|About this Recording
8.550437 - MOZART: Oboe Quartet, K. 370 / Horn Quintet, K. 407 / A Musical Joke, K. 522
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a musician who was later appointed Vice-Kapellmeister to the ruling Archbishop, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart won international fame as a child prodigy. Adolescence in Salzburg proved less satisfactory, particularly after the death of the old Archbishop and the succession of a new patron who showed much less indulgence to members of his household. Leopold Mozart had early realised the exceptional gifts of his son and had made it his business to develop them to the detriment of his own career, but father and son both understood that provincial Salzburg was far too limited in its opportunities.
In 1777 Mozart's impatience with the limitations of Salzburg had grown to such a pitch that it seemed he must seek his fortune elsewhere. The Archbishop refused permission for Leopold Mozart and his son to travel abroad, although, of course, he was happy to accept their resignation, should they wish it. Mozart himself chose this course, while his father, with greater prudence, stayed in Salzburg. The journey was to take the young musician to Augsburg, Munich, Mannheim and finally to Paris. In this he was accompanied by his mother, a woman of simpler sensitivities, who had little control over her son's wilder enthusiasms, one of which, the beginning of a romance with Aloysia Weber, a young singer in Mannheim and one of the daughters of an unimportant member of the Electoral musical establishment, proved distinctly alarming. Mozart later married a younger sister of Aloysia Weber, when eventually free of paternal control in Vienna.
Mannheim, where the Elector Palatine had his court, had one of the best orchestras Europe had ever seen, in the words of an English visitor, Charles Burney, "an army of generals". In December 1777, however, during Mozart's stay in the city, the Elector of Bavaria died, the succession falling to the Elector of the Palatinate, who in August 1778 moved his court to Munich. Early in 1779 Mozart was back again in Salzburg, where he returned with some reluctance, petitioning the Archbishop for the position of court organist, which was granted him, as his father had arranged. Two years later he was able to visit Munich for the staging of his new opera, Idomeneo, and it seems probable that his Oboe Quartet was written in Munich at this time, perhaps for the former Mannheim oboist Friedrich Ramm and members of the Munich Electoral orchestra. He had earlier written the Sinfonia Concertante, K. 297b, for a group of Mannheim wind-players that included Ramm. The Oboe Quartet is a particularly attractive work, providing Ramm with an unostentatious opportunity for subtle virtuosity. The classical first movement allows a brief contrapuntal use of a descending fourth as instrument follows instrument in the central development. The slow movement, with its florid comment on the principal melody entrusted to the oboe, is followed by a final rondo in which the oboe proposes the principal melody, echoed by the violin, before episodes that allow the wind instrument further elements of elegant display.
After the success of the opera Idomeneo in Munich, Mozart found the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg increasingly distasteful. From Munich he was summoned to Vienna, and there found himself denied opportunities to impress the Emperor. In May he secured his dismissal, thus jeopardising the livelihood of his father as well, and moved into lodgings with the Weber family. Frau Weber, after all, still had daughters to marry off, after the marriage in 1780 of the eldest, on whom Mozart had once set his heart. By 1782 he had married a younger sister, Constanze, and settled in Vienna in independence of both father and patron, a situation that brought initial success and subsequently more variable fortune before his early death in December 1791.
Mozart wrote his Quintet in E fiat major, K. 407, for French horn, violin, two violas and bass (cello) in Vienna in 1782. The work was written in the composer's first year of independence in Vienna for the Salzburg horn-player Ignaz Leutgeb (Leitgeb), who had been a member of the musical establishment of the Archbishop and had followed the Mozarts to Italy in 1773. Leutgeb had settled in Vienna in 1777 and there established himself, with money borrowed from Leopold Mozart, in w hat he described as "ein kleines schneckenhaus" (a little snail-shell of a place), with business as a cheesemonger. He remained a loyal friend of the Mozarts and it was for him that the composer wrote his horn concertos and other works with horn obbligato.
The quintet, after a brief introduction, allows the horn the principal themes, briefly developed before the re-appearance of the first subject in a recapitulation. The strings open the slow movement, followed by the horn, a reminder of the praise French critics had bestowed on Leutgeb twelve years before, when he was the first to use hand-stopping horn technique in the city and was much admired for his ability to "sing an Adagio". The quintet ends with a rondo, in which the horn announces the principal melodies in a texture to which the use of two violas instead of two violins adds a sonorous element.
By 1787 Vienna had grown accustomed to Mozart's presence in the city. He had followed the success of his German opera >Die Entführung aus dem Serail in 1782 with the Italian Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) in 1786, and now Prague, a city that always valued Mozart, had commissioned the opera Don Giovanni. On 28th May, however, Leopold Mozart had died in Salzburg. There followed correspondence between him and his married sister Nannerl over the disposition of their father's property. During the course of these negotiations he wrote his lighthearted jeu d'esprit Ein musikalischer Spass (A Musical Joke), perhaps remembering his father's contribution to similar genres.
Scored for two French horns and strings, with a doubled second violin part, the reason for which remains obscure, unless to secure a proper imbalance suitable to village musicians, the Musical Joke makes fun of clumsy attempts at the classical form, with banal repetitions, endless and meaningless sequences. The first movement leads to an unusually solemn Minuet and a Trio with a place for w hat might pass for virtuoso performance by the leading violinist of the group and exposure for the second violin's accompaniment figuration. The French horns rest during the slow movement in which the village first violinist may shine once more, especially in his cadenza. The final rondo, with elementary imitative counterpoint on the most banal of musical figures, leads to final disaster, as the diversion comes to an end on a series of resounding discords.
Joszef Kiss, oboe
Jeno Keveházi, French horn
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