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8.550876 - MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 21 - 24 and 26
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Symphony No.21 in A Major, K.134
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of the violinist and composer, Leopold Mozart, a musician employed by the ruling Archbishop, and a man of some intellectual ability. In childhood Mozart and his elder sister Anna-Maria, known in the family as Nannerl to her brother's Wolferl, toured Europe as infant prodigies, received at court in the countries they visited and providing a general subject of curiosity and interest. The children's education and musical training was supervised by their father, who was quick to realise his son's genius and sacrificed his own career to foster it.
As Mozart grew to manhood there was evident a disparity between his natural expectations and the realities of provincial Salzburg, where an indulgent patron had been succeeded by an Archbishop very much less willing to allow members of his household to absent themselves for months or years on end. Leopold Mozart had, perforce, to be content with his lot as Vice-Kapellmeister, but in 1777 his son left Salzburg, accompanied only by his mother, to seek employment elsewhere, in Munich, Mannheim or Paris, where, in June, 1778, his mother died. Nowhere did there seem to be a position available in any way equal to what Mozart saw as his desert, and early in 1779 he returned reluctantly to Salzburg, where he was given a position once more, with equal reluctance, by the Archbishop.
The summer of 1780 brought a commission for an opera in Munich. Idomeneo, re di Creta, was staged there with some success in January, 1781. There followed a summons from the Archbishop to attend him in Vienna and an uneasy few months in which the young composer grew increasingly resentful, irked by his subservient position and the refusal of his patron to allow him to earn money and honour by performing before the Emperor. In May there was an open quarrel, resulting in Mozart's dismissal. For the remaining ten years of his life he was to seek to earn a living in Vienna, independent of a patron, although he was later to be given a relatively unimportant position at court.
The Vienna years, during which Leopold Mozart was no longer at hand to control his son's wilder plans, brought initial success in the opera-house and in the public concerts Mozart gave. His marriage to an impecunious girl, whose earlier acquaintance he had made in Mannheim, when he had courted her sister, did nothing to assist his career, and by the end of the decade he was often depressed by the financial difficulties of the course he had chosen. He died in 1791, at a time when his fortunes seemed about to take a turn for the better. Although he had been ignored by the new Emperor, he had, nevertheless, fulfilled a coronation opera commission in Prague and was enjoying some popular success with his new German opera The Magic Flute. The unfinished work he left included a Requiem Mass, later completed by his pupil Süssmayer.
During the second half of the century the orchestral symphony, derived in part from the Italian operatic overture of earlier years, assumed increasing importance. Its most common instrumentation, calling for pairs of oboes and French horns, with a four-part string section and possible keyboard continuo, suited very well the resources most often available in the musical establishments of ruling families and the nobility. The four-movement symphony, including a Minuet and Trio generally as its third movement, opened with an Allegro in the tripartite sonata- or sonata-allegro form of a two-subject exposition, followed by a development and recapitulation. A contrasting slow movement in a related key was often in ternary form, a central section framed by a repeated opening section. The symphony might be expected to end in a form of rondo, following the key-pattern expected in sonata-form and offering contrasted episodes framed by a repetition of the principal theme.
Mozart's Symphony in E flat major, K.132, and Symphony in D major, K. 133, were written in Salzburg in July 1772, followed, in August, by Symphony No.21 in A major, K. 134. The period came after the Mozarts' second visit to Italy and before the return of Leopold Mozart and his son to Milan later in the year. The Symphony in A major is scored for flutes, horns in D and strings. Its principal theme, based on an ascending arpeggio figuration, is stated by the first violins, entrusted also with the delicately lyrical second subject. It is the first subject opening figure that opens the central development, while the second subject returns in the tonic key and then in the tonic minor, with the principal subject allowed a brief final return before the coda. The first violins offer the main theme of the D major Andante, with a busy broken chord accompaniment from the second violins in a ternary form movement marked by the flow of rapid notes, whether in accompaniment or in thematic material. The strongly marked rhythm of the Minuet that follows encloses a D major Trio in the middle part of which plucked violin chords echo the notes of the wind instruments. The violins start the final Allegro, the first theme providing a contrast with the syncopation of the second. There is a short development before the first theme returns, duly followed by the second, now in the tonic key, leading to a conclusion in which the chord of A major is emphatically repeated.
Mozart wrote his Symphony No.22 in C major, K.162, in the spring of 1773 in Salzburg. It is scored for strings with pairs of oboes, and horns and trumpets in C and opens imposingly, with a delicately pointed second subject which is very briefly developed before the recapitulation. The F major Andantino grazioso allows oboes and horns to cap the theme offered by the strings and to join in the later varied rhythms. The trumpets return to join with the full orchestra in the opening of the final Presto assai, with the rhythm of the violins taken up in turn by violas and cellos. A short central section leads to a return of the main theme, followed by the secondary theme now in the necessary C major and leading to a final coda.
Symphony No.23 in D major, K. 181 carries the date May 1773 and was written in Salzburg. Like its immediate predecessor it includes trumpets, now in D, with the expected strings, oboes and horns, also in D. The opening strongly asserts the key of D major in its opening emphasis on tonic and dominant chords, echoed by the strings alone and moving forward to a simply stated chordal theme, followed by a contrast in the syncopation of the violins against the lower strings. The secondary theme is treated sequentially and variety is provided in a passage that briefly links this to the return of the main theme and is heard again as it leads directly to the G major Andantino grazioso, where the opening theme of the strings is soon followed by an oboe melody of great charm. A short linking modulation allows a return to G major for the final Presto assai, its robust opening theme followed by gentler material for the violins, which also share a second episode, with further contrasts before the final triumph of the opening theme.
Symphony No.24 in B flat major, K.182, is dated to Mayor June 1773 and was again written in Salzburg, where Mozart now found himself employed as a paid member of the archiepiscopal musical establishment. The first movement, scored for oboes, horns in B flat and strings, starts with the descending notes of the tonic chord, answered by the violins. The second subject is in dotted rhythm, linked briefly to the return of the principal theme, followed by the necessary modulation of the second in a recapitulation. Muted strings, with flutes, and horns in E flat, start the Andantino grazioso, with a theme that appears again after intervening episodes. The oboes return, with horns in B flat, for the final Allegro of similar structure, the principal theme again marking contrasting episodes.
Mozart wrote his Symphony No.26 in E flat major, K.184, in Salzburg in the spring of 1773. The scoring now calls for flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns and trumpets in E flat and strings. The first movement has the expected contrasts of thematic material, the first subject strongly emphasising the key of E flat, followed by a second subject that makes use of a descending figure in the first violins, accompanied principally by a moving part in the seconds. A central development is marked by the re-appearance of the opening subject, which is later heard again in the key of E flat as the recapitulation begins. A final modulation leads directly to the C minor slow movement, an Andante, without trumpets, which entrusts the theme to the first violins, echoed by the second violins, which later join the violas in a rapid accompanying figure. The movement is linked to the Allegro finale, which is in tripartite form, a central development treating thematic material heard in the opening exposition, which returns in final recapitulation.
Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Concerts take the orchestra throughout the North of England and it has received four major European bursaries for its achievements in the community. With a series of recordings of Haydn and Mozart symphonies for Naxos the orchestra makes its debut on disc.
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