MOZART: Piano Variations, Vol. 2 (Francesco Nicolosi/ Karol Kopernicky) (Naxos: 8.550612)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Variations Vol. 2
Zwolf Variationen in C ??ber das franzosische Lied
"Ah vous dirai-je maman", K. 265 (300e)
(Twelve Variations in C on the French Song "Ah vousdirai-je maman")
Zwolf Variationen in Es ??ber das franzosische Lied "Labelle fran?ºoise", K.353 (300f)
(Twelve Variations in E Flat on the French Song "La bellefran?ºoise")
Neun Variationen in C ??ber die Ariette "Lisondormait"
aus dem Singspiel "Julie" (Nicolas Dez?¿de), K. 264(315d)
(Nine Variations in C on the Arietta "Lison dormait"from the Play "Julie" by Nicolas Dez?¿de)
Acht Variationen in F ??ber das Chorst??ck "Dieud'amour"
aus der Oper "Les mariages samnites"(Andre-Ernest-Modeste Gretry), K. 352 (374c)
(Eight Variations in F on the Chorus "Dieu d'amour"from the Opera "Les mariages samnites" by Andre-Ernest-Modeste Gretry)
Sechs Variationen in F ??ber die Arie "Salve tu,Domine" aus der Oper "I filosofi immaginarii" (Giovanni Paisiello), K. 398(416e)
(Six Variations in F on the Aria "Salve tu, Domine"from the Opera "I filosofi immaginarii" by Giovanni Paisiello)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, theyoungest and second surviving child of Leopold Mozart, author of a well known treatise onviolin-playing and a musician in the service of the ruling Archbishop. Leopold Mozart wasto sacrifice his own career in order to foster the God-given genius he soon perceived inhis son. A childhood spent in successful tours throughout Europe, in which the youngMozart demonstrated his skill on the violin, and on the keyboard in improvisation and inperformance with his sister Nannerl. There were later visits to Italy and commissionedoperas, but adolescence principally at home in Salzburg proved less satisfactory. Mozart'stalent was none the less, but there seemed little opportunity at home, particularly afterthe death of the old Archbishop and the succession of a less indulgent patron. In 1777Mozart and his father, now Vice-Kapellmeister, were refused leave to travel, and Mozarthimself resigned his position as Konzertmeister of the court orchestra and set out,accompanied only by his mother, to seek his fortune elsewhere. The journey took him toAugsburg, to Munich and eventually to Paris, but only after a prolonged stay in Mannheim,the seat of the Elector Palatine, famous for its musical establishment.
In Mannheim Mozart made many friends among the musicians atcourt, but neither here nor in any of the other places he visited was there a suitableposition for him. The following year, after the death of his mother in Paris, he made hisway slowly back to Salzburg, where his father had found him another position at court thathe retained until 1781, when he found final precarious independence in Vienna, after aquarrel with the Archbishop during the course of a visit to the imperial capital. Thefollowing year he married the penniless younger sister of a singer on whom he had firstset his heart in Mannheim and won initial success with his German opera Die Entf??hrung aus dem Serail. There were pupils andsubscription concerts, and chances to arouse the admiration of fashionable audiences byhis skill as composer and keyboard-player in a new series of piano concertos. By the endof the decade, however, his popularity had waned, although there were signs of a change offortune in the success of a new German opera, DieZauberflote (The Magic Flute), which was still running at the time of hissudden death in December 1791.
Variations on a given theme had long been among the mostpopular forms of music and the surviving cycles of keyboard variations by Mozart remainedamong the most frequently played of his compositions in the century that followed hisdeath. These sets of variations followed the current general practice of varying themelody over harmonies that remained largely the same. The earliest surviving compositionof this type by Mozart was written when he was ten, the last in the year of his death, andthroughout his life there were opportunities for improvised variations, a necessaryelement in the career of a performer and composer.
It is probable that the twelve variations on the French song"Ah vous dirai-je maman" were written in Paris in the summer of 1778, duringMozart's unprofitable stay in the French capital. The theme is well known inEnglish-speaking countries as "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" and first appearedin France in 1761 with accompanying variations in a Paris publication Amusements d'une heure etdemi. By the 1770s it wasenjoying popularity as a favourite subject for variation. Mozart states the theme in itssimplest possible form, with a first variation in right-hand semiquavers and a secondaccompanied by left-hand semiquavers. Right-hand triplet arpeggios mark the thirdvariation, with left-hand triplet arpeggios accompanying the theme in the fourth. There issyncopation in the fifth variation, running semiquavers in the sixth and seventh with acontrapuntal C minor version following. An element of contrapuntal imitation appears inthe ninth variation, with hand-crossing for the melody in the tenth and an Adagioeleventh. The final version of the theme is accompanied by an Alberti bass.
Mozart's twelve variations on the song La belle fran?ºoise were probably written in the samesummer. La belle fran?ºoise was a well knownsong in eighteenth century vaudeville repertoire, originating in the preceding century.The compound time theme is followed by a first variation ornamented in dotted rhythm anda second in which the theme appears first in the right hand and then in the left. Thethird variation is accompanied by triplet semiquavers, the fourth allows a brief cadenzaand the fifth varies the theme in triplet semiquavers. The divided triads of the sixthvariation lead to a seventh that makes use of octaves, an eighth using hand-crossing and aninth in the tonic minor key. The tenth variation uses smaller note values, with the nowcustomary penultimate Adagio, followed by a final Presto and a repetition of the theme.
Mozart's variations on the arietta "Lison dormait"were also written in Paris, at the end of August or in September 1778. The theme came fromthe Comedie melee d'Ariettes "Julie" by Nicolas Dez?¿de, a work firstsuccessfully staged at the The?ótre-Italien in Paris in 1772 and mounted again in August1778, when Mozart presumably saw it. Dez?¿de, variously known as Desaides and De Zaides,was of unknown parentage, but was supposedly the illegitimate son of a German prince, hisname derived simply from the letters d and z, all he knew of his own ancestry. He won somereputation as a composer of pastoral opera in Paris, where he was known as the Orpheus ofthe Fields. The theme is followed by a variation of the melody which, in a secondvariation, is moved to the lower part. The third variation with its melodic additionsleads to a fourth introduced by arpeggiated chords and making use of extended trills, tobe followed by a variation in the tonic minor key and a sixth variation in octaves. Theseventh variation opens with a fuller texture and is succeeded by a penultimate and highlyembellished Adagio, a final Allegro and a repetition of the theme.
In March 1781 Mozart found himself in Vienna, summoned there bythe Archbishop of Salzburg from