MOZART: Organ Music (Ibolya Toth/ Janos Sebestyen) (Naxos: 8.550514)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
The first mention of Mozart's playing of the organ was of aperformance on the instrument at Ybbs on 4th October 1762, when he was six. The Mozartfamily had travelled from Linz towards Vienna on the Danube. Priests who were in theircompany stopped at Ybbs to say Mass, and the boy, in his father's account, played about onthe organ to such effect that members of the religious community left w hat they were atto listen to him in amazernent. The following summer the Mozarts set out on the firstgreat journey through Europe. In Wasserburg, where they were delayed by a brokencarriage-wheel, and Mozart played the organ in the church, his father showed him the useof the pedals, and he then proceeded to play standing up on the pedals, which otherwisehis legs would never have reached.
Leopold Mozart's letters to his friend, landlord and banker,Lorenz Hagenauer, continue to inform us of the family's progress. In Heidelberg the boyagain played the organ, this time in the Church of the Holy Ghost, and caused suchastonishment that the Town Magistrate ordered the event to be recorded on an inscription.
In Frankfurt, where the young Goethe heard the children, Mozart was advertised as able toimprovise on the organ. By December they were in Paris, where the boy played the organ inthe Court Chapel on New Year's Day and in London his ability on the organ was againadvertised as one of his remarkable accomplishments. On the return journey in 1766 Mozartplayed on the organ Caprices, Fugues and other of his own compositions, and furtherperformances and exhibitions of virtuosity on the instrument followed, as they travelledhome.
On subsequent journeys Mozart again showed his prowess on theorgan, at first during the three visits to Italy and then again in 1777 in Augsburg, wherehe reportedly told the instrument-maker Stein of his admiration for the organ as the kingof instruments. In the same year he had little good to report of the Mannheim organists.
At the end of the next decade we hear of a contest on the keyboard between Mozart andHassler, during the composer's visit to Dresden, on his way to Berlin. In thiscompetition Mozart proved the better organist, while in Leipzig he improvised on the organonce played by Bach at the Thomaskirche. In short, while winning a considerable reputationfor himself as a master of nuance on the fortepiano, as Stein remarked in Augsburg, Mozartnevertheless had a great admiration for the organ. Regrettably he used the instrumentprimarily for improvisation, so that relatively little of his music for the organ was everwritten down. Nevertheless it must be remembered that it was possible to play even on theclavichord in "organ style", as he did during his visit to Augsburg in 1777 atthe request of the Dean of the Monastery of the Holy Cross.
Mozart started to write short pieces for w hat has become knownas his London Sketch-Book in 1764, during the course of his long stay in London. Hissister Nannerl, as part of Leopold Mozart's educational scheme for his children, had kepta similar notebook from 1759, and now it was the turn of her brother. The note-bookcontains 43 pieces, the last of them the beginning of a four-voice fugue, with bassocontinuo, and these seem to represent the eight-year-old composer's unaided work, withoccasional comments from his eider sister, unlike the works intended for publication,which his father supervised. Not unnaturally these short pieces are often derivative. K. 15, for example, is said to have similaritieswith a sonata by Franz Xaver Richter.
From 13th December 1769 until 28th March 1771 Leopold Mozartand his son were in Italy. They spent three months in Bologna, where Wolfgang took lessonsfrom Padre Martini and was admitted as a member of the Accademia Filarmonica, and fourmonths in Milan for the staging of his newly commissioned opera Mitridate, Re di Ponto. They had travelled to Italyby way of Innsbruck and Bozen (Bolzano), thence to Verona, where the young Mozart againgave an impressive display of his ability as an organist. His portrait was painted thereby Saverio dalla Rosa, at the request of Pietro Lugiati, a well known patron of the artsand Receiver-General of Venice, a man of considerable local importance. The portrait showsMozart seated at the harpsichord, an instrument by Giovanni Celestinus, dated Venice 1583,with the music of his Molto allegro, K. 72a, the so called Veroneser Allegro, on themusic-stand. This is the only source for the work, which is, in consequence, incomplete.
Mozart's stay in Paris in 1778 brought only disappointment,enhanced by the illness and death of his mother. Little of this is reflected in thecompositions of the period, which apparently include three sets of keyboard variations onmelodies popular in Paris at the time. The twelve variations on Ah, vous dirai-je, maman,were intended for performance on the fortepiano, but it is clear that Mozart was notaverse from the occasional jeu d'esprit on the organ, to the amazement and sometimes theamusement of those who heard him.
Early in 1779 Mozart returned to Salzburg from his abortivesearch for employment elsewhere. As court organist he made some contribution to liturgicalrepertoire, and wrote further Epistle Sonatas. The last of these, K. 336 in C major, wasprobably composed in March 1780 and includes a concertante organ part, which the composerwould presumably have played himself, although there were other organists in the courtmusical establishment to carry out many of the normal duties involved in his nominalappointment. It is scored additionally for two violins, bass instruments and ripienoorgan.
There has been some confusion about the precise date of the Praludium in C major, K. 284a, which seems to be oneof the four "Preambele" that Mozart sent his sister from Munich in October 1777.
rather than the later work he sent her from Paris in July the following year. An openingAllegretto leads to a toccata-like Capriccio, modulating to B flat, the key of a briefAndantino passage, which finds its way back again to C major for a final Capricciosection.
There are problems, too, about the C minor Fantasie, K. 396, of 1781, which exists as aSonata and Variations for violin and piano, but which, it has been postulated, wasoriginally conceived as a keyboard work only. The completed keyboard version has beenattributed to the Abbe Maximilan Stadler, a musician who, together with Mozart'sbrother-in-law, was entrusted with the task of setting in order the manuscripts left byMozart at his death in 1791. The extent of his arrangements and completions of incompleteworks by Mozart can only be a matter of surmise. The Fantasy, marked Adagio, moves fromthe key of G minor in improvisatory style to a final G major section.
The D minor Fantasie, K. 397,is also incomplete, and the autograph is lost. It was probably written in Vienna in 1782,the year of Mozart's marriage and of the successful German opera Die Entf??hrung aus dem Serail, and opens with aslower introduction section, followed by a charming Allegretto. Only the composer'sclosing section is missing, completed in the first published version by the LeipzigThomascantor August Eberhard M??ller, later Kapellmeister in Goethe's Weimar and adviserand editor to the Leipzig publishers Breitkopf und Hartel.
The same year, 1782, saw the composition of a Suite in G major, an excursion into the Baroque,reflecting Mozart's interests and those of some of his contemporaries in Vienna,particularly Baron van Swieten, self-appointed arbiter elegantium at