MOZART: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
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Wolfgang AmadeusMozart (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 1in B Flat Major, K. 207
Violin Concerto No. 2in D Major, K. 211
Rondo in B Flat Major,K. 269
Andante in F Major(from Piano Concerto, K. 467)
Wolfgang AmadeusMozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the younger and second surviving child ofLeopold Mozart, a musician in the service of the ruling Archbishop. The sameyear brought the publication of Leopold Mozart's book on violin-playing, acompilation that won him a wide reputation. Nevertheless his career wassacrificed before long to that of his son, whose genius he soon realised and tothe fostering of which he dedicated his energies. He remained until his deathin 1787 Vice-Kapellmeister in Salzburg, his final years darkened by his son'sdeparture for Vienna in 1781.
In his childhoodMozart excelled as a keyboard-player, his skill shown in performance, insight-reading and in improvisation, and as a violinist. With his older sisterNannerl he toured Europe, exciting wonder wherever he went. Adolescence provedless satisfactory. In 1771 the old Archbishop of Salzburg, an indulgent patron,died, and was succeeded by Count Colloredo, a son of the ImperialVice-Chancellor, a prelate with progressive views, coupled with a precise ideaof what was due to him from those in his employ. At the age of thirteen Mozarthad been appointed third concert-master of the court orchestra, unpaid. Underthe new Archbishop he was given the paid position of concert-master, but therewere now severe restrictions on his freedom, exercised in earlier years inextended tours that had taken him to Paris, to London and on several occasionsto Italy. Salzburg, furthermore, could hardly satisfy Mozart's ambitions as acomposer, or his father's justified hopes for his son's material advancement.
In 1777 he was allowed to resign from the Archbishop's service, an optionoffered also to his father, but prudently refused, in order to travel toMannheim and to Paris. The object of the journey, on which he was accompaniedby his mother, who fell ill and died during their stay in Paris, was to seek abetter appointment. In January 1779 he returned home, reluctantly accepting theappointment of court organist in Salzburg.
In 1780 there came acommission for a new opera for the Elector of Bavaria in Munich, staged earlyin 1781, and this was followed by a visit to Vienna in the entourage of hispatron. Apparent restrictions on his freedom to perform as he wished in Viennaled Mozart to quarrel with the Archbishop, a dispute that ended in hisdismissal. For the remaining ten years of his life he remained in Vienna,encumbered by a wife and intermittently increasing family, but without thesecurity of a patron or the support of regular paternal advice. Initial successin the theatre and as a keyboard-player, particularly in a magnificent seriesof piano concertos he wrote for his own use, was followed by a period ofdepression, when he found it increasingly difficult to meet the expenses of astyle of life to which he had been accustomed. In spite of his father'sadmonitions from Salzburg, he no longer practised the violin, although heplayed the viola in informal performances of chamber music in which he wasjoined by Haydn, Dittersdorf and the composer Vanhal. By 1791 his fortunesseemed to have taken a turn for the better, with the success of the Germanopera The Magic Flute. He died after a short illness in December of the sameyear.
If Mozart waspreoccupied with the fortepiano in Vienna in the 1780s, the previous decade inSalzburg had found him giving much greater attention to the violin. He wasconcert-master of the court orchestra and took the opportunity on a number ofoccasions of appearing as a soloist, as he did in the autumn of 1777 inAugsburg and in Munich at the beginning of his journey to Mannheim and Paris.
In a letter to his father from Augsburg, Leopold Mozart's native city, hecriticised the standard of violin-playing in the Augsburg orchestra and relateshow he has played a violin concerto there by Vanhal and his own so-calledStrassburg concerto, variously identified as K. 218, or possibly K. 216.
Mozart wrote his five violin concertos for his own use in Salzburg orfor the use of the Italian violinist Antonio Brunetti, a man Mozart was laterto stigmatise as a disgrace to his profession, a reflection on his manners andmorals. The concertos were also played in Salzburg by Johann Anton Kolb, forwhom Leopold Mozart implies one of the concertos had been written. In a letterto his wife and son on 26th September 1777 Leopold Mozart describes a concertgiven by Kolb for the foreign merchants and including a performance of one ofthe violin concertos. After the concert he tells how they all got drunk andpushed one another in procession round the room, succeeding in breaking thecentral chandelier. Three weeks later he adds a description of a performance ofMozart's Strassburg concerto by Brunetti in the theatre, while the actors werechanging their costume. From Paris in September the following year Mozart talksof the possibility of revising his violin concertos and shortening them to suitFrench taste, a task he never undertook.
The first of the five violin concertos, the Concerto in B flat major, K.
207, was written in the spring of 1773 in Salzburg, a more probable date thanthe traditional 14th April 1775. It is scored for an orchestra with pairs ofoboes and horns, in addition to the usual strings. The concerto opens with astatement of the principal theme by the orchestra, later taken up and developedby the soloist. The slow movement has a principal theme of particular grace,capped by the soloist, while the last movement, returning to the original key,is introduced by the orchestra, followed by the soloist with a theme of simpleelegance.
Mozart completed his second violin concerto, the Concerto in D major, K.
211, on 14th June 1775, scoring it for the usual orchestra of oboes, horns andstrings. The first movement starts with a descending arpeggio figure proclaimedby the whole orchestra, followed by a gentler complementary figure. The soloistenters with the same call to the listener's attention, embellishing and extending the theme, beforeembarking on the material of the subsidiary theme. The oboes and horns havevery little part to play in the G major slow movement, with its poignantprincipal melody, taken up by the soloist after its first statement in theorchestra. In the finale it is the soloist that first leads the way into a pertlittle theme then repeated by the orchestra in a rondo of the greatest clarityof texture.
Mozart's Rondo in Bflat for violin and orchestra, K. 269, seems to have been written in Salzburgin the period before the composer's journey to Mannheim and Paris in the autumnof 1777. In a letter to his son written in September that year Leopold Mozartpromises to send on the Adagio and the Rondo written for Brunetti, plausiblyidentifiable as the Adagio K. 261 and the concertante B flat Rondo. Mozart wasto provide Brunetti with another Rondo during the last days of his employmentby the Archbishop of Salzburg in Vienna in 1781.
The F major Andantewas transcribed for violin and orchestra from the slow movement of the wellknown Piano Concerto in C major, K. 467, by the 19th century French composerCamille Saint-Sa?½ns.