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8.553112 - MOZART: Violin Sonatas, Vol. 3
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
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 Prince- 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 elder daughter Nannerl astonished audiences. The boy played both the keyboard and the violin and could improvise and soon write down his own compositions.
The childhood that had brought Mozart such signal success was followed by a less satisfactory period of adolescence, largely in Salzburg under the patronage of a new and less sympathetic Archbishop. Like his father, Mozart found opportunities far too limited at home, but 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, but 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 his German opera The Magic Flute, and the possibility of increased patronage.
Mozart's sonatas for violin and keyboard span a period of some twenty-five years. His earliest attempts at the form were made during his first extended tour of Europe. Four of these early sonatas were published in Paris in 1764, two as Opus 1 and two as Opus 2, and a further set of six, Opus 3, was published in London the following year. There followed another set of six sonatas, Opus 4, written in The Hague in 1766 and published there and in Amsterdam in the same year. Mozart only returned to the form twelve years later. During his stay in Mannheim in 1777 and 1778 he completed four sonatas, to which he added a further two in Paris in the early summer of the latter year, publishing the set there as Opus 1. Another group of six sonatas was published in Vienna in 1781. This included a sonata written in Mannheim and another perhaps written in Salzburg. The other four of the set, which was published as Opus 2, were written in the summer of 1781 in Vienna. The four remaining completed sonatas were written in Vienna between 1784 and 1788.
The Sonata in B flat major, K. 378, has been variously dated either to the beginning of 1779, in Salzburg, or to 1781, in Vienna. The former date may seem the more probable, since this is presumably one of the two sonatas referred to by Mozart in a letter of 1781 to his sister as being of earlier date than the rest of the Opus 2 set now published in Vienna and dedicated to his pupil Josepha Auernhammer. The sonata opens with a first subject entrusted to the piano, repeated by the violin, which follows the piano in the introduction of a second subject. After a short central development section the material of the exposition is duly recapitulated. The violin plays an accompanying rôle in the opening of the E flat major slow movement, although it later takes up the principal melody, after presenting other material. The piano, again, has the first word in the statement of the principal Rondeau theme, which frames a secondary subject in the dominant and a central G minor episode, before a lively penultimate episode in triplet rhythms and the last statement of the main theme.
It seems that Mozart's Sonata in G major, K. 379, was one of a newly composed pair of sonatas, referred to by Mozart in the letter to his sister and written in Vienna in the spring of 1781, to be included in the set dedicated to Josepha Auernbammer, who had explained to her teacher her plan of earning a living as a pianist, in view of her slight chances of marriage, which she realistically attributed to her lack of physical attraction. Mozart, writing home to his father, described her as scheusal (frightful), but was kind enough about her playing. The new sonata starts with a slow introduction that provides good material for the keyboard, before the start of the G minor Allegro, with its principal theme stated by the piano and then taken up by the violin, to be followed by a B flat major second subject. There is a brief development and a recapitulation that ends in the minor key. G major returns for the second movement, with its short theme, a first variation without the violin, a second with violin triplets, a third with rapid piano figuration, a fourth in a dotted G minor and a fifth Adagio variation accompanied by the plucked notes of the violin. The theme returns, now marked Allegrello, and there is a short concluding coda.
The Sonata in E Flat major, K. 380, was written in Vienna in the summer of 1781. The opening Allegro starts with grandiose chords, answered by the rapid notes of the piano, before they re-appear. The second subject is in triplet rhythm, for which a place is found in the central development, followed by derivatives of the first subject, which makes its full return in the recapitulation. The G minor slow movement is introduced by the piano and there is a related secondary theme in B flat major in a movement that is again tripartite in form, with a central development and recapitulation. The key of E flat major is restored for the final Rondeau, with its contrasting episodes framed by the principal theme (and unexpected interruptions) before its final return.
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