MOZART: Piano Sonatas Nos. 11 and 14 / Fantasia in C Minor
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Fantasia in C Minor, K. 475
Sonata in C Minor, K. 457
Sonata in A Major, K. 331 (3001)
Ah, vous dirai-je, maman K. 265 (300e)
(Twelve variations on a French song)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756, the youngest child and onlysurviving son of Leopold Mozart. distinguished as the author of a book onviolin-playing, published in the year of his son's birth, and a member of themusic establishment of the ruling Archbishop of Salzburg. Leopold Mozart soonrealised that his son had exceptional gifts and saw it as his duty to doeverything to foster these, sacrificing his own career as a composer to do so.
He was appointed Vice Kapellmeister in Salzburg, a position he retained untilhis death in 1787.
As a boy Mozart travelled widely, performing as a keyboard-player, withhis eider sister Nannerl, before kings and queens, the nobility and the merelycurious throughout Europe, demonstrating not only precocious technicalaccomplishments but his growing ability as a composer, at first inimprovisation, a necessary part of his art. He also played the violin, aninstrument of which he made little later serious professional use once he hadleft Salzburg. Journeys to Italy widened still further Mozart's experience, withcommissions for operas in Milan, then under Austrian suzerainty. Adolescence inSalzburg, where a new Archbishop had succeeded the family's earlier, moreindulgent patron in 1772, was frustrating. The new Archbishop, a supporter ofthe ecclesiastical reforms of the Emperor, had clear ideas of the duties ofthose in his service, with the result that Mozart, denied permission to travel,in 1777 resigned in order to seek his fortune elsewhere, a process that broughtmusical but not material benefit, as he dawdled in Mannheim and tried to provehimself in Paris. Early in 1779, his ambitions unsatisfied, he returned toSalzburg, still as Konzertmeister, but with the additional position of courtorganist.
Late in 1780 Mozart was in Munich for the production of his opera Idomeneo, commissioned by the Elector andinvolving many of his friends from Mannheim. From there he was summoned toVienna to join his patron but deprived of w hat he saw as an opportunity foradvancement in the service of the Emperor, he quarrelled openly with theArchbishop and was dismissed. For the next ten years he remained in Vienna,distinguishing himself at first as a performer, a composer and as a teacher,but finding increasing difficulties in supporting himself and the dowerless wifehe had taken in 1782 from an income that was variable, as fashions came andwent.
The decade in Vienna gave Mozart the opportunity he had long desired inthe opera-house, with a successful German opera in 1772, the Singspiel Die Entf??hrung aus dem Serail, followed bythe Italian operas Le nozze di Figaro in1786 and Don Giovanni in the following year. 1790 brought Cost fan tutte and 1791 the opera seria La clemenza di Tito and theGerman Singspiel Die Zauberflote,a magic opera that was drawing audiences at a suburban theatre at the time ofthe composer's sudden death on 5th December. Vienna allowed Mozart a furtheropportunity as a composer and performer with a series of piano concertosincluded in subscription concerts he arranged, while he was in endless demand,particularly in his earlier years in the capital, as a keyboard-player inprivate and public concerts.
The later 18th century brought, among many other technicaldevelopments, a change in keyboard instruments in domestic and concert use. Theharpsichord, the principal instrument in domestic and concert use, wasgradually replaced by the fortepiano, with its hammer action and increaseddynamic range. The instruments that Mozart used were capable of the mostdelicate articulation, more limited in range than the modern pianoforte, butrepresenting the highest technical achievement of makers such as Stein andWalter, the former of whom, who had experimented with a coupledfortepiano-cum-harpsichord, made for Mozart a pedal fortepiano, valued in his estateof 80 florins, less than a third of his outstanding tailor's bill.
Mozart entered the C Minor Sonata,K. 457, in his own catalogue of compositions on 14th October 1784.
The C Minor Fantasia, K. 475, wasentered on 20th May 1785. The first published edition, however, issued byArtaria and advertised on 5th December 1785, announces a Fantaisie et SonataPour le Fortepiano and is dedicated to Madame Therese de Trattnern, the wife ofMozart's then landlord in Vienna, Johann Thomas von Trattner, and a pupil ofMozart. The Fantasia, at least, seems to have formed part of the composer'sprogramme at his concert in Leipzig on 12th May 1789, an event that broughtapplause and glory but little material profit. The coupling of Fantasia andSonata was clearly not on I y sanctioned by Mozart but represented his originalintention, as is apparent from the musical connection between the two.
The Fantasia, recallingin more than its choice of key the great Cminor Piano Concerto, opens with a dramatic slow introduction.
Leading through various shifts of key to an Allegro, a B flat Andantino and aconclusion that returns to the key and material of the opening. The followingsonata, possibly the greatest of Mozart's keyboard sonatas, and one that leadsthe way to a completely new approach to the form, opens with the notes of thetriad, poignantly answered. There is major slow movement with a principal themeworthy of Figaro's Countess and passages of technical virtuosity, leading to aC minor final rondo that avoids any temptation to follow the convention of achange to the major mode in its conclusion and explores the lowest ranges ofthe instrument, its principal theme framing episodes contrasting in key andcharacter. The Fantasia and Sonata come at the height of Mozart's career as aperformer, a fact that accounts for the technical demands made on the playerand for the depth of feeling implicit in the musical contents of the work.
The A major Sonata, K. 331,belongs to a brighter world and is among the best known of Mozart's keyboardsonatas. Its first movement theme has found its way even into orchestralrepertoire with Max Reger's monumental Variationsand Fugue on a theme of Mozart while the last has enjoyed anindependent existence under the hands of many a tiro and was even used by thecomposer's friends Stephen Storace in his pasticcio opera The Siege ofBelgrade, staged at Drury Lane in London in 1791. In a letter completed on 12thJune 1784 and written from Vienna to his father in Salzburg Mozart mentions a setof three keyboard sonatas that he had earlier sent home to his sister and thatwere then being engraved by the publisher Artaria, who advertised them for salein August of the same year. It is thought that the sonatas were written eitherin Vienna or in Salzburg during the course of 1783 rather than at any earlierdate.
The gentle pastoral lilt of the theme of the first movement of the Amajor Sonata is followed by six variations that include a third in the key of Aminor, a fourth with hand-crossing, a very considerable feature of the C minorSonata, a fifth Adagio and a final Allegro. The second movement is a Minuet,with a D major Trio, and this is followed by the famous Rondo alla Turca, aform of popular exoticism that bears little relation to the kind of musicVienna under Turkish siege had heard at its gates a hundred years before.
The twelve variations on the French song Ah, vous dirai-je Maman, K.265