MOZART: Oboe Quartet, K. 370 / Horn Quintet, K. 407 / A Musical Joke
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Quartet in F Major for oboe, violin, viola & cello, K. 370
Quintet in E Flat Major for horn, violin, two violas and cello,K. 407
Ein musikalischer Spass (A Musical Joke), K. 522
Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a musician who was laterappointed Vice-Kapellmeister to the ruling Archbishop, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart woninternational fame as a child prodigy. Adolescence in Salzburg proved less satisfactory,particularly after the death of the old Archbishop and the succession of a new patron whoshowed much less indulgence to members of his household. Leopold Mozart had early realisedthe exceptional gifts of his son and had made it his business to develop them to thedetriment of his own career, but father and son both understood that provincial Salzburgwas far too limited in its opportunities.
In 1777 Mozart's impatience with the limitations of Salzburghad grown to such a pitch that it seemed he must seek his fortune elsewhere. TheArchbishop refused permission for Leopold Mozart and his son to travel abroad, although,of course, he was happy to accept their resignation, should they wish it. Mozart himselfchose this course, while his father, with greater prudence, stayed in Salzburg. Thejourney was to take the young musician to Augsburg, Munich, Mannheim and finally to Paris.
In this he was accompanied by his mother, a woman of simplersensitivities, who had little control over her son's wilder enthusiasms, one of which, thebeginning of a romance with Aloysia Weber, a young singer in Mannheim and one of thedaughters of an unimportant member of the Electoral musical establishment, proveddistinctly alarming. Mozart later married a younger sister of Aloysia Weber, wheneventually free of paternal control in Vienna.
Mannheim, where the Elector Palatine had his court, had one ofthe best orchestras Europe had ever seen, in the words of an English visitor, CharlesBurney, "an army of generals". In December 1777, however, during Mozart's stayin the city, the Elector of Bavaria died, the succession falling to the Elector of thePalatinate, who in August 1778 moved his court to Munich. Early in 1779 Mozart was backagain in Salzburg, where he returned with some reluctance, petitioning the Archbishop forthe position of court organist, which was granted him, as his father had arranged. Twoyears later he was able to visit Munich for the staging of his new opera, Idomeneo, and it seems probable that his Oboe Quartet was written in Munich at this time,perhaps for the former Mannheim oboist Friedrich Ramm and members of the Munich Electoralorchestra. He had earlier written the SinfoniaConcertante, K. 297b, for a group of Mannheim wind-players that included Ramm.
The Oboe Quartet is a particularly attractive work, providing Ramm with an unostentatiousopportunity for subtle virtuosity. The classical first movement allows a briefcontrapuntal use of a descending fourth as instrument follows instrument in the centraldevelopment. The slow movement, with its florid comment on the principal melody entrustedto the oboe, is followed by a final rondo in which the oboe proposes the principal melody,echoed by the violin, before episodes that allow the wind instrument further elements ofelegant display.
After the success of the opera Idomeneo in Munich, Mozart found the service of theArchbishop of Salzburg increasingly distasteful. From Munich he was summoned to Vienna,and there found himself denied opportunities to impress the Emperor. In May he secured hisdismissal, thus jeopardising the livelihood of his father as well, and moved into lodgingswith the Weber family. Frau Weber, after all, still had daughters to marry off, after themarriage in 1780 of the eldest, on whom Mozart had once set his heart. By 1782 he hadmarried a younger sister, Constanze, and settled in Vienna in independence of both fatherand patron, a situation that brought initial success and subsequently more variablefortune before his early death in December 1791.
Mozart wrote his Quintet inE fiat major, K. 407, for French horn, violin, two violas and bass (cello) inVienna in 1782. The work was written in the composer's first year of independence inVienna for the Salzburg horn-player Ignaz Leutgeb (Leitgeb), who had been a member of themusical establishment of the Archbishop and had followed the Mozarts to Italy in 1773.
Leutgeb had settled in Vienna in 1777and there established himself, with money borrowed from Leopold Mozart, in w hat he described as "ein kleinesschneckenhaus" (a little snail-shell of a place), with business as a cheesemonger. Heremained a loyal friend of the Mozarts and it was for him that the composer wrote his hornconcertos and other works with horn obbligato.
The quintet, after a brief introduction, allows the horn theprincipal themes, briefly developed before the re-appearance of the first subject in arecapitulation. The strings open the slow movement, followed by the horn, a reminder ofthe praise French critics had bestowed on Leutgeb twelve years before, when he was thefirst to use hand-stopping horn technique in the city and was much admired for his abilityto "sing an Adagio". The quintet ends with a rondo, in which the horn announcesthe principal melodies in a texture to which the use of two violas instead of two violinsadds a sonorous element.
By 1787 Vienna had grown accustomed to Mozart's presence in thecity. He had followed the success of his German opera >DieEntf??hrung aus dem Serail in 1782 with the Italian Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) in 1786,and now Prague, a city that always valued Mozart, had commissioned the opera Don Giovanni. On 28th May, however, Leopold Mozarthad died in Salzburg. There followed correspondence between him and his married sisterNannerl over the disposition of their father's property. During the course of thesenegotiations he wrote his lighthearted jeu d'esprit Einmusikalischer Spass (A Musical Joke), perhaps remembering his father'scontribution to similar genres.
Scored for two French horns and strings, with a doubled secondviolin part, the reason for which remains obscure, unless to secure a proper imbalancesuitable to village musicians, the Musical Joke makes fun of clumsy attempts at theclassical form, with banal repetitions, endless and meaningless sequences. The firstmovement leads to an unusually solemn Minuet and a Trio with a place for w hat might passfor virtuoso performance by the leading violinist of the group and exposure for the secondviolin's accompaniment figuration. The French horns rest during the slow movement in whichthe village first violinist may shine once more, especially in his cadenza. The finalrondo, with elementary imitative counterpoint on the most banal of musical figures, leadsto final disaster, as the diversion comes to an end on a series of resounding discords.
Joszef Kiss, oboe
Jozsek Kiss was born in Satoraljaujhely in 1961 and studied inBudapest, before joining the Budapest Symphony Orchestra in 1982. He remains a principaloboist in the orchestra and assistant professor of oboe at the Ferenc Liszt Academy ofMusic. In 1984 he won the bronze medal at the Toulon International Oboe Competition andfour years later the wind-players' prize of the Hungarian Radio.
Jeno Kevehazi, French horn
Jeno Kevehazi was born in 1949 and since 1968 has served asfirst horn-player in the Hungarian Radio Orchestra. He won first prize in 1979 at theColmar Competition for Wind-Players an