MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 40 and 41 (Barry Wordsworth/ Capella Istropolitana/ Gunter Appenheimer/ Teije van Geest) (Naxos: 8.550299)
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Wolfgang - Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Symphony No.40 in G Minor, K. 550
Symphony No.41 in C Major, K. 551 "Jupiter"
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son ofLeopold Mozart, who in the same year had published his important book onviolin-playing. Leopold Mozart was an educated man, who had embarked on studyat the Benedictine University in Salzburg but had turned rather to music,thereafter, entering the service of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, tobecome composer to the court and finally, in 1763, deputy Kapellmeister.
It was unfortunate that early distinction never brought Mozart the fullmeasure of material success and security that he and his father regarded as hisdue. In Salzburg an indulgent patron had been succeeded in 1772 by anarchbishop with better defined ideas of what was due from his servants. Therewere reforms in the church liturgy and restrictions on leaves of absenceneither of which pleased the Mozarts. The effect of this was Mozart's decision,in 1781, to secure his dismissal, which he did during the course of a visit bythe archbishop and his entourage to Vienna.
Independence in Vienna brought its own problems. There was initialsuccess, with the composition of works for the theatre, a field in which Mozarthad long wished to shine, and appearances in concerts. Towards the end of thedecade his popularity seemed to wane, but at the time of his death in 1791 theGerman opera The Magic Flute was enjoying enormous success.
The summer of 1788 found Mozart and his wife established by June in newquarters further out of town. In a letter to his fellow-mason, MichaelPuchberg, he points out the advantages of the change, since the place ischeaper than the Landstrasse, nearer the centre of Vienna, which he had left inDecember the previous year, after some embarrassment over the payment of rent:furthermore, there is a garden and the house is equally suitable for summer orwinter. The object of Mozart's letter to Puchberg was primarily to raise money,if possible a large enough sum to enable him to discharge debts as theyoccurred, a request with which Puchberg was wise enough not to comply. Funherletters of a similar kind were to follow.
It was during the space of a few weeks that Mozart wrote down his lastthree symphonies, of which the Symphony in Gminor, K. 550, is the penultimate. The first of the group, the Symphony in E flat, in which oboes arereplaced by clarinets, was finished on 26th June, the second, in G minor, on25th July and the third, the so-called JupiterSymphony, two weeks later. The G minor Symphony, originally writtenwithout clarinets, had these instruments added in a later revision. Unlike itscompanions, it makes no use of trumpets and drums. Presumably the threesymphonies were intended to form pan of concerts to be given in Vienna in thecoming season. In fact Mozart was to give no more concerts of his own music, ashe had done in earlier years in Vienna. His last Piano Concerto, K. 595, was performed as pan of a programmearranged by the clarinettist Joseph Bahr in March, 1791. The G minor Symphony probably formed pan of aconcert conducted by Salieri, the court Kapellmeister, with an orchestra of 180players in April of the same year.
The symphony opens with an intensely dramatic theme, presented bystrings, leading to a gentler second theme, shared with the wind. The centraldevelopment traces the opening figure through various keys, introducing astrongly contrapuntal element. The recapitulation, reached through a descendingwoodwind sequence, completes the movement, with the second theme now assumingparticular poignancy in the minor key. The E flat major Andante suggests notonly by its key something of the mood of the preceding E flat Symphony. It is followed by aMinuet with a contrasting G major Trio. The finale remains in the minor key,contrary to the more usual practice that preferred to dispel tragedy byoptimistic triumph at the end of a symphony. The second subject, in the key ofB flat major, still retains an air of melancholy, a characteristic properlymaintained when it makes its re-appearance in the final section of themovement.
The so-called Jupiter Symphony, theSymphony in C major, K. 551, bears the date 10th August, 1788, andis scored for flute, oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, and strings.
The first movement opens with an immediate and striking call to our attention,followed by a gentler addition from the strings, elements of great importancein what is to come. The strings introduce a second theme and a third, towardsthe close of the exposition. It is this last that opens the central developmentsection of the movement, contrapuntal activity leading to the prematurere-appearance of the opening figure and ultimately to the recapitulationproper.
The slow movement, in the key of F major, makes use of a richness ofharmony that sets off the characteristic pathos of the melodic material. It isfollowed by a Minuet and Trio that lead to the final movement, the contrapuntalfeatures of which persuaded later commentators to describe the work as thesymphony with a closing fugue. Some element of counterpoint is not altogetherunusual in the last movement of a symphony, but Mozart here provides aninspired example of the technique, with a remarkable series of canonicimitations in the coda, as the instruments imitate in turn a series of thematicfragments from earlier in the movement.
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of the SlovakPhilharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as anorchestra large enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based inBratislava, its name drawn from the ancient name still preserved in theAcademia Istropolitana, the orchestra works in the recording studio andundertakes frequent tours throughout Europe. Recordings by the orchestra on theNaxos label include The Best of Baroque Music, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos,fifteen each of Mozart's and Haydn's symphonies as well as works by Handel,Vivaldi and Telemann.
Barry Wordsworth's career has been dominated by his work for the RoyalBallet which started when he played the solo part in Frank Martin's Harpsichord Concerto, a score used by SirKenneth MacMillan for his ballet, LasHermanas. In 1973 he became Assistant Conductor of the RoyalBallet's Touring Orchestra and in 1974 Principal Conductor of Sadlers WellsRoyal Ballet. He made his debut at Covent Garden conducting MacMillan's Manon in 1975 and since then has conductedthere frequently. He has toured extensively with the Royal Ballet, conductingorchestras in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Canada and Australia,where he has been guest conductor for Australian Ballet.
In 1987 while retaining his connection with both Royal Ballet companiesas guest conductor, Barry Wordsworth also worked with the Royal LiverpoolPhilharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, the UlsterOrchestra, the BBC Concert and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. For the Naxoslabel Wordsworth has recorded a number of Mozart and Haydn symphonies, works bySmetana and Dvorak and for the Marco Polo label works by Bax.