MOZART: Violin Sonatas, Vol. 1
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Violin Sonatas Vol. 1
Sonata No.4 in E Minor, K. 304
Sonata No.5 in A Major, K. 305
Sonata No.6 in D Major, K. 306
Sonata No.9 in F Major, K. 377
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a court musician who, in the year of his youngest child's birth, published an influential book on violin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy the position of Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, but sacrificed his own creative career to that of his son, in whom he detected early signs of precocious genius. With the indulgence of his patron, he was able to undertake extended concert tours of Europe in which his son and his elder daughter Nannerl were able to astonish audiences. The boy played both the keyboard and the violin and could improvise and soon write down his own compositions.
Childhood that had brought Mozart signal success was followed by a less satisfactory period of adolescence largely in Salzburg, under the patronage of a new and less sympathetic Archbishop. Like his father, Mozart found opportunities far too limited at home, while chances of travel were now restricted. In 1777, when leave of absence was not granted, he gave up employment in Salzburg to seek a future elsewhere, but neither Mannheim nor Paris, both musical centres of some importance, had anything for him. His Mannheim connections, however, brought a commission for an opera in Munich in 1781, but after its successful staging he was summoned by his patron to Vienna. There Mozart's dissatisfaction with his position resulted in a quarrel with the Archbishop and dismissal from his service.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in Vienna in precarious independence of both patron and immediate paternal advice, a situation aggravated by an imprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-house and as a performer was followed, as the decade went on, by increasing financial difficulties. By the time of his death in December 1791, however, his fortunes seemed about to change for the better, with the success of the German opera The Magic Flute, and the possibility of increased patronage.
Mozart's sonatas for violin and keyboard span a period of some twenty-five years. His first attempts at the form were made during his first extended tour of Europe. Four of these early sonatas were published in Paris in 1764, two as Opus 1 and two as Opus 2, and a further set of six, Opus 3, was published in London the following year. There followed a further set of six sonatas, Opus 4, written in The Hague in 1766 and published there and in Amsterdam in the same year. Mozart only returned to the form twelve years later. During his stay in Mannheim in 1777 and 1778 he completed four sonatas, to which he added a further two in Paris in the early summer of the latter year, publishing the set in Paris as Opus 1. Another group of six sonatas was published in Vienna in 1781. This included a sonata written in Mannheim and another perhaps written in Salzburg. The remaining four of the set, which was published as Opus 2, were written in the summer of 1781 in Vienna. The four remaining completed sonatas were written in Vienna between 1784 and 1788.
Mozart's first mention of the violin sonatas he was to write in Mannheim comes in a letter to his father written from Munich, where he and his mother spent two weeks at the beginning of their journey. With his letter he sends for his sister six duets for clavicembalo and violin by the Dresden composer Joseph Schuster which, he tells his father, he has often played in Munich: these, he adds, are popular pieces, and he plans to do something of the same sort himself. By the end of October Mozart and his mother were in Mannheim and she, in a letter to her husband on 11th January 1778, tells him that their son is composing six new trios. These are, in fact, the sonatas for violin and keyboard, with optional cello. By the end of February Mozart still has two more sonatas to write.
In Paris Mozart's mother died at the beginning of July. By 20th July he was writing to his father of the likelihood of the immediate publication of the six sonatas, now presumably complete. There were, however, delays in printing the sonatas in Paris, used by Mozart as an excuse for his tardiness in following his father's wishes and returning to Salzburg, where the Archbishop was willing to offer him further employment. On 7th January, still in Munich, he was able to present his sonatas to the Electress Palatine, to whom they were dedicated.
The Sonata in E minor, the fourth of the set, is one of the two written in Paris. Both instruments play the principal theme together, before it is entrusted to the violin alone. There is a G major second subject and the central development, opening in B minor with the principal theme, has its fair share of counterpoint before the recapitulation. The second of the two movements, Tempo di Menuetto, allows the keyboard to present the main theme, which is then taken up by the violin. A G major episode leads to the re-appearance of the main theme, an E major episode, the return of the main theme and an effective closing section.
The fifth sonata of the set, the Sonata in A major, was written in Mannheim. Both instruments join in the opening statement of the principal theme, complemented by a subsidiary theme in E major. There is a brief development before the recapitulation. The second of the two movements is in the form of a theme and variations. The former is entrusted principally to the keyboard, which offers also the first rapid variation. The violin has the second variation, while the burden of the third, with its triplet arpeggios, falls on the keyboard, which provides a busy accompaniment to the violin in the fourth. The fifth variation is in A minor and the sixth, opened by the keyboard, brings the movement and the sonata to an end.
The Sonata in D major, the sixth of the set, was written in Paris. The keyboard is accompanied by the violin at the beginning, as the main theme is presented, while the violin introduces the second subject. The central development makes dramatic exploration of remoter keys and the recapitulation reverses the order of themes, starting with the second subject and ending with the partial re-appearance of the first. The second movement, marked Andantino cantabile, is started by the keyboard, joined then by the violin. There is a contrasting central section before the original material returns, now ornamented and varied. The sonata ends with a cheerful movement, its rhythm changed in the subsidiary material. The principal theme returns, to be followed by the secondary material again in a varied form that leads to a cadenza and the happy return of the principal theme.
Mozart's Sonata in F major, K.377, was written in Vienna, one of a set of six that he dedicated to his pupil Josephine Auernhammer. By 19th May 1781 he is still excusing himself to his father for his rash action in securing his dismissal from the service of the Archbishop. At the same time his usual optimism is revealed in the subscription he has opened for the new sonatas. The set was finished during the summer and published by Artaria in November. The violin provides a rapid triplet accompaniment to the first theme of the opening Allegro and introduces the second theme in a movement dominated by the triplet rhythm. The theme of the D minor slow movement is announced first by the piano and then shared with the violin. There follow six variations, the first with a violin accompaniment to the piano, the second dominated by violin triplet semiquavers and the third by rapid piano figuration in accompaniment of the vio