Mozart Chamber Festival
January 7, 2016
6:30 p.m. – Know the Score | 7:30 p.m. – Concert
Bill Heard Theatre, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts
Mozart: Overture to “Lucio Silla”, K. 135
Haydn: Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major
Mozart: Adagio & Fugue in C Minor, K. 546
Mozart: Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K. 425 “Linz”
Featuring Wendy Warner, cello
Overture to Lucio Silla, K. 135 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Born January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria – Died December 5, 1791 in Vienna, Austria
This work was first performed on December 26, 1772, in the Regio Ducal Teatro in Milan, Italy. It is scored for pairs of oboes, horns, and trumpets, with timpani and strings.
It might seem strange to say that Mozart reached his maturity as a composer of instrumental music when he was only eighteen, but that is what happened in 1774. Mozart had spent the previous summer and fall in Vienna where he heard the newest music and met many of the most prominent musical dignitaries. It was here that he first got to know the string quartets of Joseph Haydn. Already established as an opera composer, Mozart took these new experiences and, as usual, incorporated elements of them into his own music.
Lucio Silla was written when Mozart was sixteen years of age. Based on the historical character of Lucius Sulla – a Roman general who became dictator in 82 B.C. – the opera wastes no time on historical accuracy, opting instead for a plot that emphasizes a fictitious romance with the daughter of the leader from which he seized power. Recognized as one of the period’s greatest examples of opera seria (a variety of opera with excessively serious plots, often drawn from mythology and history), Lucio Silla is actually designated as a drama per musica (drama through music) – a label it shares with one of the composer’s greatest works, Don Giovanni.
Mozart’s overture is in a three-part form, reflecting the standard fast-slow-fast tempo scheme of the Italian sinfonia. Perhaps most striking is the lack of the typical interweaving of solo woodwind lines found in much of Mozart’s music. Instead the composer treats the orchestration as one long tutti, varying the texture more through tempo changes than orchestrational variety. The sound is much in the idiom of the rococo, a short transitional period between the extravagance of the Baroque period and the elegance of the mature Classical style. Beginning with a celebratory molto allegro section, the overture features prominent horns, trumpets, and timpani timbres within its texture.
A central andante section that emphasizes a gentle and songlike lyricism provides respite before a brief triple-meter finale (also marked molto allegro) concludes the work with a boisterous flourish.
Concerto in D Major for Cello and Orchestra – Franz Joseph Haydn
Born March 31, 1732 in Rohrau, Austria – Died May 31, 1809 in Vienna, Austria
Although the date of the premiere is not certain, this work was probably composed in 1783 for cellist Anton Kraft. It is scored for two oboes, two horns, and strings.
Franz Joseph Haydn lived in a quickly changing world. In his 77 years, he experienced the rise of the Age of Enlightenment, the French and American Revolutions, and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in England. Musically, he lived from just after the composition of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti until just after Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony. Of course, as musical fashion changed so did instrumentation. In Haydn’s youth, before the orchestra gained a standardized instrumentation, instrumental ensembles usually consisted of very small forces that could be contained in the reception area of an aristocrat’s home. As a mature composer, Haydn composed for a standard ensemble of winds in pairs, timpani and strings that performed in large public theaters and concert halls.
New composers tried new techniques and instrumental combinations. Among these experiments were attempts to compose works for solo instruments that had not been tested against the accompaniment of a large ensemble. The cello, even though it was widely used as a solo instrument in Baroque music against a small group of instruments, had never been widely featured with the Classical orchestra. Haydn composed two cello concerti, an early one in C major (discovered in 1961), and the masterpiece in D major on this program.
Composed in 1783 for Anton Kraft, the principal cellist in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy’s orchestra, the work is virtuosic, yet stately, leading some scholars to believe that Haydn might have composed it for the wedding of Prince Nikolaus to Princess Maria Josepha Hermergild Liechtenstein on September 15, 1783.
The work is in the customary three movements. The modified sonata-allegro form of the first movement states all the melodic material in the orchestra, followed by an ornamented exposition by the soloist.
Although undoubtedly serious, the work includes tinges of Haydn’s legendary sense of humor.
The Adagio slow movement begins with the soloist’s lyrical and melodious line of almost liquid beauty.
The orchestra shimmers as one of Haydn’s loveliest movements unfolds.
The final Rondo reflects Haydn’s wittiness. The lighthearted movement displays the cello’s flashiest music, requiring nimble fingers and expert timing.
Adagio & Fugue, K. 546 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Born January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria – Died December 5, 1791, in Vienna, Austria
This work was composed on June 26, 1788. It is scored for strings.
After Mozart moved to Vienna in the early 1780s, he befriended several men who had direct connections to the court of Emperor Joseph II. Joseph had been Holy Roman Emperor since 1765 and ruled the Habsburg lands since 1780. This incredibly powerful man also had a taste for art and music. He surrounded himself with the leading composers of the day – most prominently Antonio Salieri, who served as his Kapellmeister from 1788 until the Emperor’s death in 1790, but stayed with the court until 1824. Mozart, in contrast, never achieved more than a minor post at court.
Another of Mozart’s friends was Baron Gottfried van Swieten, the Dutch-born diplomat and Prefect of the Imperial Library. Not only was van Swieten a patron to Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, but he often suggested the works of other composers for their study. Of course, having the entire Imperial Library at his disposal made him especially important in this regard.
Scholars have noted that Mozart’s works from about 1788 became much more contrapuntal. Interestingly, this is about the time that van Swieten introduced the young composer to a large number of works by Bach and Handel.
On June 26, 1788, Mozart catalogued a new work:
“A short Adagio; for a fugue which I had already written a long time ago for two pianos.”
This is the only information on the Adagio & Fugue, K. 546, from the composer of the work. Much has been written about the work, sometimes even going so far as to compare the angular adagio and controlled fugue as representing violence vs. mysticism. Although very heavy-handed in rhetoric, this opinion has some merit.
The adagio opens with an angular melody with many leaps and dotted rhythms that remind the listener of the French Overture so common in the works of Bach and Handel.
Dotted rhythms prevail throughout the adagio
Mozart’s fugue is especially impressive. The rhythmic subject enters in each voice at three-measure intervals.
It is nearly devoid of dotted rhythms and the overall atmosphere is one of geometrical order.
Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K.425, “Linz” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Born January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria – Died December 5, 1791, in Vienna, Austria
The work was first performed on November 4, 1783, in Linz, Austria. It is scored for two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings.
Wolfgang Mozart, like his father, Leopold, had been employed in the court of Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg – Leopold as deputy Kapellmeister and Wolfgang as court organist and concertmaster. After the 1771 death of Prince Archbishop Sigismund Christoph von Schrattenbach, a close friend of the Mozart family, he was replaced by Hieronymus Colloredo, a by-the-book micro-manager who held no affinity for music or musicians. Wolfgang grew to despise the harsh treatment of the court’s servants whose ranks included all court musicians. In early 1781, when he was along on an ecumenical visit with the Archbishop to Vienna, Mozart left his position against official orders. In other words, he quit, but his employer refused to release him. Because of his unique family situation, a rift with the court also meant a severance of ties with his father. Much like the Archbishop, Leopold insisted on retaining control of his son. Wolfgang had no choice but to stay away from Salzburg, deciding to remain in the musical Mecca of Vienna. Once it became clear to the Archbishop that Wolfgang was not going to return, he finally granted the young man’s dismissal from the court in May of 1781.
In Vienna, Mozart met Constanze Weber (a cousin of the composer Carl Maria von Weber) and they were married on August 4, 1782. Leopold did not approve, as he was not yet ready to accept that the son who had brought the family so much wealth and recognition was no longer under his control. In hopes that Leopold would accept Constanze if he finally met her, the young couple planned a trip to Salzburg for the following June. Leopold, not to be outdone, never accepted his daughter-in-law.
After the harrowing visit, during which Leopold declared Wolfgang’s bride unsuitable, the couple made a stop in Linz before returning to Vienna. Staying at the palace of Count Johann Joseph Anton von Thun-Hohenstein, Mozart was asked to present a concert. Having no scores with him, the composer penned a new symphony for the occasion – in only four days! History shows that it became a popular work, being performed in Vienna in April of 1784 and in Salzburg in September of the same year. The Count’s orchestra revived the work in Prague in January of 1787, causing a great demand for the printed music to be sold.
As in other Mozart symphonies of the period, we hear a mature composer at the top of his craft. He shocked audiences with his chromatic harmonies and recall of musical themes at unusual moments in the work. That this occurs with such a feeling of spontaneity is a true mark of his endless creativity.
The first movement begins with a slow introduction –
…a feature often used by Haydn, but occurring here for the first time in a Mozart symphony. The Allegro begins quietly but soon gives way to ceremonial flourishes of trumpets and timpani.
The development section is especially chromatic, concentrating on a seemingly unimportant theme from an early transition section in the movement and causing a fresh, almost improvisatory, quality rarely found in works of the Classical period.
The leisurely andante is lyrical and elegant, but Mozart includes trumpets and timpani, railing against convention for a slow movement.
The third movement presents a complementary pair in its rhythmic minuet
…and contrasting understated trio.
The effervescent finale
…is one of Mozart’s most charming movements, with its rambunctious, yet lighthearted, gait that rambles through a lively development section.
The short coda brings a sparkling conclusion to this charming example of Mozart’s astounding grace under the pressure of a deadline.
©2015 Orpheus Music Prose & Craig Doolin