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The E-flat symphony KV 543, completed on 26 June 1788, is perhaps the least well-known of Mozart’s final trilogy - certainly it has had less historical resonance than the “classical” Jupiter KV 551 (10 August 1788) or the “proto-Romantic” G minor KV 550 (25 July 1788). And Mozart’s reasons for composing his trilogy are unknown. Traditionally it has been thought that they were written out of an inner, compositional compulsion and never performed by the composer during his lifetime. It may be, however, that they were composed in response to Haydn’s recently-published “Paris” symphonies and that Mozart similarly hoped to publish his three works. Even more immediately, it is now thought that Mozart planned a series of subscription concerts in the summer (or possibly the autumn) of 1788 and that the trilogy was written for them. Evidence for this hypothesis derives chiefly from an undated letter, usually assigned to June 1788, to from Mozart to his Masonic brother Michael Puchberg: "I still owe you 8 ducats – but although at the moment I’m not in a position to pay you back, I nevertheless trust in you so much that I dare ask for your help with 100 florins until next week (when my Casino academies begin)."
Even if KV 543 has less cachet than its companions, it nevertheless represents a high point of Mozart’s symphonic art. The scoring alone sets it apart not only from K550 and 551 but from all of his other symphonies: it is his only work in the genre to dispense with oboes, which lends the work a characteristic dark and burnished sound, a sound that from the very first chord conjures up the world of Die Zauberflöte. And the introduction, with its majestic double dotting and chromaticism, sets a tone of instability that is characteristic of the first movement on the whole. It is only at the very end of the movement, and chiefly through a magnificent outburst of horns and trumpets, that the allegro seems to achieve its goal. The andante, cast in sonata form but with a main theme in binary form, including repeats for both halves, is similarly unusual - for all the theme’s apparent clarity, the storm and stress of what follows, a single-minded exploration of the opening idea, goes largely unrelieved; particularly notable are the spectacular wind band passages for flute, clarinet and bassoon. A courtly minuet follows, effectively set off by a trio with the character of a rustic Ländler, while the moto perpetuo finale, reminiscent of Haydn in character if not in style, plays with the listeners’ expectations, modulating to distant tonal regions and taking full advantage of the potential for disruption offered by several crucially placed pauses, especially at the movement’s conclusion.
Throughout the many centuries of the history of music, few works have fascinated generation after generation of musicians and music-lovers and, at the same time, produced so much contrasting emotion and controversy. The work in question could be none other than Mozart’s Requiem – its origins shrouded in mystery, legend and almost sensational theories. The story of the funeral mass written by Wolfgang Amadeus begins on 14 February 1791, the date of death of the 21-year-old Countess Anna Walsegg zu Stupach. Her husband, an eccentric amateur musician, decides to honour the memory of his deceased wife by commissioning a Requiem. It should be added that it was the habit of Graf Franz von Walsegg zu Stupach to host concerts twice a week; he would present new works, known to nobody, previously commissioned with eminent composers, and pretend to be their author to his guests. Mozart received the Requiem commission in mid-July 1791, just as he was frantically rushing through the composition of The Clemency of Titus. He could properly focus on the funeral mass only in November; most of the work was created between the 8th and the 20th of that month. November 18th saw a sudden and violent onset of the composer’s disease – although Mozart's biographers still cannot agree what it was. If one were to believe the Mozarts’ friend and first performer of the part of Tamino in The Magic Flute Benedikt Schack, the last rehearsal of the work’s fragments took place on December 4th, i.e. on the eve of the composer's death. It is then that, after 8 bars of Lacrimosa when, after a poignant, rising progression, the melody attains the climax at the words “homo reus,” Mozart was said to burst in tears and throw away the score in a gesture of ultimate surrender. It is more probable, however, that the composer’s acute course of disease must have left him in a state of semi-consciousness, and that the dramatic rehearsal is yet another of the fantastic legends spun like a spider’s web around this famous work. Still, the manuscript indeed ends at the 8th bar of Lacrimosa.
Mozart’s design for his Requiem relates directly to the 18th-century Austrian funeral mass, with its immediate model in Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor composed in 1771 to commemorate the untimely death of the composer’s only daughter. Mozart borrowed the structure of the whole from the lesser Haydn, to the extent of omitting the same sections of the traditional funeral mass, such as Gradual, Tractus or Libera me. Detailed analyses of the entirety of the manuscript performed by many scholars show beyond any doubt that the composer completed the first part of the mass alone: the gloomy Introitus (Requiem Aeternam) with a contrastive soft soprano solo. Further fragments – the dynamic fugue of Kyrie, the multiple Sequence (without Lacrimosa), and Ofertorium (Hostias) with its varying texture remained in the form of vocal score with an attached figured bass part containing details of harmony. As we already know, only the first 8 bars written in Mozart’s hand, including instrumentation, are preserved of the homophonic Lacrimosa, itself a part of Sequence. The composer allegedly planned to write the final Communion (Lux eterna, Cum Sanctis tuis) to the music of Introit and the Kyrie fugue – a very frequent device in the 18th-century tradition. The remaining parts of the mass – the celebratory Sanctus with a fugue for Osanna, the cantilena of Benedictus and the meditative Agnus Dei were added – according to tradition – by Mozart’s student Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who undertook to complete the work. According to some of the more recent research, Mozart’s widow Constanze first offered the job not to Süssmayr, but to Wolfgang Amadeus’s most experienced student, Franz Jacob Freystädtler, who completed the orchestral accompaniment to Kyrie and then relayed the task of reconstruction to Joseph Eybler. He, in turn, is said to have added the instrumentation to five parts of Sequence from Dies Irae through Confutatis. The next important personage in the context of Mozart’s masterpiece is Maximillian “Abbé” Stadler, Wolfgang Amadeus’s long-time friend, who started working on Offertorium, eventually taken over by Süssmayr. The version thus completed by Mozart’s students, with additional sections composed by Süssmayr, soon took on a concert life of its own and remains to this day the most frequently performed form of the work. Yet the problem of Requiem’s authenticity continued to resurface; critics had their reservations with respect to Sanctus /Osanna, Benedictus and, to a lesser extent, Agnus Dei. This is why new reconstructions of Mozart’s funeral mass appeared; the most convincing ones include those by Duncan Druce, Richard Maunder and Robert Levin.
1. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
And may the perpetual light shine on them.
Thou, O God, are praised in Sion,
And unto Thee shall the vow be performed in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer,
Unto Thee shall all flesh come.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
And may perpetual light shine on them.
2. Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.
Sequentia (Dies Irae)
3. Day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the age in ashes
As David and the Sibyl bear witness.
What dread there will be
When the Judge shall come
To judge all things strictly.
4. A trumpet, spreading a wondrous sound
Through the graves of all lands,
Will drive mankind before the throne.
Death and nature shall be astonished
When all creation rises again
To answer to the Judge.
A book, written in, will be brought forth
In which everything is contained,
According to which the world will be judged.
When therefore the Judge takes His seat
Whatever is hidden will reveal itself.
Nothing will remain unavenged.
What then shall I say, wretch that I am?,
What advocate entreat to speak for me,
When even the righteous may hardly be secure?
When even the righteous may hardly be secure?
5. King of great majesty,
Who freely savest the redeemed,
Save me, O fount of mercy.
6. Remember, blessed Jesus,
That I am the cause of Thy pilgrimage,
Do not forsake me on that day.
Seeking me Thou didst sit down weary,
Thou didst redeem me, suffering death on the cross.
Let not such toil be in vain.
Just and avenging Judge,
Before the day of reckoning.
I groan like a guilty man.
Guilt reddens my face.
Spare a suppliant, O God.
Thou who didst absolve Mary
And didst hearken to the thief,
To me also hast Thou given hope.
My prayers are not worthy,
But Thou in Thy merciful goodness grant
That I burn not in everlasting fire.
Place me among Thy sheep
And separate me from the goats,
Setting me on Thy right hand.
7. When the accursed have been confounded
And given over to the bitter flames,
Call me with the blessed.
8. I pray in supplication on my knees.
My heart contrite as the ashes,
Safeguard my fate.
Mournful that day
When from the dust shall rise
Guilty man to be judged.
Therefore spare him, O God.
Merciful Jesu Lord
Grant them rest.
9. Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
Deliver the souls of all the faithful departed
From the pains of hell and from the bottomless lake.
Deliver them from the lion's mouth.
Neither let be swallowed by the abyss,
Nor fall into the darkness.
And let St. Michael, Thy standard-bearer,
Lead them into the holy light
Which once Thou didst promise to Abraham and his seed.
10. We offer unto Thee this sacrifice of prayer and praise.
Receive it for those souls
Whom today we commemorate.
Allow them, O Lord, to cross from death into the life
Which once Thou didst promise to Abraham and his seed.
11. Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God of Sabaoth.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
12. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
13. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Grant them everlasting rest.
Communio Lux Aeterna
(Soprano, then the Choir)
14. May the eternal light shine on them, O Lord.
With Thy saints for ever,
Because Thou art merciful.
Grant the dead eternal rest, O Lord,
And may the perpetual light shine on them,
With Thy saints for ever,
Because Thou art merciful.
Quintet in A major KV 581 was completed on 29 September 1789. Dedicated to close friend and fellow freemason Anton Stadler, it was named by the composer the “Stadler” quintet. Its premiere took place on 22 December the same year at a concert of the Viennese Musical Society at the Burgtheater.
In the 18th century, the clarinet was a novelty instrument, introduced into orchestra by composers of the Mannheim school. It began to appear regularly in Mozart’s works in 1773. Yet it is only in his Viennese years that the composer wrote three pieces where the clarinet was treated as the solo instrument. Apart from the quintet in A major, these are Trio in E flat major KV 498 (1786) and Clarinet Concerto in A major KV 622 (1791). All three have been dedicated to Stadler, one of the greatest virtuosi of the time.
Quintet has been written during Mozart’s work on Cosi fan tutte and much of the opera’s emotional aura can be found in its vocal singing qualities. The piece consists of four movements based on the classical cycle model. Despite the outstanding clarinet part, Mozart preserves a balance between all instruments of the ensemble to create a synthesis of chamber and concerting style. His innovative combination of the clarinet with a string quartet became an inspiration for many later composers.
• Movement One (Allegro, A major), in sonata form, opens with a calm choral theme of the string quartet. Its narration is twice interrupted by virtuosic passages of the clarinet, which will provide the material for a tempestuous development. The melody of the initial theme is developed by lyrical arabesques in the clarinet, later taken over by the cello. The cheerful and delicate second theme is intoned in the violin (E major) and then brought by the clarinet to a minor key (E minor), filling the melody with a melancholy tone. In the recapitulation, the ambivalent mood is preserved in the second theme (A major/A minor).
• Movement Two (Larghetto, D major) has been written as a song. The soft, vocally-conducted melody of the clarinet is accompanied by the other instruments. Only in the middle fragment is the clarinet joined in sophisticated dialogue by the violin.
• Minuet (A major), intoned by all instruments of the quintet, is divided by two contrasting trios. The first, (in A minor), performed by strings alone, relates, in its nostalgic mood, to the earlier movements, while the second (in A major) is a stylization of a folk landler.
• The final movement (Allegretto, A major) is a theme with six variations that display both the virtuosity of the individual instruments of the ensemble and the varied expressive potential of the theme.
To say that the piano concertos, more than the symphonies, operas, church and chamber music, speak in Mozart’s own voice seems almost too facile: after all, here is the composer-performer, seated on stage, presenting himself as a consummate musician. But it is not really Mozart’s personal voice that speaks to us although it is no less Mozart’s for that. Rather, it is a voice that through music speaks for us, expressing our thoughts and feelings in ways we cannot. Traditionally, the power of this protean voice has been attributed to details of theme and harmony and to Mozart’s exploitation of a unique form more or less invented by him. But this ignores the fact that the concertos are more different than they are similar, and that both affect and effect depend not just on theme and harmony but, perhaps even more importantly, on character and sound.
Mozart’s attention to details of sound and affect, and his ability to provide his public with works they could not only listen to but also play and make their own, is apparent from the first set of concertos that he composed in Vienna, K413, 414 and 415. Even before the works were finished in the winter of 1782/83, Mozart advertised them in the Wiener Zeitung: “Herr Kapellmeister Mozart herewith apprises the highly honoured public of the publication of three new, recently-finished pianoforte concertos. These three concertos may be performed either with a large orchestra with wind instruments or merely a quattro, that is, with two violins, viola and violoncello.” This possibility to perform the concertos with string quartet is sometimes dismissed as a marketing ploy on Mozart’s part, but somewhere in his original conception of the works he may well have though of them as chamber-like: unique among his concerto autographs, the lowest part of the C major concerto, K415, was originally assigned to a cello. All three concertos may therefore have originated as works performable in a variety of circumstances and scorings.
The A major concerto K414 is certainly the most intimate of the set. It has the smallest orchestra, consisting only of strings, oboes and horns, and its themes related closely to other A major themes by Mozart, including those of the piano sonata K331, the clarinet quintet K581 and the piano concerto K488, all of which can be characterized as gentle, at times even nostalgic. And nostalgia is surely the operative gesture in the slow movement, which is though to be a tribute to his English mentor Johann Christian Bach: it includes a nearly exact quote from Bach’s overture to La calamita dei cuori. Mozart had probably learned of Johann Christian’s death, on 1 January 1782, only shortly before the composition of K414: on 10 April 1782 he wrote to his father, “I suppose you already know that the English Bach has died? What a loss to the musical world!”
It is no surprise that K414 and its companions were a success. Mozart himself described them as “a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, natural without being vapid. There are passage here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why (letter of 28 December 1782). At the same time, the concerto sets out a new, public path for Mozart. Gone is the overtly asymmetrical, harmonically overrich and sometimes disturbingly intense style of the late Salzburg works. Instead, Mozart’s first Viennese concertos display a leanness, precision, clarity of articulation and driving momentum that is only infrequently encountered in his pre-1782 concertos.
Between April and December 1775, Mozart, then 19, wrote five violin concertos, probably mainly for his own benefit, but possibly also with Antonio Brunetti, concertmaster of the court orchestra of Salzburg’s Archbishop Colloredo, in mind. Of these, the last two achieved the greatest popularity: No. 4 in D major and No. 5 in A major. Composing his Fourth Violin Concerto in D major KV 218, Mozart used Luigi Boccherini’s concerto in the same key as his model. Still, it is a well-known fact that he was never a slave to other composers’ example, and that he could always subjugate inspirations from various stylistic spheres – French, German, and local Viennese as well as Italian – to his own imagination.
In Violin Concerto No. 4, the relationships between the solo instrument and orchestra are yet not as differentiated as they are in Mozart’s later piano concertos, but the form is already highly coherent and characteristic in its typically Mozartian ease of developing musical narration. Violin concertos hold a special place in Mozart’s oeuvre. Hermann Abert, author of a fundamental monograph of the composer, described them as full of youthful energy that already knows its own worth; playful at times, at times deep in reverie and free play with form. This seems a particularly shrewd observation when one listens to the energetic march motive that opens Fourth Concerto, the lyrical song of the violin in Andante and the elegant and coquettish Rondo. The rondo features an original episode stylized for a popular musette, where the melody is played with a bourdon on an empty string. In October 1777, Wolfgang Amadeus reported to his father from Augsburg that he performed his “Strassburger Concert” there, and that it went down well to great applause. This must have been Fourth Concerto in D major, as evidenced by the similarity of the above-mentioned rondo episode with the musette in Carl von Dittersdorf’s Carnival Symphony entitled Ballo Strasburghese. It was one of the last documented appearances of young Mozart as violinist. Despite earnest motivation by his father, Mozart rejected the career of a violin virtuoso and finally chose the piano. But his violin concertos remain, and so does their lasting charm.
The whole world wondered at the extraordinary maturity exhibited by Felix Mendelssohn, then 17, in his Overture to the Midsummer Night’s Dream; yet those of his early works that were not published in his lifetime were forgotten. Indeed, Mendelssohn himself thought little of what he considered as nothing more than first attempts at composing. His juvenilia were only remembered in mid-20th century, when, in 1952, Yehudi Menuhin published and recorded Violin Concerto in D minor (1822). This earliest period also includes 12 “sinfonias” for strings written between 1821 and 1823 – at the age of 12 to 14! They were performed at Sunday concerts held in the Mendelssohns’ home in Berlin. Felix’s father, Abraham Mendelssohn, a man as enlightened as he was rich, maintained extensive contacts, and his concerts brought together Berlin’s intellectual elite and eminent artists. For the young boy, the opportunity to work with a professional orchestra consisting of first-rate musicians was a unique practical school of composing, complementing his training with C.F. Zelter. The symphonies are a record of his rapid progress. The first six (of 1821) exhibit an orientation towards the somewhat passé style of the “Berlin school” represented by the likes of Graun, Benda or C.Ph.E. Bach. Sinfonia No. 7 (1822) marks the beginning of Haydnian and partially Mozartian influence, visible e.g. in the transition of external formal structure from the ternary to the Classical four-movement model. The second six (7 to 12) display not only a greater ease and maturity but also certain individual features, such as the use, in the scherzo of Sinfonia No. 9 in C major, of a Swiss folk tune, an undoubted reminiscence of an eventful family trip to Switzerland.
Sinfonia No. 10 in B minor, composed in May 1823, is an exception: it is limited to a single main movement, preceded with a slow Introduction.