MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 19, 20 and 37 (John Taylor/ Nicholas Ward/ Northern Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550875)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Symphony No.19 in E Flat Major, K. 132
Symphony No.20 in D Major, K. 133
Symphony No.37 in G Major, K. 444
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 Symphony No.19 in E flat major, K.132, and Symphony No.20in D major, K. 133, were written in Salzburg in July 1772, followed, inAugust, by the Symphony No.21 in A major, K. 134. The period came afterthe Mozarts' second visit to Italy and before the return of Leopold Mozart andhis son to Milan later in the year. The first of these, scored for two oboes andfour horns, two in high E flat and two in low E flat, with strings, opens with aprincipal theme, entrusted to the strings, followed by a transition in which alltake part. The strings again announce the second subject, the violins in thirdsaccompanied at first only by violas and sustained French horn notes. There is norepetition of the exposition marked and the central development opens with ashift of key into C minor. The material of the exposition is duly repeated, withthe necessary modulations, in the final recapitulation. The slow movement, anAndante, is scored for pairs of oboes and of B flat horns, with strings, theselast opening the ternary movement, with its central contrast of key. TheViennese Minuet, now in E flat once more, with the E flat horns, has a C minorTrio for strings alone, after which the Minuet is repeated, according to custom.
The final rondo opens with the principal theme, with a first episode in B flat,a second in C minor and a third in A flat, between and after which the principaltheme is heard again.
Symphony No.20 in D major, K. 133, includes a pair of trumpets in a windsection that otherwise makes use of the usual pair of oboes and two horns in D.
Its slow movement is for flute and strings only. At the outset the key isestablished with a call to the listener's attention, after which the firstviolin states the principal theme. There is a varied transition to the secondsubject, a theme played by first and second violins in octaves. After thecentral development the second subject returns, leaving the first theme to findits place in the final coda. Muted first violins join with the flute in theprincipal theme of the A major slow movement, a procedure followed as the musiccontinues, although there is room for interplay between the two, particularly inthe central section. Oboes, trumpets and horns return for the Minuet, framing aG major Trio for oboes and strings, leading to a final movement in a rapid 12/8metre and dominated by its principal theme, treated contrapuntally at the startof the central section. The music is impelled forward by the continuing rhythmof the material to an emphatic conclusion.
Symphony No.37 in G major, K.444, is a work of a very different kind, asymphony that is largely the work of Joseph Haydn's younger brother Michael, whohad long held an important position in the Salzburg musical establishment.
Mozart's contribution is an introduction to the first movement, written during avisit to Linz in 1783. The opening Adagio maestoso makes an impressiveintroduction to a movement scored for oboes, horns in G and strings, followed byan Allegro con spirito that is very much in the style of the period with a firstsubject based on the notes of the triad and a pleasing enough second subjectstated by the first violin. New material is introduced in the middle section ofthe movement, before the return of the principal theme in recapitulation. The Cmajor slow movement is scored at first for flute and horns in C and isintroduced by the strings with the later assistance of the flute. The stringshave a C minor section of the movement to themselves with a busy tripletsemiquaver accompaniment from the cello and dynamic contrasts worthy