MOZART / CRUSELL / BACH, J.C.: Music for Oboe and Strings (Dimitri Golovanov/ Elise Batnes/ Lars Holm Johansen/ Max Artved/ Preben Ivan/ Tue Lautrup) (Naxos: 8.557361)
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Mozart Crusell J.C. Bach
Chamber Music for Oboe and Strings
In 1777 Mozart set out from Salzburg, accompaniedonly by his mother, to seek his fortune elsewhere. Hisfather Leopold, who had guided his son's career, wascompelled to remain at home, out of necessaryprudence, while Mozart himself had been able to travelonly by resigning from the court musical establishmentof the ruling Archbishop. Mozart's journey took him, bythe end of October, to Mannheim, the seat of the ElectorPalatine and a city that boasted the most famousorchestra in Europe. He was clearly delighted at hisreception by musicians of the Mannheim court. In hissecond letter home to his father he gives an account ofhis visit to the house of the director of court instrumentalmusic, Christian Cannabich. There he met othermusicians, including an oboist whose playing he praisesand to whom he has given a copy of his oboe concerto,although he has forgotten the man's name. In laterletters he identifies him as Friedrich Ramm. The fourmonths in Mannheim brought no offer of employmentfrom the Elector, and Mozart planned to move on toParis, at first hoping to travel with Ramm and otherwind players from Mannheim, for whom he was to writea sinfonia concertante. He eventually travelled to Pariswith his mother in March, but, for whatever reason,failed to find the patronage he needed. In July hismother fell ill and died, and his father, anxious as everabout his son, urged him to return to Salzburg, where hehad procured for him the position of court organist.
After long delays, the result of a return to Mannheim,where he renewed his attentions to the young singerAloysia Weber, and time spent in Munich with hiscousin, Mozart was back in his detested Salzburg byJanuary 1779. In 1780, however, he was able to renewhis association with the Mannheim musicians who hadmoved with the Elector to Munich, his capital as Electorof Bavaria, a position inherited on the death of hispredecessor. Here Mozart was commissioned to writean opera for the court, Idomeneo.
It was at this time, probably in January 1781, that hewrote his Oboe Quartet in F major, K370, for Ramm.
He was soon to be summoned to Vienna by his patron,the Archbishop of Salzburg, and all too soon to quarrelwith his and his father's patron, to spend his last tenyears in precarious independence in Vienna. Thequartet opens with an Allegro, the oboe stating the firstsubject and leading the way to a secondary theme,introduced by the violin. Instruments enter in imitationof each other in the central development, duly followedby a final recapitulation. The strings open the D minorAdagio, in which the oboe adds an embellished upperpart. The final Rondeau allows the oboe the firststatement of the principal theme, echoed by the violin,providing the framework for contrasting episodes thatwould have allowed Ramm full scope for the display ofhis ability, so much admired by the composer.
Mozart embarked on independent life in Viennawith a degree of optimism, marrying, without hisfather's approval, the younger sister of the singer whohad so enchanted him in Mannheim, and contributing tothe German operatic repertoire encouraged by theEmperor a new Turkish Singspiel, Die Entf??hrung ausdem Serail. His Serenade in C minor, K388, for oboes,clarinets, horns and bassoons, was probably written in1782 and it was to this work that he turned in 1787 or1788 to provide the basis of the third of his set of threestring quintets, offered for subscription in April of thelatter year. By now Mozart's circumstances hadchanged. His father had died in 1787 and his ownfinancial difficulties were mounting in the political andeconomic problems of the time. He refers to thequintets, later to be published by Artaria, in a letter tohis fellow-mason Michael Puchberg seeking loans totide him over. The Quintet in C minor, K406, heard in aversion for oboe, violin, two violas and cello, openswith a figure based on the ascending triad of C minor,followed in the fourth bar by a characteristic descendinginterval that is to return. This strong opening, in whichall join, is answered more gently, and this first subject isled to the E flat major second, preceded by an emphaticunison from the whole ensemble. The relatively shortcentral development brings surprises, breaking off on asecond occasion before the return of the first subject in afinal recapitulation. The E flat major triple metreAndante brings customary embellishment in the upperpart and leads to a Menuetto in canone, in which there isa canon at first between oboe and cello, and a C majortrio in which the canon, now between the upperinstruments, is inverted. The last movement is a set ofvariations that in one passage, at least, shows traces ofits origin. The theme returns finally in C major to bringthe work to a conclusion.
The clarinettist and composer Bernhard HenrikCrusell was born in the Finnish town of Uusikaupunki(Nystad) in 1775, the son of a book-binder. He had hisfirst instruction in the clarinet at the age of eight from anarmy player and was encouraged by an officer to join theband of the Queen Dowager's Regiment, which, in 1791,in Stockholm, he conducted, before appointment to thecourt musical establishment in 1793 as first clarinettist.
Study with the Abbe Georg Joseph Vogler, the CourtKapellmeister, and of the clarinet with Franz Tausch inBerlin, brought a career as a soloist, with a visit to Parisin 1803 that allowed composition lessons with Bertonand Gossec, and further concert tours abroad. InStockholm in 1818 he was appointed musical director ofthe two Royal Grenadier Regiments, a position he helduntil his death in 1838. His varied compositions includeworks for his own instrument, an opera, and chambermusic, and he was also responsible for Swedishtranslations of various opera libretti. His Divertimento inC major, Op. 9, was written in 1822, scored for oboe andstring quartet. The opening Allegro, with duemodulation to the dominant, frames a central C minorAndante poco Adagio, returning to be completed by arapid final section. The work is adept in its handling ofthe oboe, on which demands of virtuosity are made, as itleads the way, linking the principal sections of the piece.
The youngest son and eleventh of the thirteenchildren of Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann ChristianBach was born in Leipzig in 1735 and presumably hadhis early musical training under his father, whom heassisted as the latter neared the end of his life. On hisfather's death in 1750 he joined his brother Carl PhilippEmanuel in Potsdam, and in 1754 moved to Italy,studying with Padre Martini, becoming a Catholic, andestablishing himself in Milan, where, in 1760, hebecame second organist at the Cathedral. His growingreputation as a composer of Italian opera led to aninvitation in 1762 to London, where, like Handel beforehim, he enjoyed royal patronage and a career as acomposer of Italian opera and as a versatile contributorto the musical life of the city. In later years heexperienced financial difficulties, as fashions changed.
He died in London in 1782, mourned by Mozart inVienna, who would have remembered his kindness attheir first meeting in London in 1764. Much of JohannChristian's chamber music is varied in scoring, oftencombining wind and string instruments. His Oboe Quartetin B flat major was issued in August 1776 by Sieber inParis, as the first of a set of concertante string quartetsby J.C. Bach and his friend and colleague in London, thegamba-player C.F. Abel. This replaced a quartet byGiardini, orchestral leader at the King's Theatre, in anotherwise similar set of six quartets published inLondon. It appears in a manuscript in Genoa in a versionfor oboe and strings and in another version there, in E flatmajor, for cor anglais and strings, while the BrusselsBiblioth?¿que Albert 1er attributes the work to Haydn, assome others have