MOZART: "At Eight" - Sonatas for Keyboard and Flute, K.10-15 (Carol Wincenc/ Gena Raps/ Silas Brown) (Naxos: 8.570263)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a court musician who, in the year of his youngest child's birth, published an influential book on violin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy the position of Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, but sacrificed his own creative career to that of his son, in whom he detected early signs of precocious genius. With the indulgence of his patron, he was able to undertake extended concert tours of Europe in which his son and elder daughter Nannerl were able to astonish audiences. The boy played both the keyboard and the violin and could improvise and soon write down his own compositions.
Childhood that had brought Mozart signal success was followed by a less satisfactory period of adolescence largely in Salzburg under the patronage of a new and less sympathetic Archbishop. Like his father, Mozart found opportunities far too limited at home, while chances of travel were now restricted. In 1777, when leave of absence was not granted, he gave up employment in Salzburg to seek a future elsewhere, but neither Mannheim nor Paris, both musical centres of some importance, had anything for him. His Mannheim connections, however, brought a commission for an opera in Munich in 1781, but after its successful staging he was summoned by his patron to Vienna. There Mozart's dissatisfaction with his position resulted in a quarrel with the Archbishop and dismissal from his service.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in Vienna in precarious independence of both patron and immediate paternal advice, a situation aggravated by an imprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-house and as a performer was followed, as the decade went on, by increasing financial difficulties. By the time of his death in December 1791, however, his fortunes seemed about to change for the better, with the success of the German opera The Magic Flute, and the possibility of increased patronage.
In April 1764 Leopold Mozart, his wife, and his two children, reached England after a channel crossing that had made them sea-sick and that had proved expensive for the family, and their two servants. A detailed account of this, the young Mozart's third journey, is found in Leopold Mozart's letters home to his Salzburg landlord, Lorenz Hagenauer. From these we hear of their reception at court, soon after their arrival in London, and shortly afterwards a second visit to the court, where Wolfgang astonished the King by his sight-reading and accompanied the Queen in an aria, and also accompanied a flautist. In his letter of 28 May to Hagenauer Leopold Mozart tells him that while he is writing his son is playing through sonatas by their friend Johann Christian Bach, the London Bach, youngest son of Johann Sebastian, whose sonatas for keyboard with the accompaniment of a violin or flute and a cello had been published in 1763.
In the late summer of 1764 Leopold Mozart caught a chill, a serious indisposition that caused the family to move to Chelsea, then a village some two miles from London, where they spent seven weeks. During their stay Mozart, obliged to be quiet and not disturb his father, made his first attempts at composing symphonies. He had already published four sonatas for violin and keyboard in Paris, guaranteed, according to Leopold Mozart, as his son's work, a fact attested by the presence of forbidden consecutive fifths at one point. In 1765 he dedicated to Queen Charlotte a set of six sonatas. These appeared on 18 January as Opus III, with the title: Six / Sonates / pour le / Clavecin / qui peuvent se jouer avec / L'accompagnment de Violon ou Flaute / Traversière / Très humblement dediées / A Sa Majesté / Charlotte / Reine de la Grande Bretagne / Composées par / I.G.Wolfgang Mozrt / Agé de huit Ans / Oeuvre III. London / Printed for the Author and Sold at his Lodgings / At Mr. Williamson in Thrift Street Soho (Six Sonatas for the keyboard that can be played with the accompaniment of violin or transverse flute, very humbly dedicated to Her Majesty Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain, composed by I.G. Wolfgang Mozart, aged eight, Opus 3). The letter of dedication, in French, might be described as faux naïf, and was presumably concocted by Leopold Mozart. The date of publication was to the point, as on 28 January the boy would be nine. Mozart's reward from the Queen was a present of fifty guineas. The fact that versions of the sonatas were also published with an additional cello part has led some to list these works among Mozart's piano trios, giving preference to the early printed sources that include the cello.
The Sonata in B flat major, K. 10, starts an embryonic sonata movement, in a form favoured by Johann Christian Bach, written in the then current style in which the burden of the work is carried by the keyboard, with the flute or violin taking a relatively subsidiary rôle. The secondary material allows the keyboard-player some hand-crossing, and the second section of the movement starts with the first subject in the dominant key of F major, with a brief development followed by the return of the secondary material, now in the tonic. The E flat major Andante follows the same pattern, to be followed by a Menuetto in the original key, framing an E flat major second Menuetto.
The Sonata in G major, K. 11, again gives the expected principal weight to the keyboard, harpsichord or fortepiano, in the opening Andante. The flute (or violin) adds its own rhythmic figure at the start of the second section, now echoed by the keyboard in an eight-bar section, after which the opening theme returns. The Allegro that follows finds an opportunity for strong dynamic contrasts, and returns after the G minor Menuetto.
The third of the set, the Sonata in A major, K. 12, allows the accompanying instrument more freedom, as it echoes the left-hand figuration of the keyboard in the opening Andante. This element is a recurrent feature of the movement. The Allegro that follows, a rondo in form, is dominated by its principal theme, heard at the outset and returning in various shifts of key.
The Sonata in F major, K. 13, has the flute entering in imitation of the keyboard in the opening bars of the first Allegro. The first subject, now in the dominant key of C major, opens the second part of the movement. This is followed by an F minor Andante, which again has the flute entering in imitation of the first keyboard theme in the beginning of a canon. There is a modulation to A flat major, the key in which the second half of the movement opens, following the initial pattern. There is more variety in the final Menuetto, where the flute answers the descending chromatic notes of the keyboard with an ascending chromatic scale. The second Menuetto, the trio section of the movement, is in D minor.
The first movement of the Sonata in C major, K. 14, follows the now familiar form, with the first subject returning in the dominant key of G major to open the second half of the movement, followed by a short development and the return of the second subject, now in the tonic. The second movement, also an Allegro, a rondo,