MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 25, 32 and 41 (Barry Wordsworth/ Capella Istropolitana/ Teije van Geest) (Naxos: 8.550113)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Symphony No.25 in G Minor, K. 183
Symphony No.32 in G Major, K. 318
Symphony No.41 in C Major, K. 551 "Jupiter"
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of acourt musician, Leopold Mozart, whose important book on the study of the violinwas published in the same year. Leopold Mozart was to remain for the greaterpart of his life in the service of the Archbishops of Salzburg, rising in 1763to the position of deputy Kapellmeister, the summit of his career. WolfgangAmadeus Mozart, the second and youngest surviving child of his father'smarriage, showed prodigious gifts as a child, and these abilities werecarefully nurtured by his father, whose own interests were thenceforwardsacrificed to his son's advancement in pursuit of w hat Leopold Mozart was toregard as a divinely appointed mission. In material terms his final achievementwas a failure, but in musical terms a miraculous success.
Young Mozart spent his precocious childhood in a series of concerttours that took him to the cities of Austria and Germany, to Paris and toLondon, greeted wherever he stayed with curiosity and wonder. The boy hadremarkable ability as a keyboard-player, as a violinist and as a composer, andall these gifts were displayed, in conjunction with the less remarkable talentsof his eider sister, Anna Maria, known in the family as Nannerl.
It was in the 1770s, in particular, that Mozart began to feelparticular impatience with his surroundings. In 1772 the old Archbishop, anindulgent patron, had died, to be succeeded by a more modern churchman,Hieronymus von Colloredo, son of the Imperial Chancellor and a man thoroughlyin sympathy with the ecclesiastical reforms to be initiated by Joseph II. As anemployer the new Archbishop was unsympathetic, while Salzburg itself had itsown inevitable provincial limitations, compared with the obvious and seductiveattractions of the capital, Vienna.
In 1777 Mozartleft his position in Salzburg, where he had been appointed Konzertmeister, toseek his fortune elsewhere. Leopold Mozart was not given leave of absence,although he was told that he too could leave for good, if he wanted, a coursehe was too prudent to adopt. Mozart set out with his mother for Paris, takingin, on the way, his father's native city of Augsburg and, more fruitfully,Mannheim, where he spent some months, learning from the famous orchestra there,an army of generals, in the words of one contemporary, and enjoying the companyof a young singer, Aloysia Weber, with whom he planned a wildly impracticabletour of Italy.
Paris proved adisappointment. As a child Mozart had caused a sensation: as a man he provedless of an attraction, although he endeavoured to prove as best he could thathe was not just "a stupid German", to be treated with haughty disdainby the French nobility. In the summer of 1778 his mother died and in the autumnMozart began his slow return to Salzburg, where he was given another positionin the court musical establishment, a place from which he was to secure finaldismissal only in 1781.
The last ten yearsof Mozart's life were spent in initially successful but precarious independencein Vienna. Here he was able to realise more fully his greatest ambition, as acomposer of opera, a skill that he had hitherto exercised only in occasionalcommissions outside Salzburg. He excelled as a keyboard-player and pleased hisaudiences, until the novelty of his playing began to wear thin, whileattracting amateur and professional pupils. An imprudent marriage in 1782increased the expenses of living, in spite of his own optimistic forecasts, andhis final years were rendered uneasy through the uncertainty of his income,coupled with the expectations that he and his father had long entertained.
Mozart died aftera short illness in December, 1791, at a time when his new German opera, The Magic Flute, was drawing goodaudiences, and when it seemed that the tide might once again be turning in hisfavour. In his lifetime there were always contemporaries who had a properestimate of his worth, including the composers Haydn and Beethoven. It has beenleft to posterity, however, to accord him something of his due as "themiracle that God let be born in Salzburg".
The Symphony No.23in G Minor, K. 183, was completed on 5th October, 1773, in Salzburg,shortly after Mozart's return from a visit with his father to Vienna, where ithad been hoped he might secure some position at court. The new symphony, hisfirst in a minor key, shows a new passion and urgency, a mood evident in thesyncopation of its opening and the falling interval of a seventh in the firsttheme. The work is scored for pairs of oboes and bassoons, four horns and theusual strings, and was among those that Mozart asked his father to send him tenyears later, in Vienna.
The first movementof the little G Minor Symphony,so called to distinguish it from the greater work in the same key that was tobe one of the last three symphonies Mozart w rote, is in the usual form, itsdramatic first subject contrasted with a second theme in B Flat Major, markedby the repetition of a short rhythmic figure. An E flat major slow movementfollows with all the simple yet subtle clarity of Haydn, in its close imitationof a figure played by the violins, followed by the bassoons, which in the firstmovement merely doubled the bass line and were consequently omitted from thesurviving autograph score.
The Minuet returns to the key of G minor, with a G major Trio scoredfor wind only, allowing the bassoons once more to enjoy brief independence. Thelast movement offers its first theme in bold outline and a gentler contrastingsecond subject, which is to return in the final section of the movement in thedramatic rather than triumphant key of G minor.
The Symphony in G Major, K. 318, is dated 26thApril, 1779, in Salzburg, its composition marking Mozart's return from hisabortive expedition to Paris and his reinstatement in the service of hisfather's patron, the Archbishop. The work is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes,bassoons, trumpets and drums, four horns and strings, and is in the form of atheatre overture. Alfred Einstein suggested that the piece was writtenspecifically for the uncompleted Singspiel later to be known as Zaide,detecting in the themes Sultan Soliman and the heroine Zaide, and a love idyllin the central Andante. Others have proposed a different purpose, possibly fora comedy or operetta performed in Salzburg by the company of Johannes Boehm,which was in the town in 1779 and 1780. Whether we imagine a Turkish element inthe Allegro spiritoso or a scene of love in the middle section, with itsdelightful use of wind instruments, the work shows clearly enough something ofthe effect that Mannheim and Paris had had on Mozart's orchestral writing.
The so-called Jupiter Symphony
is the last of the final group of three symphonies that Mozart w rote down inthe space of a few weeks during the summer of 1788. The same period found himwriting a series of letters of increasing desperation to his fellow freemason,Michael Puchberg, asking for loans, the more substantial the better. Puchberg,who possibly was aware of an element of Mr. Micawber in Mozart's management ofhis domestic economy, sensibly refused to give him all he asked, but wasgenerous enough in his help.
The Symphony in C Major, K. 551,bears the date 10th August, 1788, and is scored for flute, oboes, bassoons,horns, trumpets and drums, and strings. It was presumably intended to form p