|About this Recording
8.557243 - MOZART: Petits Riens (Les) (Tintner Edition 11)
TINTNER MEMORIAL EDITION • VOLUME 11
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Ballet Music ‘Les Petits Riens’, K.299b • Three German Dances, K.605
Five Contredanses, K.609 • ‘Das Donnerwetter’, K.534
Three Marches, K.408 • Four Minuets, K.601 • Five Dances
Performances recorded 6th-7th March 1990
As many a child prodigy has discovered, childhood fame is not always permanent. Wunderkinder are novelties; adult Wunderkinder are not. They become just another talented pianist, violinist or composer trying to make a living. So it was even with Mozart, who found that the Paris that adored him as a brilliant six-year-old in 1762 ignored him as a brilliant but “un-novel” 22-year-old. “You have no idea what a dreadful time I am having here,” he wrote to his father. “I am trying to get away as quickly as possible.”
Mozart tried to obtain commissions, without success. In an attempt to obtain an opera commission, he curried favour with the influential Noverre by writing for him a ballet, Les Petits Riens. The pieces were used as entr’actes inserted into an opera by Piccinni, and given six performances to considerable acclaim. “Les Petits Riens consisted not only of pieces by Mozart but other people had their hand in it too,” says Maestro Tintner, “and to this day one isn’t quite sure which pieces Mozart did not write – one is absolutely sure which he did write. And so in order to be sure, we do all the doubtful pieces, and all his, but not a single piece we know he didn’t write. In these doubtful pieces there are one or two where I am inclined to think they are not his. But there is one of the doubtful ones, an Adagio in D major which, if another composer wrote it we would know of him, because it is so beautiful.” Not one commission resulted from the ballet, however. On the contrary, Noverre paid Mozart not a penny, and for good measure passed the music off as his own.
Fifteen years later, matters were not greatly better, at least in Vienna, though Mozart was at the very peak of his powers. He was official court composer, but it appears this was little more than a pro forma appointment. He was engaged, said the director of the court’s financial section, “simply in view of the fact... that such a rare genius in the field of music should not have to seek his bread and butter in foreign countries”. But he was not asked for operas or symphonies; he was required only to write dance music for the court balls.
These balls, held in the Redoutensaal, were immensely popular, sometimes having as many as 3,000 attendees. They were popular not least because Emperor Joseph II “democratized” them. He allowed people of all classes to attend, and by having the guests in masks, it was impossible to tell if a person were a countess or a maid, a count or a manservant – the piquancies of which situation were exploited to great comic effect by Johann Strauss in Die Fledermaus many years later.
Though they were hardly the best use of his genius, Mozart took these commissions very seriously. These were not the first dances he had written, for in Mozart’s time, indeed for most of the next century, dance music was not considered trivial or demeaning to write. Indeed, there is a direct progression from Mozart’s dances to those of Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and thus to the Strauss family. Mozart wrote Minuets, a stately dance in triple time for the aristocracy, plus Ländler (German Dances), Marches, and Contredanses (Country Dances), the wildly popular English import. Even by Beethoven’s time the Minuet had greatly waned in popularity, and by the time of the Strausses the waltz had completely replaced it.
Mozart’s dances, written without violas as was customary, are always enchanting and often sublime; Maestro Tintner has included the Minuet and Country Dance, K.463 No.1, because he considers the Minuet’s main tune to be a perfect melody, “the incarnation of what a great melody should be.” Mozart was not above including humour and some little surprises: the hurdy-gurdy in the Minuet K.601 No.2, the sleigh ride in the trio of the German Dance K.605 No.3. He also pilfered from himself; those who know the opera The Marriage of Figaro will immediately recognize the Contredanse K.609 No.1 to be a reorchestrated version of Non più andrai.
As the song by Hugo Wolf says, “Auch kleine Dinge können uns entzücken” (also little things can delight us). Nothing is more true of Mozart’s dances, but commissioning him to write nothing but dances was an appalling waste of his genius. Mozart knew this only too well. His biographer Nissen (the second husband of Mozart’s widow Constanze) mentions that Mozart wrote on a now-lost receipt for these dances: “Too much for what I did, not enough for what I could do.”
Georg Tintner was born in Vienna in 1917. He began studying piano at the age of six and to compose soon after. From nine to thirteen he was a member of the Vienna Boys Choir, where he also conducted the choir in performances of his own compositions. At thirteen he entered the Vienna State Academy as a composition prodigy, studying composition with Josef Marx and conducting with Felix Weingartner. At eighteen he was the conductor of a training choir of the Vienna Boys Choir, and trained the choir for a performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with Bruno Walter in 1936. His compositions were being performed in concert and broadcast by Austrian Radio, and at nineteen he became assistant conductor at the Vienna Volksoper.
In 1938 he fled the Nazis, spending a year in England before emigrating to New Zealand. For several years he ran a poultry farm – as a result of which he became a total vegetarian – before becoming Music Director of the Auckland String Players and Auckland Choral Society in 1947. He was also an avowed socialist and pacifist, and as such he rode a bicycle as “a symbol of the ultimate in harmlessness”.
In 1954 he went to Australia as Resident Conductor of the National Opera and then the Elizabethan Opera. In the following years he toured Australia widely and pioneered television opera with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In 1964 he was Music Director of the New Zealand Opera, and in 1966-67 was Music Director of the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra. Although offered an extended contract, Tintner left for political reasons. He went to London and Sadler’s Wells (English National Opera) for three years, with guest appearances with the London Mozart Players, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Northern Sinfonia and the London Symphony Orchestra for the BBC.
He returned to Australia in 1970 as Music Director of the West Australian Opera Company. In 1971 he was invited as Music Director of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, a visit so successful that it was repeated seven times. Tintner had a special rapport with young musicians, conducting many concerts with the national youth orchestras of several countries. A 1974 series of lectures have been broadcast many times in English-speaking countries, and he was renowned for his concert introductions, some of which may be heard in this edition.
Tintner’s repertoire included 56 operas, about two-thirds of which he conducted from memory. In 1974 he became Senior Resident Conductor of the Australian Opera for two years. While there he conducted now-legendary performances of Fidelio, expressive of his lifelong commitment to compassionate humanism. From 1976 Tintner was Music Director of the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra until moving to Canada at the end of 1987 as Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia. He appeared with all Australian, New Zealand orchestras and opera companies, and later with all major Canadian orchestras including the Montreal and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. In the United States he toured with the Canadian Brass and appeared with the Michigan Opera Theatre.
He made many commercial recordings, including some for the CBC which are being reissued in the present Memorial Edition. His Naxos series of all eleven Bruckner symphonies brought him worldwide acclaim in his final two years.
Georg Tintner has been honoured in four countries. He was awarded several honorary doctorates, and honours including the Officer’s Cross of the Austrian Order Of Merit. He was a Member of the Order of Canada
He died in Halifax in October 1999.
Symphony Nova Scotia
Symphony Nova Scotia (SNS) is Canada’s only fully professional symphony orchestra east of Quebec City. Founded in 1983, the 37 musicians of Symphony Nova Scotia have a mandate “to enhance the quality of life of citizens of Nova Scotia.” Symphony Nova Scotia is dedicated to sharing live classical music with audiences across Nova Scotia through its concerts, and with all Canadians through its many CBC broadcasts. The orchestra also collaborates with other music, theatre, and dance partners, and has recently established the Symphony Nova Scotia Chorus.
In the recordings in this series the second violins are placed on the right of the conductor, for the antiphonal effect between first and second violins these composers expected to hear.
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