MOZART: Violin Sonatas, Vol. 2
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Violin Sonatas Vol. 2
Sonata No.8 in C Major, K. 296
Sonata No.1 in G Major, K. 301
Sonata No.2 in E Flat Major, K. 302
Sonata No.3 in C Major, K. 303
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 C major, K. 296, is dated 11th March 1778 in Mannheim. It was published in Vienna in November 1781 as Opus 2, No.2. The autograph carries a dedication to Therese Pierron Serrarius, daughter of the Privy Court Councillor with whom Mozart was lodging at Mannheim. The keyboard is assisted by the violin in the statement of the first subject, while both share in the second subject that follows. The central development starts with material from the passage that links first to second subject. The recapitulation brings the necessary modulation, to end the movement in C major. The F major Andante allows the violin again an accompanying rôle until the middle section of the movement, where contrasting material is introduced, before the return of the principal theme. In the final Rondeau the violin accompanies the keyboard in the presentation of the main theme, which is then entrusted to it. Thematic material is shared between the two instruments in the first episode, as it is in the A minor second episode, after the return of the main theme. The material of the first episode returns in the key of C and it is the principal theme that returns to bring the sonata to an end.
Mozart wrote the Sonata in G major, K. 301, the first of the set published in Paris, in Mannheim in February 1778. The violin states the principal theme and then accompanies the keyboard in a second statement of the material. The keyboard introduces the second subject, followed by the violin. The development draws partly on subsidiary material and leads to the return of first and second subject in recapitulation. The second of the two movements starts with the main theme that, in varied form, will frame intervening episodes, the second of which is in G minor.
The Sonata in E flat major, K. 302, was also written in Mannheim in February. The first subject is based on the descending notes of the triad, first answered by the keyboard and then by both instruments. The piano leads the way to the second subject and again into the development, which relies at first on subsidiary material from the exposition. First and second subject duly appear in recapitulation. The following Rondeau allows the piano to state the main theme first, followed by the violin. This principal theme frames two contrasting episodes.
The Sonata in C major, K. 303, of the same date, starts with a slow section that forms the first subject. This is followed by a Molto allegro second subject which initially suggests a key other than the expected dominant. The material brings its own development in more elaborate piano figuration before the return of the Adagio, now ornamented, followed by the Molto allegro.
The piano ushers in the Tempo di Menuetto, before the melodic material is handed to the violin. Contrast of key and theme marks the central section, after which the opening material of the movement returns in conclusion.
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