MOZART: Violin Sonatas, Vol. 5

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Violin Sonatas 5

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in1756, the son of a court musician who, in the year of hisyoungest child's birth, published an influential book onviolin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy theposition of Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop ofSalzburg, but sacrificed his own creative career to thatof his son, in whom he detected early signs of precociousgenius. With the indulgence of his patron, he was able toundertake extended concert tours of Europe in which hisson and elder daughter Nannerl were able to astonishaudiences. The boy played both the keyboard and theviolin and could improvise and soon write down hisown compositions.

Childhood that had brought Mozart signal successwas followed by a less satisfactory period of adolescencelargely in Salzburg under the patronage of a new andless sympathetic Archbishop. Like his father, Mozartfound opportunities far too limited at home, whilechances of travel were now restricted. In 1777, whenleave of absence was not granted, he gave upemployment in Salzburg to seek a future elsewhere, butneither Mannheim nor Paris, both musical centres ofsome importance, had anything for him. His Mannheimconnections, however, brought a commission for anopera in Munich in 1781, but after its successful staginghe was summoned by his patron to Vienna. ThereMozart's dissatisfaction with his position resulted in aquarrel with the Archbishop and dismissal from hisservice.

The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent inVienna in precarious independence of both patron andimmediate paternal advice, a situation aggravated by animprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-houseand as a performer was followed, as the decade went on,by increasing financial difficulties. By the time of hisdeath in December 1791, however, his fortunes seemedabout to change for the better, with the success of theGerman opera The Magic Flute, and the possibility ofincreased patronage.

Mozart's sonatas for violin and keyboard span aperiod of some twenty-five years. His earliest attemptsat the form were made during his first extended tour ofEurope. Four of these early sonatas were published inParis in 1764, two as Opus 1 and two as Opus 2, and afurther set of six, Opus 3, was published in London thefollowing year. There followed another set of sixsonatas, Opus 4, written in The Hague in 1766 andpublished 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 hecompleted four sonatas, to which he added a further twoin Paris in the early summer of the latter year,publishing the set in Paris as Opus 1. Another group ofsix sonatas was published in Vienna in 1781. Thisincluded a sonata written in Mannheim and anotherperhaps written in Salzburg. The other four of the set,which was published as Opus 2, were written in thesummer of 1781 in Vienna. The four remainingcompleted sonatas were written in Vienna between 1784and 1788. While the Kochel numbers of these sonatasprovide easy identification, various systems ofnumbering the sonatas as a series have been used. Thereare over forty of these works and the numbering used inthe present series starts with the first of the maturesonatas written in Mannheim in 1778 and includes onlycompleted sonatas after that date in its numbering.

The Sonata in F major, K.547, described as ' a littlepiano sonata for a beginner with a violin' was enteredinto Mozart's own list of compositions with the date10th July 1788, shortly after the 'kleine Klavier Sonatef??r Anfanger (Little Piano Sonata for Beginner), K.545.

The primary source for the violin sonata is an edition of1805 by Mollo & Co. in Vienna, but it has beensuggested that the last two movements were originallyfor piano, since both had appeared, after Mozart's death,in that form, and have been the subject of variedspeculation. The first movement, marked Andantinocantabile, opens with a simple melody, with the violingenerally a third below the piano melody, but assumingmore melodic independence in the middle section.

A passage in B flat major leads to a piano cadenza ofelementary display, after which the first material returnsto end the movement. The following Allegro shares thefirst subject between the two instruments, while thepiano takes initial precedence in the secondary theme.

There is a short development section, after which thefirst material returns in varied recapitulation. The pianopresents the theme for the final variations, the first threeof which are given principally to the keyboard, beforethe violin is allowed some prominence in the fourthvariation. The fifth, in F minor, is for piano alone, whichfollows in a sixth version of the material with rapidnotes, anchored by the slower notes of the violin, whichis allowed final melodic interest in conclusion.

The Twelve Variations on the French Song \LaBerg?¿re Celim?¿ne", K.359, were written in Vienna inJune 1781. It seems probable that Mozart wrote thework for his piano pupil Countess Maria KarolinaThiennes de Rumbeke, nee Cobenzl. In May he hadsecured his dismissal from the service of the Archbishopof Salzburg and was immediately seeking to make useof his new independence. In a letter of 20th June 1781 tohis father he mentions in conclusion the fact that he isbusy composing variations for his pupil, possibly thepresent work, although he wrote two other sets ofvariations in the same month. The Countess, thedaughter of Count Johann Karl Philipp Cobenzl,minister plenipotentiary for the Austrian Netherlands,and wife of Count Thiennes et Rumbeke, a chamberlainat the court in Vienna, had engaged Mozart as a teachervery soon after the latter's arrival in Vienna in March. Anear contemporary of her teacher, she became renownedas very proficient on the instrument, celebrated foraccuracy, taste and speed, Prazision, Geschmack undGeschwindigkeit, in the words of the Jahrbuch derKunst von Wien und Prag of 1796. The song La Berg?¿reCelim?¿ne seems to have been taken from a collection ofsongs for two voices by the French castrato and teacherAntoine Alban?¿se, published in 1770. The openingwords of the chanson indicate its conventional theme:La Berg?¿re Celim?¿ne dans les bois s'en va chantant(The Shepherdess Celim?¿ne goes singing in the woods).

The piano is entrusted with the Allegretto theme, with aviolin accompaniment. The following variations includea third for piano alone, a fourth in triplets and a fifth insemiquavers. The seventh variation is in a dramatic Gminor and the eighth introduces a brief element ofcounterpoint. The tenth variation allows the piano handcrossingand the eleventh, Adagio, is accompanied bythe violin's plucked and syncopated chords. The finalvariation allows the violin the principal melodic interest.

The Sonata in A major, K.526, is dated 24th August1787. On 28th May Mozart's father had died inSalzburg, his last letter to Mozart's sister Nannerlexpressing his misgivings about his son's managementof his affairs in Vienna. In January had come acommission from Prague for a new opera, DonGiovanni, to be staged there in October. While nothingcertain is known of the circumstances of composition ofthe violin sonata, it has been suggested that it wasinfluenced by the death in London of Carl FriedrichAbel, a colleague of Johann Christian Bach, whom hehad known as a child in London, and the Mozart scholarGeorges de Saint-Foix drew attention to Mozart's use ofa theme from a sonata by Abel in the final rondo.

Mozart's sonata was published in September 1787 byHoffmeister and he seems to have played it privatelywith the violinist Heinrich Anton Hoffmann during avisit to Mainz in 1790. The sonata shares the musicalcontent more equably between the two players than isthe case with the other two
Item number 8557664
Barcode 747313266425
Release date 12/01/2005
Category Classical
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Nishizaki, Takako
Loeb, Benjamin
Nishizaki, Takako
Composers Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Disc: 1
Violin Sonata No. 35 in A major, K. 526
1 I. Andantino cantabile
2 II. Allegro
3 III. Andante con variazioni
4 Variations in G major, K. 359 (K. 374a), "La berge
5 I. Molto Allegro
6 II. Andante
7 III. Presto
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