MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 21 - 24 and 26 (John Taylor/ Nicholas Ward/ Northern Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550876)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Symphony No.21 in A Major, K.134
Symphony No.22 in C Major, K. 162
Symphony No.23 in D Major, K. 181
Symphony No.24 in B Flat Major, K. 182
Symphony No.26 in E Flat Major, K. 184
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 in E flat major, K.132, and Symphony in D major,K. 133, were written in Salzburg in July 1772, followed, in August, by SymphonyNo.21 in A major, K. 134. The period came after the Mozarts' second visit toItaly and before the return of Leopold Mozart and his son to Milan later in theyear. The Symphony in A major is scored for flutes, horns in D and strings. Itsprincipal theme, based on an ascending arpeggio figuration, is stated by thefirst violins, entrusted also with the delicately lyrical second subject. It isthe first subject opening figure that opens the central development, while thesecond subject returns in the tonic key and then in the tonic minor, with theprincipal subject allowed a brief final return before the coda. The firstviolins offer the main theme of the D major Andante, with a busy broken chordaccompaniment from the second violins in a ternary form movement marked by theflow of rapid notes, whether in accompaniment or in thematic material. Thestrongly marked rhythm of the Minuet that follows encloses a D major Trio in themiddle part of which plucked violin chords echo the notes of the windinstruments. The violins start the final Allegro, the first theme providing acontrast with the syncopation of the second. There is a short development beforethe first theme returns, duly followed by the second, now in the tonic key,leading to a conclusion in which the chord of A major is emphatically repeated.
Mozart wrote his Symphony No.22 in C major, K.162, in the spring of1773 in Salzburg. It is scored for strings with pairs of oboes, and horns andtrumpets in C and opens imposingly, with a delicately pointed second subjectwhich is very briefly developed before the recapitulation. The F major Andantinograzioso allows oboes and horns to cap the theme offered by the strings and tojoin in the later varied rhythms. The trumpets return to join with the fullorchestra in the opening of the final Presto assai, with the rhythm of theviolins taken up in turn by violas and cellos. A short central section leads toa return of the main theme, followed by the secondary theme now in the necessaryC major and leading to a final coda.
Symphony No.23 in D major, K. 181 carries the date May 1773 and waswritten in Salzburg. Like its immediate predecessor it includes trumpets, now inD, with the expected strings, oboes and horns, also in D. The opening stronglyasserts the key of D major in its opening emphasis on tonic and dominant chords,echoed by the strings alone and moving forward to a simply stated chordal theme,followed by a contrast in the syncopation of the violins against the lowerstrings. The secondary theme is treated sequentially and variety is provided ina passage that briefly links this to the return of the main theme and is heardagain as it leads directly to the G major Andantino grazioso, where the openingtheme of the strings is soon followed by an oboe melody of great charm. A shortlinking modulation allows a return to G major for the final Presto assai, itsrobust opening theme followed by gentler material for the violins, which alsoshare a second episode, with further contrasts before the final triumph of theopening theme.
Symphony No.24 in B flat major, K.182, is dated to Mayor June 1773 andwas again written in Salzburg, where Mozart now found himself employed as a paidmember of the archiepiscopal musical establishment. The first movement, scoredfor oboes, horns in B flat and strings, starts