MOZART: Overtures (Barry Wordsworth/ Capella Istropolitana/ Martin Sauer) (Naxos: 8.550185)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
The life of Mozart and more particularlyhis early death have given rise to romantic speculation of various kinds. Thefilm based on the play Amadeus, intended by its author as a fictional study ofjealousy and human paradox, has given further currency to gossip about thecomposer's death, with writers suggesting various candidates for the positionof murderer, ranging from his wife's lover to the jealous husband of afavourite pupil, free-masons seeking revenge for the betrayal of their secrets,or, as in the work of the Russian poet Pushkin, turned into an opera byRimsky-Korsakov, the Court Composer Salieri.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born inSalzburg in 1756, the son of a court musician, Leopold Mozart, who in the yearof his son's birth had published an important book on violin-playing and waswinning a reputation for this and for his work as a composer. Leopold Mozartrealised very soon the exceptional talent of his son, and resolved to do hisbest to foster it, sacrificing at the same time his own career. He was tobecome Vice Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, retaining thatposition until his death in 1787.
In childhood Mozart and his elder sisterNannerl, the only two surviving children of the family, travelled widelythroughout Europe, performing before kings and queens, the nobility and thecurious. This period of early success was followed by disappointment as the boygrew older. Salzburg seemed to offer very little opportunity, and the death ofthe old Archbishop in 1772 had led to the appointment of a reformist successorwho proved very much less indulgent to members of his household. It seemed thatMozart deserved better than provincial Salzburg could offer, and in 1777 heleft home to seek a position elsewhere, visiting Munich, Mannheim and Pariswithout the kind of success that he wanted, compelled finally to returnreluctantly home again.
It was not until 1781 that Mozarteventually broke with his patron, the Archbishop, during the course of a visitto Vienna. The last ten years of his life were spent in the imperial capital,without significant patronage and, more important, without the immediateguidance of his father, who remained in Salzburg. Independent at last, Mozartmarried imprudently, won some early success in the opera-house and in concertsof his works, but was never one to cut his coat according to the cloth. Hisincome from composition, performance and teaching was variable and as thedecade came to an end proved quite inadequate for the maintenance of what heregarded as a suitable style of living.
At the time of his death Mozart wasenjoying some popular success with his German opera, The Magic Flute andit seemed that his fortunes had begun to take a turn for the better, in spiteof the neglect he suffered from the new Emperor. He died on 5th December, 1791,after a short illness, leaving unfinished the commissioned Requiem Mass whichhe had superstitiously suggested might celebrate his own death.
Salzburg had no permanent opera-house.
Nevertheless Mozart, even as a child, wrote music for theatrical performancesof one sort or another, before he finally availed himself of the opportunitiesthat Vienna offered during the last ten years of his life.
The first stage work to which Mozartcontributed was a Latin school play for Salzburg University, Apollo etHyacinthus, an Intermezzo to be performed in May, 1767, between the acts ofthe main play, Clementia Croesi. The original legend was adapted to themorality of the day, with the introduction of suitable female characters. Theshort Overture is scored for oboes, horns and strings, the standard orchestraof the time.
Mozart's next stage work was an operabuffa, La finta semplice, with a libretto adapted from Goldoni, andplanned for performance in Vienna in 1768, but prevented by professionalintrigue. The work was later performed in Salzburg, but the Overture is notincluded here, since it is in fact a symphony composed earlier in the year.
The visit to Vienna in 1768 provided theopportunity for another work for the theatre, the German Singspiel Bastienund Bastienne, derived from a parody of Rousseau's pastoral Le devin duvillage. This was commissioned by Anton Mesmer, proponent of popularpseudo-medical theories of animal magnetism and a friend of the Mozarts. Thepiece deals with misunderstandings between the pastoral lovers of the title,settled by the village magician. The brief G major Overture makes use of theusual orchestral forces.
Mitridate, r?¿ di Ponto,was written for Milan and first performed there on Boxing Day, 1770. Thelibretto was adapted at second-hand from Racine's Mithridate and offered thecomposer his first opera seria text, a genre that was increasingly to bedisplaced by newer fashions of realism. The story, an improbable adaptation ofhistory, deals with conflicting claims of love and filial piety in the familyof Mithridates, whose two sons are rivals with him for the love of hisbetrothed Aspasia. The Overture is in the form of an Italian three-movementsinfonia, scored for pairs of flutes, oboes and horns, and strings.
followed further commissions for Italy and was first performed in Milan onBoxing Day, 1772, before the Archduke and Archduchess, the former keeping audienceand performers waiting for three hours while he wrote New Year greetings hometo the Emperor and the Empress. The libretto treats the life of the Romandictator Sulla with considerable freedom, providing a drama in the conventionsof opera seria. The Overture is in the form of an Italian sinfonia and usestrumpets and drums in addition to the usual oboes, horns, and strings.
With a new Archbishop enthroned inSalzburg in 1773, the Mozarts found their activities circumscribed. In 1774,however, there came a commission for a new opera for Munich. La fintagiardiniera, an opera buffa with a libretto by Gluck's reform librettistCalzabigi, was well enough received at its first performance on 13th January,1773. The Overture, a sinfonia with a central slow movement, is scored foroboes, horns and strings. Mozart added a third movement for concert use.
Back in Salzburg in March Mozart provideda festa teatrale to celebrate the visit of the youngest son of the Empress,Archduke Max. Il r?¿ pastore was adapted from Metastasio, the court poet,and had originally been performed by the children of the Imperial family. It isa decorous tale of love and pastoral identities assumed wittingly or not byprinces. The C major Overture is scored for oboes, horns, trumpets and strings.
was commissioned for Munich and given its first performance there on 29thJanuary 1781. The libretto deals with the story of Idomeneo, King of Crete, whopromises to sacrifice the first living thing he meets on shore, on his safe returnfrom Troy. His son is the destined victim, saved from his fate by theintervention of Neptune. The larger orchestra at Munich provided flutes, oboes,clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, drums and strings, employed in thedramatic Overture.
Die Entf??hrung aus dem Serail,a German Singspiel on a fashionable Turkish subject of rescue from the harem,marked the first dramatic success of Mozart in Vienna, where it was firstperformed at the Burgtheater on 16th July 1782. It blends elements of comedy withhigh seriousness. The Overture, in "Turkish" style, uses cymbals,triangle and bass drum, piccolo, o