MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 11 - 14 (John Taylor/ Nicholas Ward/ Northern Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550873)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Symphony No.11 in D Major, K. 84
Symphony No.12 in G Major, K. 110
Symphony No.13 in F Major, K. 112
Symphony No.14 in A Major, K. 114
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of theviolinist and composer, Leopold Mozart, a musician employed by the rulingArchbishop, and a man of some intellectual ability. In childhood Mozart and hiselder sister Anna-Maria, known in the family as Nannerl to her brother's Wolferl,toured Europe as infant prodigies, received at court in the countries theyvisited and providing a general subject of curiosity and interest. Thechildren's education and musical training was supervised by their father, whowas quick to realise his son's genius and sacrificed his own career to fosterit.
As Mozart grew to manhood there was evident a disparity between his naturalexpectations and the realities of provincial Salzburg, where an indulgent patronhad been succeeded by an Archbishop very much less willing to allow members ofhis household to absent themselves for months or years on end. Leopold Mozarthad, perforce, to be content with his lot as Vice-Kapellmeister, but in 1777 hisson left Salzburg, accompanied only by his mother, to seek employment elsewhere,in Munich, Mannheim or Paris, where, in June, 1778, his mother died. Nowhere didthere seem to be a position available in any way equal to what Mozart saw as hisdesert, and early in 1779 he returned reluctantly to Salzburg, where he wasgiven a position once more, with equal reluctance, by the Archbishop.
The summer of 1780 brought a commission for an opera in Munich. Idomeneo,re di Creta, was staged there with some success in January, 1781. Therefollowed a summons from the Archbishop to attend him in Vienna and an uneasy fewmonths in which the young composer grew increasingly resentful, irked by hissubservient position and the refusal of his patron to allow him to earn moneyand honour by performing before the Emperor. In May there was an open quarrel,resulting in Mozart's dismissal. For the remaining ten years of his life he wasto seek to earn a living in Vienna, independent of a patron, although he waslater to be given a relatively unimportant position at court.
The Vienna years, during which Leopold Mozart was no longer at hand tocontrol his son's wilder plans, brought initial success in the opera-house andin the public concerts Mozart gave. His marriage to an impecunious girl, whoseearlier acquaintance he had made in Mannheim, when he had courted her sister,did nothing to assist his career, and by the end of the decade he was oftendepressed by the financial difficulties of the course he had chosen. He died in1791, at a time when his fortunes seemed about to take a turn for the better.
Although he had been ignored by the new Emperor, he had, nevertheless, fulfilleda coronation opera commission in Prague and was enjoying some popular successwith his new German opera The Magic Flute. The unfinished work he leftincluded a Requiem Mass, later completed by his pupil S??ssmayer.
During the second half of the century the orchestral symphony, derived inpart from the Italian operatic overture of earlier years, assumed increasingimportance. Its most common instrumentation, calling for pairs of oboes andFrench horns, with a four-part string section and possible keyboard continuo,suited very well the resources most often available in the musicalestablishments of ruling families and the nobility. The four-movement symphony,including a Minuet and Trio generally as its third movement, opened with anAllegro in the tripartite sonata- or sonata-allegro form of a two-subjectexposition, followed by a development and recapitulation. A contrasting slowmovement in a related key was often in ternary form, a central section framed bya repeated opening section. The symphony might be expected to end in a form ofrondo, following the key-pattern expected in sonata-form and offering contrastedepisodes framed by a repetition of the principal theme.
Mozart's first attempts at the symphony were made during the fruitful andextended concert-tour undertaken between June 1763 and November 1766. Late in1769 Mozart left Salzburg with his father to visit Italy for the first time, andthere he enjoyed similar success, now being able to fulfil a commission for anopera, Mitridate, r?¿ di Ponto, which was performed in Milan on BoxingDay, 1770. He completed his Symphony in D major, K.84, in July 1770, andrefers to the work in a postscript to one of his father's letters home on 4thAugust from Bologna. The symphony seems to have been written in Milan andBologna, to the latter of which the Mozarts travelled after visiting Naples andRome. It is one of a group of three-movement works on the Italian pattern.
Scored for pairs of oboes and French horns, with strings, the first movementstarts with a lively first subject, leading to a gentler second subjectentrusted at first to the strings. The A major triple-time Andante opens with atheme for the strings, then joined, in repetition, by the wind instruments,material that frames a central section in the dominant key. The final Allegrostarts with an arpeggio figure in a movement where triplet figuration latercomes to predominate.
The Mozarts returned to Salzburg in March 1771 and here in July the youngcomposer completed the Symphony in G major, K.110. In four movements, itis scored for the usual pairs of oboes and horns, with the strings joined byflutes and bassoons in the slow movement. In the opening triple-time Allegro theoboe doubles the violin in the first subject. After a second subject thematerial is developed, at first by the strings, before the final recapitulation.
The C major Andante allows the strings the first statement of the principaltheme, joined by sustained notes from flutes and bassoons. Oboes and Frenchhorns return for the third movement Menuetto with its contrasting E minor Triofor strings only. The final rondo bases its principal and recurrent theme on thenotes of the arpeggio.
After five months in Salzburg, Mozart, accompanied by his father, returnedagain to Italy, where his Serenata, Ascanio in Alba, was to be performed inOctober for the wedding of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and Maria Beatriced'Este, a princess of Modena. His Symphony in F major, K.112, wascompleted in Milan on 2nd November 1771. It is scored for pairs of oboes andFrench horns, with strings. The first movement has a principal theme derivedfrom the descending notes of the arpeggio, gently answered. Less usually thesecond subject is introduced by oboes and violas, answered by the violins. Thereis the brief expected central development and recapitulation. The B flat majorAndante allows the first violin the principal theme, accompanied by brokenchords from the second violins and violas. The Menuetto frames a C major Triofor strings and the symphony ends with a rondo.
In the middle of December 1771 father and son returned to Salzburg, where, on30th December, Mozart completed his Symphony in A major, K.114. This isscored for pairs of flutes, alternating with oboes, and French horns, withstrings, which start the first subject of the opening Allegro moderato,continued with the whole orchestra, the flute an octave higher than the violins.
The strings begin the second subject and the exposition has a dramatic closingsection, before the development, where the flutes, in thirds, are answered bythe violas. The movement ends with a recapitulation. Oboes replace flutes in theD major triple-time Andante, which is fo