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8.553253 - BEETHOVEN / MOZART: Violin Sonatas / Piano Trio
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
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 elder 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 Mozart 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, 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, 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 the 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 first 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 a further 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 in Paris 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 remaining 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.
Mozart's first mention of the violin sonatas he was to write in Mannheim comes in a letter to his father written from Munich, where he and his mother spent two weeks at the beginning of their journey. With his letter he sends for his sister six duets for clavicembalo and violin by the Dresden composer Joseph Schuster which, he tells his father, he has often played in Munich: these, he adds, are popular pieces, and he plans to do something of the same sort himself. By the end of October Mozart and his mother were in Mannheim and she, in a letter to her husband on 11th January 1778, tells him that their son is composing six new trios. These are, in fact, the sonatas for violin and keyboard, with optional cello. By the end of February Mozart still has two more sonatas to write.
In Paris Mozart's mother died at the beginning of July. By 20th July he was writing to his father of the likelihood of the immediate publication of the six sonatas, now presumably complete. There were, however, delays in printing the sonatas in Paris, used by Mozart as an excuse for his tardiness in following his father's wishes and returning to Salzburg, where the Archbishop was willing to offer him further employment. On 7th January, still in Munich, he was able to present his sonatas to the Electress Palatine, to whom they were dedicated.
The Sonata in C major, K. 296, is dated 11th March 1778 in Mannheim. It was published in Vienna in November 1781 as Opus 2, No.2. The autograph carries a dedication to Therese Pierron Serrarius, daughter of the Privy Court Councillor with whom Mozart was lodging at Mannheim. The keyboard is assisted by the violin in the statement of the first subject, while both share in the second subject that follows. The central development starts with material from the passage that links first to second subject. The recapitulation brings the necessary modulation, to end the movement in C major. The F major Andante allows the violin again an accompanying role until the middle section of the movement, where contrasting material is introduced, before the return of the principal theme. In the final Rondeau the violin accompanies the keyboard in the presentation of the main theme, which is then entrusted to it. Thematic material is shared between the two instruments in the first episode, as it is in the A minor second episode, after the return of the main theme. The material of the first episode returns in the key of C and it is the principal theme that returns to bring the sonata to an end.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in December, 1770, the son of Johann van Beethoven, a singer in the service of the Archbishop of Cologne, and, more important, the grandson of Ludwig van Beethoven, Kapellmeister to the same patron, who died in 1773, but whose distinction lived on in the family, the possible cause of Johann van Beethoven's inadequacy both professionally and as a parent. In 1789, his mother now dead, young Ludwig van Beethoven took over responsibility for the family and his two younger brothers.
At home Beethoven had received erratic practical training in music, but was able to follow a more consistent course of study from 1781 with the court organist Christian Gottlob Neefe, whose unpaid deputy he became. In 1784 he entered the paid service of the Archbishop as deputy court organist and playing the cembalo or the viola in the court orchestra, as occasion demanded. In 1788 he was sent to Vienna, where he hoped to study with Mozart, but was recalled to Bonn by news of his mother's final illness. In 1792 he went to Vienna once more, this time to study with Haydn. He remained there for the rest of his life.
Beethoven established himself in Vienna at first as a virtuoso keyboard-player, his virtuosity including improvisation at the keyboard and composition. In this last he was helped by lessons from Albrechtsberger in counterpoint and from the Court Composer Salieri in vocal and dramatic setting. His lessons from Haydn proved less satisfactory. Armed with suitable introductions, he was able to make influential friends among the aristocracy and it was with their support that he continued his career in Vienna, even when increasing deafness made performance at first difficult and eventually impossible.
It is a tribute to the discernment of Beethoven's patrons that they perceived his genius, in spite of his uncouthness and increasing eccentricities of character, in the face of which they exercised considerable restraint and generosity. In Vienna he lived through turbulent times, through the years of Napoleonic conquests and into the repressive age of Metternich. He died in March, 1827, his death the occasion for public mourning in Vienna at the passing of a long familiar figure whose like the city was not to see again.
The works that Beethoven wrote for violin and keyboard cover a period from about 1792 up to 1819, the period of the Hammerklavier Sonata, starting with a set of variations on an operatic aria from Mozart and ending with a set of variations on national themes. The most significant part of this repertoire must be the ten sonatas which, although uneven in quality, represent a major contribution to the literature of the genre. In them Beethoven shows his ability to provide music that demands a partnership between the two players, no more piano sonatas with optional violin accompaniment, whatever the title-page of earlier works may have suggested. As in the maturer work of Mozart, the violin is treated as an essential participant, a divison of labor that has since been generally established.
Beethoven completed his F major Violin Sonata, Opus 24, in 1801 and dedicated it, with its immediate predecessor, to Count Moritz von Fries. The nick-name Spring seems to have arisen from the nature of the opening theme of the first movement, a melody that some claim to have been derived from the pianist-composer Clementi. There is a finely wrought and expressive slow movement, a capricious Scherzo and a final Rondo in which the principal theme re-appears in a number of rhythmic guises.
Beethoven sketched the ideas for his so-called Archduke Trio in 1810 and wrote the work down between 3rd and 26th March of the following year. The Trio was dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, the composer's pupil, son of the former Emperor Leopold II, and later Archbishop of Olomouc. The first public performance of the work was given on 11th April 1814 at the inn zum Romischen, by arrangement with the landlord and the violinist Schuppanzigh. It was at a rehearsal for this event that the composer Louis Spohr heard Beethoven play and was horrified. The piano was badly out of tune, and Beethoven's deafness led him to bang on the keys in loud passages till the strings jangled and to play so quietly in soft passages that notes were inaudible. Ignaz Moscheles, however, who was present at the public performance, commented only on the lack of clarity and precision, while admiring the music itself. The composer played the work again at a concert in the Prater given by Schuppanzigh a few days later, but his days as a pianist were coming to an end.
The expansive first movement of the B flat Trio is introduced by the piano with the first subject, echoed by the violin. The elaboration of this theme leads to a second subject in the unexpected key of G major, again introduced by the piano. This material is developed at the heart of the movement. This is followed by a Scherzo, introduced by the cello with an ascending theme to which the violin adds a descending phrase before giving the expected fugal answer. The cello starts the Trio and there is a further repetition of the Scherzo and Trio before the Scherzo re-appears yet again, leading to a coda.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded violinists in the world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz Kreisler Edition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto by Du Mingxin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violin concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Beriot, Cui, Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Violin Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven and the Bach, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
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