MOZART: German Dances (Capella Istropolitana/ Johannes Wildner/ Karol Kopernicky) (Naxos: 8.550412)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756- 1791)
Twelve German Dances/Zwolf deutsche Tanze/Douze danses allemandes, K.
Thirteen German Dances/Dreizehn deutsche Tanze/Treize dansesallemandes, K. 600, K. 602 & K. 605
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of acourt musician who, in the year of his youngest child's birth, published aninfluential book on violin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy the positionof Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, but sacrificed his own creativecareer to that of his son, in whom he detected early signs of precociousgenius. With the indulgence of his patron, he was able to undertake extendedconcert tours of Europe in which his son and his older daughter Nannerl wereable to astonish audiences. The boy played both the keyboard and the violin andcould improvise and soon write down his own compositions.
Childhood that had brought signal success was followed by a lesssatisfactory period of adolescence largely in Salzburg, under the patronage ofa new and less sympathetic Archbishop. Mozart, like his father, foundopportunities far too limited at home, while chances of travel were nowrestricted. In 1777, when leave of absence was not granted, he gave upemployment in Salzburg to seek a future elsewhere, but neither Mannheim norParis, both musical centres of some importance, had anything for him. HisMannheim connections, however, brought a commission for an opera in Munich in1781, and after its successful staging he was summoned by his patron to Vienna.
There Mozart's dissatisfaction with his position resulted in a quarrel with theArchbishop and dismissal from his service.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in Vienna in precariousindependence of both patron and immediate paternal advice, a situationaggravated by an imprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-house and asa performer was followed, as the decade went on, by increasing financialdifficulties. By the time of his death in December 1791, however, his fortunesseemed about to change for the better, with the success of the German opera TheMagic Flute, and the possibility of increased patronage.
In Vienna Mozart found some intermittent favour at court. The onIypositive expression of imperial approval came after the death of Gluck in 1787,when he was appointed Royal and Imperial Court Composer at a salary of 800gulden, to Gluck's stipend of 2000. In a letter to his sister he expressed withhis usual optimism his belief that the sum granted him would soon be increased.
As he later remarked, it was too much for what he did, and too little for whathe could do, since the position carried no duties, except the possibleoccasional provision of dance music, for which there had always been somedemand.
Mozart's dances, the earliest of which were written in childhood,consist principally of Minuets, Landler or German dances and Contredanses. TheTwelve German Dances of K. 586 were written in Vienna in December 1789.
Although varied in instrumentation, the whole set of dances calls for pairs offlutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani, flauto piccoloand strings without violas, and each, according to custom, frames a Trio. Theflauto piccolo is thought to have been the fiageolet rather than the modernpiccolo and the composer expressed some uncertainty about the key in which itspart should be written. In addition to these instruments a tambourine is usedin the Trio of the fifth of the set. The form of the dance itself may seem tolimit invention, but Mozart is able to provide considerable textural variety inhis subtle scoring of music that is, in essence, very simple, using oboes andclarinets as alternative instruments. The set of dances ends with a coda.
The six dances that are listed as K. 600 are generally supposed to formpart of a cycle of thirteen German dances, including K. 602 and K. 605. Thesegroups of dances, variously listed by Kochel, bear the dates of 29th January,and 5th and 12th February 1791, a time when Mozart had completed his last pianoconcerto and was continuing to press his fellow-mason Michael Puchberg formoney to tide him over a period of temporary embarrassment that already seemedto have lasted a few years. The dances are scored for pairs of flutes, oboesalternating with clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, with athree-part string section of first and second violin, and cello doubled by thedouble bass. In addition to these instruments the Trio of the ninth dance ofthe set calls for a lira, presumably the lira organizzata or hurdy-gurdy, hereaccompanied by bassoons and strings. The Trio of the last dance, the musicalsleigh-ride, calls for two post-horns and tuned sleigh-bells, which also joinin the coda. The fifth dance includes a Trio with the title Der Kanarienvogel, a bird whose presenceis soon apparent. All the dances show a finely judged variety of texture,achieved, within severe limitations of form, by the subtlest handling ofinstrumentation.
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of the SlovakPhilharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as anorchestra large enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based inBratislava, its name drawn from the ancient name still preserved in theAcademia Istropolitana, the orchestra works in the recording studio andundertakes frequent tours throughout Europe. Recordings by the orchestra on theNaxos label include The Best of Baroque Music, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos,fifteen each of Mozart's and Haydn's symphonies as well as works by Handel,Vivaldi and Telemann.
Johannes Wildner was born in the Austrian resort of M??rzzuschlag in1956 and studied violin and conducting, taking his diploma at the ViennaMusikhochschule and proceeding to a doctorate in musicology. A member of theVienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Johannes Wildner has toured widely as leader ofthe Vienna Symphony Orchestra's Johann Strauss Ensemble and of the ViennaMozart Academy. As a conductor he has directed the Orchestra Sinfonicadell'Emilia Romagna Arturo Toscanini, the Budapest State Opera Orchestra, theSilesian Philharmonic and the Malmo Symphony Orchestra.