About this Recording
8.550092 - MOZART: Serenade No. 9, 'Posthorn' / Notturno

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Serenade in D Major, K. 320 (Posthorn Serenade)
Notturno in D Major for four orchestras, K. 286

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a court musician, Leopold Mozart, author in the same year of an important book on violin-playing and later Vice-Kapellmeister to the ruling Archbishop of Salzburg, in whose service he spent his entire career. Leopold Mozart was quick to perceive the exceptional musical gifts of his son and saw it as his god-given duty to devote himself to fostering them, providing him with sound musical training and a good general education.

Mozart spent much of his childhood travelling to the major musical centres of Europe, where he amazed those who heard him by his musical precocity, performing at the keyboard with his elder sister, Nannerl, the only other surviving child of his father's marriage. Journeys to Italy involved commissions for opera, but the death of the old Archbishop and succession of a much less sympathetic prelate in 1772 curtailed travel, while adolescence in Salzburg brought its own dissatisfactions. Mozart thought he deserved something better, an opinion in which his father heartily concurred.

In an effort to find a more congenial position, Mozart left Salzburg in 1777, spending time at Mannheim, where he made friends with some of the musicians employed in what was then one of the most famous orchestras in Europe, and moving thereafter to the original goal of his journey, Paris. France, however, proved disappointing, and by the beginning of 1779 he was back again in Salzburg, reinstated in the service of the Archbishop, but chafing under the restrictions of his position and the lack of wider opportunity.

In the later months of 1780 Mozart was permitted to travel to Munich for the preparation of a new opera, Idomeneo, commissioned through his Mannheim friends by the Elector of Bavaria, who now held court there. From Munich, after successful performances of the opera in January 1781, Mozart was summoned by his patron to Vienna, where his position in the household of the Archbishop seemed to deny him the manifold opportunities of a brilliant career that Vienna appeared to offer. A quarrel with his patron resulted in ignominious dismissal and a final career of ten years in Vienna which brought initial success. Mozart established himself as a composer of opera, at first for the new German opera and then for the Italian opera to which the Emperor had been compelled to return, with Le nozze di Figaro in 1786 and Don Giovanni in 1787, the year of his father's death. He organised subscription concerts, at many of which he appeared as soloist in new piano concertos of his composition, and attracted many pupils. His marriage in 1782 to an impecunious cousin of the future composer Carl Maria von Weber brought its own problems and he was frequently in financial difficulty in his last years, although there were signs of a change of fortune in the great popularity of his last German opera, Die Zauberflöte, which was playing in a suburban theatre at the time of his sudden death on 5th December 1791.

During the course of his career Mozart found many demands for music of a lighter kind, suitable entertainment for his listeners at some social gathering. His only official appointment at the court of the Emperor Joseph II had been, nominally at least, to provide such music, as Johann Strauss did nearly a century later. The so-called Posthorn Serenade, K. 320, was completed on 3rd August 1779 in Salzburg and seems to have been intended as Finalmusik to mark the end of the academic year at the University. It was the custom for students to perform before the Prince Archbishop, at his summer residence at the Schloss Mirabell, returning, to the accompaniment of a march, to the college buildings to repeat the performance for their professors. The posthorn was, therefore, a particularly appropriate instrument to mark the departure of the students from the University, their studies now ended, its sound associated always, as in Bach's keyboard Capriccio on his brother's journey, with the departure of the coach.

The Serenade is scored for pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, a pair of flutes and a flautino (here a piccolo), posthorn and strings. It opens with a slow introduction from which post horn and flutes are excluded, proceeding to a livelier Allegro con spirito in sonata form, its second, gentler subject given at first to the strings of the orchestra. The first of the Minuets, with its A Major Trio, leads to a movement marked Concertante, opened by the strings and bassoons, to which solo wind instruments are added, re-appearing towards the end of the movement in a brief cadenza.

The flutes are first used in the Rondeau, in which trumpets and drums are silent, as they are in the following D Minor Andantino, which is also without flutes. The Minuet is again scored for trumpets and drums, with a first Trio for strings and piccolo and a second Trio that introduces the limited notes of the posthorn. The Finale returns to the orchestra of normal festive convention, without flutes, but strengthened by trumpets and drums, a postscript to the posthorn's brief moment of passing glory.

The Notturno for four orchestras, K. 286, has no precise date, but has been attributed by some to December 1776 or January 1777, and written, perhaps, for carnival in Salzburg. It is, in any case, clearly incomplete, consisting of only three movements, the last of them a Minuet, to which a later Trio was added. The four identical orchestras, the second, third and fourth having the functions of an echo, consist of a pair of horns and strings. The first movement embarks at once on the provision of diminishing echoes, as the repetitions of the opening phrase become even more fragmentary, the first echo unable to reproduce more than a few bars of one of the more extended declarations of the first orchestra. The same procedure is followed in the Allegretto grazioso and to some extent in the Minuet, with its rival pairs of horns following close one group on the other, while the Trio appears in the surviving source, a copy once in the possession of Mozart's biographer Otto Jahn, scored only for four string parts, without apparent added echo.

Hans Gansch
Hans Gansch was born at Kirnberg in Lower Austria in 1953 and studied the trumpet at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz, graduating with distinction in 1976, after a period of two years already spent as first trumpet in the Linz Bruckner Orchestra. He followed this with similar positions in the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra and at the Vienna Staatsoper and since 1985 has played first trumpet in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition to a career as a soloist, Hans Gansch has appeared in various ensembles, including Prisma, Kontrapunkte, Okulus and the Pro Brass Ensemble.

Capella Istropolitana
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as an orchestra large enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based in Bratislava, its name drawn from the ancient name still preserved in the Academia Istropolitana, the historic university established in the Slovak and one-time Hungarian capital by Matthias Corvinus, the orchestra works principally in the recording studio. Recordings by the orchestra on the Naxos label include The Best of Baroque Music, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, fifteen each of Mozart's and Haydn's symphonies as well as works by Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann.

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