MOZART: Piano Variations, Vol. 3 (Francesco Nicolosi/ Karol Kopernicky) (Naxos: 8.550613)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Variations Vol. 3
Zehn Variationen in G ??ber die Ariette "Unser dummerPobel meint"
aus dem Singspiel "Die Pilgrime von Mekka" (ChristophWillibald Gluck), K. 455
Ten Variations in G on the Arietta "Unser dummer Pobelmeint" from the Singspiel "Die Pilgrime von Mekka" by Christoph WillibaldGluck)
Zwolf Variationen in B Flat ??ber ein Allegretto, K. 500
(Twelve Variations in B Flat on an Allegretto)
Neun Variationen in D ??ber ein Menuett von Jean Pierre Duport,K. 573
(Nine Variations in D on a Minuet by Jean Pierre Duport)
Acht Variationen in F ??ber das Lied "Ein Weib ist dasherrlichste Ding" aus dem Singspiel "Der dumme Gartner"
(Benedikt Schack? oder Franz Gerl), K. 613
(Eight Variations on the Song "Ein Weib ist dasherrlichste Ding" from the Singspiel "Der dumme Gartner" by BenediktSchack? with Franz Gerl)
Acht Variationen in A ??ber die Arie "Comeun'agnello" aus der Oper "Fra i due litiganti" (Giuseppe Sarti), K. 460(454a)
(Eight Variations in A on the Aria "Come un agnello"from the Opera "Fra i due litiganti" by Giuseppe Sarti
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.
Gluck's Comedie meleed'ariettes Les P?¿lerins de Mecque (The Pilgrims of Mecca), otherwise La rencontre imprevue (The Unexpected Meeting), wasfirst staged at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1764. A German version followed in 1776 witha new staging in July 1780. The air "Unser dummer Pobel meint" (Our simplepeople believe) is for the comic bass Calender. The ten completed variations by Mozart aredated 25th August 1784 and follow an earlier unfinished set of variations. Thestraightforward Singspiel theme is followed by a melodic variation in semiquavers and asecond variation with a semiquaver accompaniment. The third variation is in tripletrhythm, the fourth introduced by the theme in left-hand octaves and the fifth in the tonicminor key, exploring a low register of the keyboard. Trills accompany the theme in thesixth variation, with chromatic harmonies in the seventh and crossing of hands in theeighth, with its final cadenza leading to an elaborately ornamented Adagio. The tenthvariation starts ingenuously enough but leads to an extended cadenza, the re-appearance ofthe theme and a final exercise in virtuoso hand-crossing in the lowest register of thekeyboard.
Mozart's twelve variationson an Allegretto, K. 500, carries the date 12th September 1786, the year of theopera Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro).
The gavotte theme chosen is of unknown origin, but was presumably not by Mozart. Thecheerful theme is melodically varied first in triplets, then in semiquavers. The fourthvariation uses an Alberti bass, with a poignant fifth version, a sixth in Alberti typefiguration and a seventh in the tonic minor key. A delicate eighth variation of increasingvolume leads to the scales of a ninth and a tenth with its share of hand-crossing, itsfinal cadenza followed by a relatively simple Adagio. The Allegro twelfth variation iscapped by the re-appearance of the theme itself.
In the spring of 1789 Mozart accompanied Prince Karl Lichnowskyon a journey to Berlin and the Prussian court at Potsdam, seat of King Wilhelm FriedrichII, nephew of Frederick the Great and an enthusiastic amateur ce