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8.556780 - CHILL WITH MOZART
Chill with Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Probably the greatest genius in Western musical history, Wolfgang Amadeus was born in Salzburg in 1756, the youngest child and only surviving son of Leopold Mozart. He showed early precocity both as a keyboard-player and violinist, and soon turned his hand to composition.
His obvious gifts were developed under his father's tutelage, and through the patronage of the Archbishop of Salzburg the family were able to travel abroad to Paris and to London, to show off the young Mozart’s remarkable gifts. A series of other journeys followed, with important operatic commissions in Italy between 1771 and 1773.
The following period proved disappointing to both father and son, as the young Mozart grew to manhood, irked by the lack of opportunity and lack of appreciation of his gifts in Salzburg where a new Archbishop proved less sympathetic. Visits to Munich, Mannheim and Paris in 1777 and 1778 brought no substantial offer of other employment and by early 1779 Mozart was reinstated in Salzburg, now as court organist.
In 1781, Mozart broke his ties with Salzburg and spent the last ten years of his life in precarious independence in Vienna, his material situation not improved by an unsuitable marriage. Initial success with German and then Italian opera and a series of subscription concerts were followed by financial difficulties. Then, in late November of 1791, Mozart became seriously ill and died in the small hours of 5th December.
Mozart's compositions were catalogued in the 19th century by Köchel, and they are generally now distinguished by K. numbering from his catalogue.
Mozart was one of the first great opera composers in the history of western classical music. Salzburg offered him no real opportunity to exercise his talents in this direction during his life. The greater stage works belong to the last decade of his life, starting with Idomeneo in Munich in January 1781. In Vienna his first success came with the German opera or singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio). Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), an Italian comic opera, was staged in 1786 and Don Giovanni, with a libretto by da Ponte, received its first performance in Prague in 1787. Così fan tutte (All Women Behave Alike) was staged briefly in Vienna in 1790, its run curtailed by the death of the Emperor. His last stage work, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), was running in the suburban Theater auf der Wieden at the time of his sudden death.
As he lay dying Mozart was joined by his friends to sing through parts of a work that he left unfinished. This was his setting of the Requiem Mass, commissioned by an anonymous nobleman, who had intended to pass the work off as his own. The Requiem was later completed by Mozart's pupil Süssmayer. Mozart composed other church music, primarily for use in Salzburg. Settings of the Mass include the Coronation Mass of 1779, one of a number of liturgical settings of this kind. In addition to settings of litanies and vespers, Mozart wrote a number of shorter works for church use. These include the well-known Exsultate, jubilate and the simple four-part setting of the Ave verum.
Mozart wrote his first symphony in London in 1764-5 and his last in Vienna in August 1788. The last three symphonies, Nos. 39, 40 and 41, were all written during the summer of 1788, each of them with its own highly individual character.
The best known Serenade of all is Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), a charming piece of which four of the five original movements survive. It is scored for solo strings and was written in the summer of 1787, the year of the death of Mozart’s father. The Serenade K. 361, known as the Gran Partita, was written during the composer's first years of independence in Vienna and scored for a dozen wind instruments and a double bass.
Mozart wrote some 30 keyboard concertos, the earliest being arrangements of movements by various composers. The more important compositions in this form, designed clearly for the fortepiano, were written in Vienna between 1782 and 1791, principally for the composer's use in subscription. Of the 27 numbered concertos particular mention may be made of the concertos in C minor and D minor, Nos. 24 and 20, K. 491 and 466. Mozart completed his last piano concerto No. 27, K. 595 in B flat major, in January 1791.
Five concertos for solo violin - one in 1773 and four in 1775 - were written at a time when Mozart was concertmaster of the court orchestra in Salzburg. Mozart's concertos for solo wind instruments include a concerto for bassoon, two concertos for solo flute and a concerto for solo oboe, with a final concerto for clarinet written in October 1791. Mozart wrote four concertos for French horn and a Sinfonia concertante for solo wind instruments. During his stay in France in 1778 he also wrote a fine concerto for flute and harp.
Mozart's work for string instruments includes a group of string quintets, written in Vienna in 1787 and, over the course of around twenty years, some 23 string quartets. Particularly interesting are the later quartets, a group of six dedicated to and influenced by Joseph Haydn and three final quartets, the so-called “Prussian” Quartets.
Mozart's sonatas for the fortepiano cover a period from 1766 to 1791, with a significant number of mature sonatas written during the years in Vienna. The sonatas include much fine music, ranging from the slighter C major Sonata for beginners (K. 545) to the superb B flat Sonata, K. 570. In addition to his sonatas he wrote a number of sets of variations. The published works include operatic variations as well as a set of variations on the theme Ah, vous dirai-je, maman, known in English as Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Track 1 – Serenade No. 10 in B flat major, K.361: Adagio
Track 8 – Serenade in D major, K.203: Andante
The Serenade in B flat, K.361, known sometimes as the Gran Partita seems to have been written in 1783 and 1784. It is scored for two oboes, two clarinets, two basset-horns, four horns, two bassoons and double-bass and is in eight movements. The Adagio is the fourth of these, in which the poignant melody is shared by the instruments, the first oboe phrase capped by the clarinet and followed by the basset-horn.
The Serenade in D major, K.303, was probably written in Salzburg in the summer of 1774 and was possibly intended for the name-day of the Archbishop on 30th September. Including strings, oboes, horns and solo violin, the Allegro allows the solo violin interesting patterns of cross rhythm with the rest of the string section.
Further examples of Mozart’s Serenades can be heard on:
8.550026 Serenade No. 6, K.239 "Serenata notturna"; Serenade No. 13
8.550333 Serenade No. 7, K.250 "Haffner"
8.550026 Serenade No. 13, K.525 "Eine kleine Nachtmusik"; Serenade No. 6
Track 2 – ‘Vesperae solennes de confessore’, K.339: Laudate Dominum
Track 6 – ‘Benedictus’ from ‘Requiem Mass’
Track 7 – Ave Verum Corpus K.618
Mozart’s church music was written principally for Salzburg Cathedral, where his father’s position as Deputy Kapellmeister ensured that the young Mozart’s works were performed.
The second of two settings of Solemn Vespers that Mozart composed for Salzburg a year apart, Vesperae solennes de confessore is scored for soloists, choir, trumpets, drums, three trombones, strings and organ. The Laudate Dominum is set for soprano solo and is one of Mozart’s most serene melodies.
Mozart’s Requiem Mass was famously left unfinished until after his death in 1791 when it was completed by his pupil, Süssmayr, who provided the setting of the Benedictus, presumably on sketches or ideas provided by Mozart.
The setting of the Ave Verum K. 618, belongs to the last summer of Mozart’s life and was composed for the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi. The music, in its simple clarity, represents a more popular and less formal type of church music.
Further examples of Mozart’s church music can be heard on:
8.554158 Vesperae solennes de Dominica, K.321, Dixit Dominus & Magnificat, K.193
8.550495 Coronation Mass
8.554421 Mass in C Minor
Track 3 – Piano Concerto No. 19 in F, K459: Allegro
Completed on 11th December 1784, the Piano Concerto in F seems to have been designed for the composer’s own performance. Mozart played the concerto at the concert he organised in Frankfurt for the coronation of the new Emperor Leopold II on 15th October, 1790. The Allegro is the first movement of the concerto and opens with a familiar rhythm, announced first by flute and strings. The same theme introduces the soloist, who then accompanies its repetition by oboe and bassoon.
Further examples of Mozart’s Piano Concertos can be heard on:
8.506002 Piano Concertos Nos. 1-8, 10, 15, 16, 19, 23-26 (6 CDs)
8.505011 Piano Concertos Nos. 9, 11-14, 17, 18, 20-22 & 27 (5 CDs)
Track 4 – Flute Quartet in A major, K.298: Andante
Track 9 – Concerto in C major for Flute & Harp, K.299: Andantino
This flute quartet offers a true Singspiel type of theme. After the first variation, in which the flute is the focus of the music, four variations allow increased involvement for the violin, viola and cello in turn.
Mozart wrote the Concerto for Flute & Harp for the Duc de Guines, an amateur flautist, and his harpist daughter, who both impressed him with their performing abilities on first meeting him. The Andantino is the second movement with the flute and harp taking the melody in turn; it is full of simple charm.
Further examples of Mozart’s music for flute can be heard on:
8.550074 Flute Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Track 5 – String Quartet in D major, K. 593: Larghetto - Allegro
Scored for two violins, two violas and cello, the String Quintet in D major starts with a slow introduction, opened by a brief ascending figure in the cello that recurs and is anwered by the other instruments. The mood soon changes with a cheerful Allegro, which progresses with motifs that had been suggested in the introduction.
Further examples of Mozart’s music for strings can be heard on:
8.550541 String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2, 4, 14
8.550542 String Quartets Nos. 3, 5 & 6, 17
8.550543 String Quartets (Divertimentos) K. 136-138, No. 19
8.550544 String Quartets Nos. 7-9, 22
8.550545 String Quartets Nos. 12 & 13, 21
8.550546 String Quartets Nos. 10 & 11, 15
8.550547 String Quartets Nos. 20, 23
8.553103 String Quintets Nos. 1, 3
8.553104 String Quintets Nos. 2, 4
Track 10 – Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat, K. 297b: Andantino con variazoni
The Sinfonia Concertante seems to have been written in Paris 1778, in some haste, for the Mannheim musicians. However, the parts were not copied and made straight away and the work was not performed for some 7 months, when Mozart apparently recalled the work from memory. The three movements of the Sinfonia Concertante are splendid examples of imitative writing in which one instrument operatically answers and complements another.
Track 11 – ‘Così fan tutte’: Soave sia il vento
Cos`i fan tutte tells the story of the cynical Don Alfonso who bets his two young friends Guglielmo and Ferrando that the sisters they love will not be faithful to them once they have gone away to war. They stage a departure and return in disguise, each wooing the other’s beloved. The trio Soave sia il vento sees the sisters sadly waving goodbye to Guglielmo and Ferrando as they ‘depart for war’ while Don Alfonso looks on. It is one of Mozart’s most sublime pieces.
If you enjoyed this trio, the full opera of ‘Cos`i fan tutte’ is available on 8.660008–10. Other full-length Mozart operas on the Naxos label include:
8.660080-82 Don Giovanni
8.660030-31 Die Zauberflöte
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