About this Recording
8.550875 - MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 19, 20 and 37

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Symphony No.19 in E Flat Major, K. 132
Symphony No.20 in D Major, K. 133
Symphony No.37 in G Major, K. 444

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of the violinist and composer, Leopold Mozart, a musician employed by the ruling Archbishop, and a man of some intellectual ability. In childhood Mozart and his elder sister Anna-Maria, known in the family as Nannerl to her brother's Wolferl, toured Europe as infant prodigies, received at court in the countries they visited and providing a general subject of curiosity and interest. The children's education and musical training was supervised by their father, who was quick to realise his son's genius and sacrificed his own career to foster it.

As Mozart grew to manhood there was evident a disparity between his natural expectations and the realities of provincial Salzburg, where an indulgent patron had been succeeded by an Archbishop very much less willing to allow members of his household to absent themselves for months or years on end. Leopold Mozart had, perforce, to be content with his lot as Vice-Kapellmeister, but in 1777 his son left Salzburg, accompanied only by his mother, to seek employment elsewhere, in Munich, Mannheim or Paris, where, in June, 1778, his mother died. Nowhere did there seem to be a position available in any way equal to what Mozart saw as his desert, and early in 1779 he returned reluctantly to Salzburg, where he was given a position once more, with equal reluctance, by the Archbishop.

The summer of 1780 brought a commission for an opera in Munich. Idomeneo, re di Creta, was staged there with some success in January, 1781. There followed a summons from the Archbishop to attend him in Vienna and an uneasy few months in which the young composer grew increasingly resentful, irked by his subservient position and the refusal of his patron to allow him to earn money and honour by performing before the Emperor. In May there was an open quarrel, resulting in Mozart's dismissal. For the remaining ten years of his life he was to seek to earn a living in Vienna, independent of a patron, although he was later to be given a relatively unimportant position at court.

The Vienna years, during which Leopold Mozart was no longer at hand to control his son's wilder plans, brought initial success in the opera-house and in the public concerts Mozart gave. His marriage to an impecunious girl, whose earlier acquaintance he had made in Mannheim, when he had courted her sister, did nothing to assist his career, and by the end of the decade he was often depressed by the financial difficulties of the course he had chosen. He died in 1791, at a time when his fortunes seemed about to take a turn for the better. Although he had been ignored by the new Emperor, he had, nevertheless, fulfilled a coronation opera commission in Prague and was enjoying some popular success with his new German opera The Magic Flute. The unfinished work he left included a Requiem Mass, later completed by his pupil Süssmayer.

During the second half of the century the orchestral symphony, derived in part from the Italian operatic overture of earlier years, assumed increasing importance. Its most common instrumentation, calling for pairs of oboes and French horns, with a four-part string section and possible keyboard continuo, suited very well the resources most often available in the musical establishments of ruling families and the nobility. The four-movement symphony, including a Minuet and Trio generally as its third movement, opened with an Allegro in the tripartite sonata- or sonata-allegro form of a two-subject exposition, followed by a development and recapitulation. A contrasting slow movement in a related key was often in ternary form, a central section framed by a repeated opening section. The symphony might be expected to end in a form of rondo, following the key-pattern expected in sonata-form and offering contrasted episodes framed by a repetition of the principal theme.

Mozart's Symphony No.19 in E flat major, K.132, and Symphony No.20 in D major, K. 133, were written in Salzburg in July 1772, followed, in August, by the Symphony No.21 in A major, K. 134. The period came after the Mozarts' second visit to Italy and before the return of Leopold Mozart and his son to Milan later in the year. The first of these, scored for two oboes and four horns, two in high E flat and two in low E flat, with strings, opens with a principal theme, entrusted to the strings, followed by a transition in which all take part. The strings again announce the second subject, the violins in thirds accompanied at first only by violas and sustained French horn notes. There is no repetition of the exposition marked and the central development opens with a shift of key into C minor. The material of the exposition is duly repeated, with the necessary modulations, in the final recapitulation. The slow movement, an Andante, is scored for pairs of oboes and of B flat horns, with strings, these last opening the ternary movement, with its central contrast of key. The Viennese Minuet, now in E flat once more, with the E flat horns, has a C minor Trio for strings alone, after which the Minuet is repeated, according to custom. The final rondo opens with the principal theme, with a first episode in B flat, a second in C minor and a third in A flat, between and after which the principal theme is heard again.

Symphony No.20 in D major, K. 133, includes a pair of trumpets in a wind section that otherwise makes use of the usual pair of oboes and two horns in D. Its slow movement is for flute and strings only. At the outset the key is established with a call to the listener's attention, after which the first violin states the principal theme. There is a varied transition to the second subject, a theme played by first and second violins in octaves. After the central development the second subject returns, leaving the first theme to find its place in the final coda. Muted first violins join with the flute in the principal theme of the A major slow movement, a procedure followed as the music continues, although there is room for interplay between the two, particularly in the central section. Oboes, trumpets and horns return for the Minuet, framing a G major Trio for oboes and strings, leading to a final movement in a rapid 12/8 metre and dominated by its principal theme, treated contrapuntally at the start of the central section. The music is impelled forward by the continuing rhythm of the material to an emphatic conclusion.

Symphony No.37 in G major, K.444, is a work of a very different kind, a symphony that is largely the work of Joseph Haydn's younger brother Michael, who had long held an important position in the Salzburg musical establishment. Mozart's contribution is an introduction to the first movement, written during a visit to Linz in 1783. The opening Adagio maestoso makes an impressive introduction to a movement scored for oboes, horns in G and strings, followed by an Allegro con spirito that is very much in the style of the period with a first subject based on the notes of the triad and a pleasing enough second subject stated by the first violin. New material is introduced in the middle section of the movement, before the return of the principal theme in recapitulation. The C major slow movement is scored at first for flute and horns in C and is introduced by the strings with the later assistance of the flute. The strings have a C minor section of the movement to themselves with a busy triplet semiquaver accompaniment from the cello and dynamic contrasts worthy of Mannheim. The principal theme returns, to be quickly replaced by a passage in which the oboes return with a melody heard over rapid first violin accompanying figuration. The oboes double the violins in the final return of the principal theme. The last movement restores the original instrumentation in a cheerful principal theme. After subsidiary thematic material the theme is developed before its return in its original form in recapitulation and a final coda.

Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Formed in 1967, the Northern Chamber Orchestra has established itself as one of England's finest chamber ensembles. Though often augmented to meet the requirements of the concert programme, the orchestra normally contains 24 musicians and performs both in concert and on disc without a conductor. Their repertoire ranges from the baroque era to music of our time, and they have gained a reputation for imaginative programme planning.

Concerts take the orchestra throughout the North of England and it has received four major European bursaries for its achievements in the community. With a series of recordings of Haydn and Mozart symphonies for Naxos the orchestra makes its debut on disc.

Nicholas Ward
Nicholas Ward was born in Manchester in 1952, the son of parents who had met as members of the Hallé Orchestra. In consequence music played an important part in his life from childhood, allowing him, after less successful attempts as a pianist, to learn the violin and, at the age of twelve, to form his own string quartet. This last continued for some five years, until he entered the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he studied with Yossi Zivoni and later, in Brussels, with André Gertler. In 1977 Nicholas Ward moved to London, where he joined the Melos Ensemble and the Royal Philharmonic, when the orchestra worked under Antal Dorati as its Principal Conductor. He became co-leader of the City of London Sinfonia in 1984, a position followed by appointment as leader of the Northern Chamber Orchestra, of which he became Music Director two years later, directing from the violin. In this form the orchestra has won high regard for its work both in the concert hall and the broadcasting studio.

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