence of both patron and immediate paternal advice, a situation aggravated by an imprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-house and as a performer was followed, as the decade went on, by increasing financial difficulties. By the time of his death in December 1791, however, his fortunes seemed about to change for the better, with the success of the German opera The Magic Flute, and the possibility of increased patronage.
In Vienna Mozart found some intermittent favour at court. The onIy positive expression of imperial approval came after the death of Gluck in 1787, when he was appointed Royal and Imperial Court Composer at a salary of 800 gulden, to Gluck's stipend of 2000. In a letter to his sister he expressed with his usual optimism his belief that the sum granted him would soon be increased. As he later remarked, it was too much for what he did, and too little for what he could do, since the position carried no duties, except the possible occasional provision of dance music, for which there had always been some demand.
Mozart's dances, the earliest of which were written in childhood, consist principally of Minuets, Ländler or German dances and Contredanses. The Twelve German Dances of K. 586 were written in Vienna in December 1789. Although varied in instrumentation, the whole set of dances calls for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani, flauto piccolo and strings without violas, and each, according to custom, frames a Trio. The flauto piccolo is thought to have been the fiageolet rather than the modern piccolo and the composer expressed some uncertainty about the key in which its part should be written. In addition to these instruments a tambourine is used in the Trio of the fifth of the set. The form of the dance itself may seem to limit invention, but Mozart is able to provide considerable textural variety in his subtle scoring of music that is, in essence, very simple, using oboes and clarinets as alternative instruments. The set of dances ends with a coda.
The six dances that are listed as K. 600 are generally supposed to form part of a cycle of thirteen German dances, including K. 602 and K. 605. These groups of dances, variously listed by Köchel, bear the dates of 29th January, and 5th and 12th February 1791, a time when Mozart had completed his last piano concerto and was continuing to press his fellow-mason Michael Puchberg for money to tide him over a period of temporary embarrassment that already seemed to have lasted a few years. The dances are scored for pairs of flutes, oboes alternating with clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, with a three-part string section of first and second violin, and cello doubled by the double bass. In addition to these instruments the Trio of the ninth dance of the set calls for a lira, presumably the lira organizzata or hurdy-gurdy, here accompanied by bassoons and strings. The Trio of the last dance, the musical sleigh-ride, calls for two post-horns and tuned sleigh-bells, which also join in the coda. The fifth dance includes a Trio with the title Der Kanarienvogel, a bird whose presence is soon apparent. All the dances show a finely judged variety of texture, achieved, within severe limitations of form, by the subtlest handling of instrumentation.
Close the window