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8.553590 - MOZART: Violin Sonatas, Vol. 4
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Violin Sonatas Vol.4
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 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 were able to astonish 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 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 Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), and the possibility of increased patronage.
Mozart's sonatas for violin and keyboard span a period of some twenty-1ive 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 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 other four of the set, which was published as Opus 2, were written in the summer of 1781 in Vienna. The four remaining comp1eted sonatas were written in Vienna between 1784 and 1788. While the Köchel numbers of these sonatas provide easy identification, various systems of numbering the sonatas as a series have been used. There are over forty of these works and the numbering used in the present series starts with the first of the mature sonatas written in Mannheim in 1778 and inc1udes only comp1eted sonatas after that date in its numbering.
The Sonata in B flat major, K.454 was entered by Mozart in his work-list with the date 21st April1784. In a letter to his father three days later he reports the presence in Vienna of the Italian violinist Regina Strinasacchi of Mantua, praising the taste and feeling she shows in her performance. He adds that he is writing a sonata for her, to be played at the theatre on the following Thursday, 29th April. The work was duly performed at the Kärntnertor-Theater in the presence of the Emperor, apparently without previous rehearsal and with only the violin part written out, while Mozart played the keyboard from brief notes. The work was fully written out later and was published in August of the same year, together with two keyboard sonatas. The set was dedicated to Countess Terese von Cobenzl, wife of the ambassador to Russia, by the publisher, Torricella. The sonata, written for a virtuosa rather than for a pupil, opens with a slow introduction, after which the violin introduces the first subject in a movement in which violin and keyboard are in equal partnership. Secondary material is introduced in a seamless texture, followed by a relatively short development that explores new keys and rhythms and then a final recapitulation. The E flat major Andante allows the violin a gently lyrical melody, then entrusted to the piano. The movement takes on a darker hue in the central section, before tension is relaxed in the return of the opening theme, delicately ornamented with new rhythmic figuration. The violin leads into the final Allegretto with a theme that frames a series of rondo episodes particularly rich in melodic invention. These are subtly introduced, as are the returns of the main theme, with a final section of some brilliance, as the triplet quavers of the violin are answered by the running semiquavers of the piano.
The Sonata in E flat major, K.481 is listed in Mozart's catalogue with the date 12th December 1785. He included it in a list of his latest compositions sent in August 1786 to their old Salzburg man-servant Sebastian Winter, who, since 1764, had been in the service of Josef Maria Benedikt, Prince von Fürstenberg. Now in temporarily straitened circumstances, as we learn from a letter to the composer and publisher, Franz Hoffmeister, in the previous November, Mozart suggests that Prince von Fürstenberg might like to pay him a regular annual salary in return for new compositions for exclusive use at the court in Donaueschingen. The Prince sent for three piano concertos and three symphonies, but seemingly had no use for the sonata or, indeed, for a court composer in absentia. In the period in which the sonata was written Mozart was busy with his new opera Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), given its first performance in Vienna on 1st May 1786. The first movement of the sonata, marked Molto allegro, entrusts the first subject principa11y to the piano, a11owing a fuller share of the second subject to the violin, which generally has a less demanding r61e than in the preceding sonata. The development, with its shifts of key, introduces a greater element of drama before the return of the principal theme in recapitulation. The same dramatic writing returns in the coda. The A flat major Adagio finds the violin offering at first an accompanin1ent to the piano melody .In what follows the violin assumes immediate prominence. The second theme, in D flat major but moving to C sharp minor, effects a transposition to the key of A, logically enough, if unexpectedly, for the returning first theme, before the original key is restored for the recapitulation of the first and second themes, completing a movement of singular beauty .The last movement is in the form of a theme and variations. The theme itself is played by the violin and piano, the former taking the melody an octave below the latter. The piano provides a semiquaver accompanin1ent to the violin variation of the theme and continues with similar figuration in the second variation. The third variation brings left-hand semiquavers and right-hand chordal patterns for the piano, with violin accompaniment. There are strong dynamic contrasts in the following version of the material and piano left-hand triplet semiquavers in the fifth variation, before the appearance of rapid demisemiquavers for the right hand. The piano introduces the final variation, now transformed into a gigue-like 6/8metre, with both instruments sharing the material between them.
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