Welltower Mozart and More Series Program Notes 2017-2018

Welltower Mozart & More Series

PROGRAM NOTES
by Kalindi Bellach ©2017

Concerto Nos. 6 & 21 / Concerto Nos. 8 & 24 / Concerto Nos. 7 & 23 / Concerto Nos. 5 & 20

Concerto Nos. 6 & 21

Alain Trudel, conductor
Frances Renzi, piano

Program:

Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 6

Mozart - Serenade No. 12

Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21

Mozart Piano Concerto Nos. 6 and 21
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is perhaps most well known as a composer of operas and symphonic works, but he wrote a staggering number of concertos for various instruments. Being a keyboard player and performing as often as he did, it’s not surprising that many of his concertos are for the piano, or more accurately, the fortepiano. The fortepiano, predecessor of our modern instrument, produced a lighter sound than today’s piano and had a much smaller dynamic range. This is partly why pre-nineteenth century concertos were scored for small orchestras.

The sheer number of Mozart’s piano concertos – he composed the first when he was eleven and his last at thirty-five – allows us an excellent way to study his development as a composer.

Written in 1776, when Mozart was just twenty, Piano Concerto No. 6 in B-flat (K. 238) is a relatively early example of his work. He completed the concerto in Salzburg the year after he produced five concertos for violin, all of which he published in quick succession. Despite the short time between the violin concertos and the B-flat piano concerto, the piano concerto is quite different stylistically from its predecessor works, lacking the extroverted quality of most of the violin concertos. Hungarian pianist Jendö Jandó points out, however, that although the mood of the B-flat concerto is very different, it shares its “increasing richness of invention” with the violin concertos.

Music historians have been debating whether Mozart composed this concerto for one of his own numerous performances or if he wrote it for someone else. Commentator Michael Jameson suggests that he composed it for a member of the Salzburg aristocracy, a student, or maybe even his sister. This is indicated, he says, by its surface simplicity and comparatively smaller demands on technique. This theory is also supported by the fact that the concerto came at a time when Mozart was trying to gain favor in high society. However, musicologist John Irving disagrees. Instead, he points to Mozart’s performances of the concerto in 1777 while he was on tour in Paris, Munich, and Mannheim. Perhaps he was just pressed for time when he wrote it, or perhaps he wanted the lighter scoring for some other reason. Of course, it’s completely probable that his sister and/or students also performed this work.

Scored for two oboes, two flutes, two horns, and strings, the B-flat Piano Concerto has a conventional form, with three movements following the fast-slow-fast pattern. The first movement is marked Allegro aperto, a rare instruction also found in Mozart’s A Major Violin Concerto, written in 1775, where he indicates that the music should be played with a more expansive manner than is usual for an allegro. The Allegro aperto opens with the customary orchestral exposition and presents the two main themes.

We have Mozart’s own, intact cadenza for this concerto, although at least with the piano concertos, Mozart didn’t always write them down. Sometimes he even improvised them during his performances. The first phrase of the cadenza bears striking similarities to one of Michael Haydn’s violin concertos, but whether the connection was intentional or not can’t be said with certainty.

The Andante is full of sweet, liquid phrases. Jameson points out that although the main theme is “characteristic of the composer in its more poignant connotations, [in the Andante it is] only implied in passing.” In this movement, the oboes are replaced with flutes and the strings often marked pizzicato,heightening the movement’s hushed, graceful quality. Irving notes that while Mozart’s flutes and oboes would have sounded more similar to each other than their modern counterparts, the change in instrumentation still produces a “curious luminescence.”

The Finale is a traditional rondo, but without Mozart’s usual bravura episodes. The overall temperament of this movement is cheerful, evocative of the Turkish elements in the Finale to the A Major Violin Concerto. Mozart’s conscious use of so many “reminiscences” is reasonable, as musicologist Neal Zaslaw explains: “In truth, Mozart’s music displays a continuum of possibilities ranging from relatively mechanical arrangements or outright theft of movements through various degrees of partial citation or quotation to vaguer forms of paraphrase and, ultimately, to extraordinary inventiveness and high originality.”

Mozart completed the next concerto we will hear tonight in 1785. The Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major (K. 467) has been unofficially titled “Elvira Madigan” because of the second movement was used in the 1967 Swedish film of the same name. Like the Piano Concerto in D Minor (K. 466), this concerto was written for performance at a series of subscription concerts Mozart was giving. As such, it is one of the most technically demanding of his concertos. Mozart’s father, Leopold, described the work to his daughter, Maria: “Indeed it is astonishingly difficult … Several passages may not harmonize unless one hears all the instruments playing together. But of course it is quite possible that the copyist may have misread a sharp for a flat in the score, or something of the kind, for if so it cannot be right. I shall get to the bottom of it all when I see the original score.”

Mozart was at the height of his career and as incredibly busy performing and composing during the months leading up to the composition of K. 467. He produced numerous scores at this time, but we know how busy he was through his father’s letters to Maria, such as this one: “We never get to bed before one o’clock and I never get up before nine … Every day there are concerts; and the whole time is given up to teaching, music, composing, and so forth.… It is impossible for me to describe the rush and bustle. Since my arrival your brother’s fortepiano has been taken at least a dozen times to the theatre or to some other house. He has had a large fortepiano pedal made, which stands under the instrument and is about two feel longer and extremely heavy.” According to commentator Brian Robins, this larger pedal was supposed to be used for improvising, and would have helped somewhat to amplify the fortepiano as well as making its articulation clearer. However, it was so difficult to move, as Leopold describes, that it seems logical that it would have also been used for other things.

Piano Concerto K. 467 calls for a larger orchestra than K. 238. K.467 is scored for paired oboes and bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani, and strings. It was premiered at one of Mozart’s benefit concerts on March 10 in Vienna. The program advertised the new concerto, some improvisations (for which Mozart was famous), and noted that they would be performed using the large pedal.

Robins describes the first movement as “an expansive Allegro of Olympian grandeur and design.” Despite everything that was going on in his life at the time, this movement, and the rest of the concerto, do not show any of the “rush and bustle.” Produced only weeks after the darker and more dramatic K. 466, as Howard states, “it is like a grand comedic antidote to it. Its quiet, marchlike opening in unison strings sets an opera buffa-like stage for the succession of ideas which, though interesting enough in themselves, are completely successful in that they ideally convey a bristling air of expectancy.”

The second movement is simply designed; there are no excessive frills, leaving Mozart ample room to improvise during the performance. Commentator Mark Rohr describes the Andante as “a true aria for the soloist, a moonlit piece that masks its sophistication with apparent simplicity.”

The final movement is marked Allegro vivace assai, and, like many of Mozart’s finales, is suggestive of opera buffa. It is brilliant and energetic, and yet filled with subtleties. Fun!

Unfortunately, none of Mozart’s own cadenzas seem to have survived for this concerto. Still, Mozart’s piano concertos are well preserved compared with the work of other composers. As Zaslaw points out, “We have autograph manuscripts for all but one of them, authentic sets of parts for several of them, Mozart’s own cadenzas for the majority of them, and intelligent recent editions and recordings of all.” This is incredibly lucky, considering that Mozart is nearly solely responsible for our modern notion of concerto writing. The high regard in which we hold his compositional skill is in big part due to the startling versatility of his concertos. Howard notes that “the keyboard concertos consistently struck rich melodic veins and, with the minted gold, Mozart dressed his solo protagonist, the piano, in the guises of hero, heroine, villain, supporting player. The keyboard’s reactions and responses to the dramatic stimuli of the orchestra result in shades of interplay that are, in their way, as richly varied as those sung and acted out in his sublime operas.”

 

Serenade No. 12 in C Minor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

In the mid-eighteenth century, Harmoniemusik, or wind band music (usually for court or for the military) was at the height of its popularity. Emperor Joseph II even formed his own group in 1782 consisting of eight players instead of the usual six. This relatively small ensemble lent itself well to the serenade and the divertimento, which are traditionally lighter works intended primarily for easy entertainment. Serenades were particularly sought after in Salzburg.  Mozart wrote his first at the age of thirteen, and followed it with many more. After moving to Vienna around 1781, he wrote far fewer works of this type.

Commentator Chris Darwin explains that although Mozart’s serenades and divertimentos as a whole are “all light and witty, [and] undemanding of the listener,” this one is different, and not just from his other work, but from most of the examples of the genre.  It is weightier, and more serious. Annotator James Keller goes so far as to call it an “ominous, dark-hued piece.” Mozart himself sometimes referred to it as Nacht musique or ‘night music.’ However, this has less to do with the possible connotations of night and more to do with linguistic ties to the Italian word sera, meaning ‘evening.’ Nevertheless, as serenades were intended to function more as background music and not to be too serious or compositionally sophisticated, this one, with its minor tonality, and its full four movements (possibly a nod to symphonic form), is extraordinary.

The first movement is marked allegro, and follows traditional sonata form. Keller describes it as “beautifully balanced and highly emotive… on the whole taut and tense.”

The second movement also follows sonata form, and is marked at a slightly more relaxed andante. Keller refers to it as “a gracious respite.” The Andante is in the friendly key of E-flat Major, and may be the only movement that does not rebel against its label.

The third movement, a Menuet and Trio, is perhaps the most interesting, and may have taken inspiration from Haydn’s Symphony No. 47. The Menuet is constructed as a strict canon, and is the most intricate of the movements. Mozart incorporates dissonances and sforzandos (accents) into the music. Annotator Peter Laki suggests that these point toward the “storm and stress style of the minor mode symphonies… [and] chamber works from the 1770-1780s.” In the Trio, Mozart inverts the canon so that the repetitions mirror the original line rather than imitating it. Keller notes that “[this] Menuet seems to prefigure the corresponding movement of Mozart’s famous Symphony No. 40 in G Minor (K. 550).”

The finale is marked allegro like the first movement, and forms a theme and variations. Like most of the piece, it does not conform to our expectations for a serenade. While most finales in the genre display and almost effervescent character, this one is moody, in keeping with the preceding movements. Keller points out that contrary to most theme and variation movements, the variations here all carry on the minor key, creating a “sense of seriousness that can verge on terrifying.” However, in true Classical style, Mozart concludes the work in a major tonality.

This serenade is filled with dramatic contrasts throughout. Commentator Alfred Einstein explains, “If G minor is the fatalistic key for Mozart, then C minor is the dramatic one, the key contrasts between aggressive unisons and lyric passages. The lyric quality is always overtaken by gloomy outbursts.”  

It is scored for Emperor Joseph's Harmoniemusik: pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns, and bassoons.

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Concerto Nos. 8 & 24

Yaniv Segal, conductor
Laura Melton, piano
Samantha Beresford, piano

Program:

Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 8
Beethoven Arr. Segal/Schumann - "Symphony" in C Minor
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 24

Piano Concerto No. 8 in C Major, K. 246
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

Mozart wrote his Piano Concerto No. 8 in C Major, K. 246, in 1776, while he was living in Salzburg, Austria. He dedicated it to Countess Antonia Lutzow, who was studying with him at the time and who was quite influential in provincial Salzburg. Another of his students, Therese Pierron (his landlord’s daughter), and his sister Marianne, “Nannerl,” also gave several public performances of the piece. Nannerl then passed it on to several of her own students to work on. Mozart finally performed it himself the following year in Munich.

This concerto is not as technically demanding as some of Mozart’s other contributions to the genre and is therefore an ideal teaching piece. The passagework is restricted to the right hand and involves, according to musicologist John Irving, “only the most straightforward changes in hand position.” For the most part, the left hand provides simple accompaniment, and the whole is excellent for developing a style of songful cantabile playing. Additionally, the recapitulation is an exact replica of the first section, rendering the body of music to memorize smaller.

However, this did not always help everyone. Here’s something from a letter from Mozart to his father, Leopold: “Before dinner [Abbe Vogler] had scrambled through my concerto at sight. He took the first movement prestissimo, the Andante allegro and the Rondo, believe it or not, prestissimo. He generally played the bass differently from the way it was written, inventing now and then quite another harmony and even melody. Nothing else is possible at that pace, for the eyes cannot see the music nor the hands perform it…. Vogler’s fingering too is wretched.” Mozart continues to detail at some length all of the problems he saw with Vogler’s performance. We may think the account he gives his father shows a less kind side of Mozart, but one can no doubt empathize with his impatience!

Mozart wrote his own cadenzas for this concerto. In fact, he wrote three cadenzas, each with a different level of difficulty, further supporting the idea that the piece was meant for teaching. Several of these cadenzas are still available to us.

The first movement is marked Allegro aperto, a marking shared only with the Sixth Piano Concerto, and indicating that it should be played more broadly and statelier than allegro might imply. The second movement, in keeping with traditional concerto form, is an Andante and is presented in full sonata form. The finale is a Rondo, marked Tempo di menuetto, and described by Irving as “leisurely” and “less florid and more varied in content” than some of Mozart’s other finales in the same form. The work overall features a lively and energetic character and displays clever use of form.

Though some have called this concerto “merely satisfactory,” it has a certain charm and sweetness that sets it apart. It is scored for two oboes, two horns, strings, and solo piano.

Nearly a decade later, in 1786, Mozart finished his Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491. This piece was written in haste, as evidenced by the messiness of his surviving sketches and all their erasures and changes. Although haste was not uncommon for Mozart at this time in his life, here he seems to have been in so much hurry that the autograph does not even contain a fully realized solo part. It is assumed that Mozart would have improvised from his sketches during the first performance; according to Irving, Mozart didn’t even have time to practice for the premiere because he was busy up to the last moment supervising the copying of the orchestra parts.

Mozart’s compositional routine was to draft primary melodies in the string parts, the right hand of the piano part, and some wind parts, and set them over the orchestral bass before filling in the left hand of the piano and the remainder of the wind and brass parts. In this concerto he broke pattern, though, finishing the orchestra part completely before adding the solo part, which is almost illegible in parts of the facsimile. It seems logical that Mozart must have been under an extremely stressful deadline and had to produce parts for the orchestra before considering his own. This inevitably led to extensive revisions later on.

The opening Allegro is complex, almost stormy and makes the mood of the whole concerto immediately apparent. Musicologist Philip Radcliffe details the two most important figures – the ascending leap in the melody and the associated rhythm – “which is liable to appear in many contexts.” The descending scalar pattern gives rise to a beautiful melodic passage, which is countered with another motive, featuring a strongly dotted rhythm (long + short), also based on the pattern of descending scales.

The Larghetto acts as a balm following the tempestuous first movement. Radcliffe describes it as “gentle and clear-cut … and filled with quiet warmth that is generally characteristic of Mozart’s slow movements in E-Flat.” The movement is simple, almost childlike, but is also full of small details. For example, listen closely to the many tiny rhythmic features that are changed on repetition and which try to hide behind ornamental figurations. This movement was almost certainly a favorite of Mozart’s. Three years later, he wrote a similar movement: the Adagio for his Piano Sonata in B-Flat, K. 570.

In the Allegretto, Mozart uses variation form for the last time in this genre. The theme is necessarily simple, but displays some slightly ominous undertones, which increase in presence as the movement proceeds. Radcliffe points out that Beethoven really admired the coda of this movement, and “its influence can be felt in the finale of the Appassionata Sonata.” Musicologist Donald Francis Tovey describes this concerto as “sublime.”

It uses an unusually large wind section, and is scored for flute, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, strings, and solo piano. This is the largest orchestra Mozart ever called for in his concerti.

 

Violin Sonata Op. 30 No. 2 in C Minor, orch. Schumann/Segal
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

“O Providence – grant me at last but one day of pure joy – it is so long since real joy echoed in my heart … I shall grapple with fate; it shall never pull me down.” (Beethoven, Heiligenstadt Testament)

In 1799, Ludwig van Beethoven first noticed the ominous ringing sounds that began to follow him everywhere. Having tried many treatments, Beethoven’s physician finally suggested a move to Heiligenstadt, a quiet place near the Danube, in hopes of bolstering Beethoven’s health and slowing the onset of his deafness.

After a couple of months away from the bustle of Vienna, Beethoven wrote his famous Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter to his brothers detailing his misfortunes and despair. He didn’t send the letter, but it was found among his papers after his death. And soon he returned to Vienna and began his work with a new light. This new light included increased attention to the “symphonic ideal,” a term referring to music of any genre exhibiting expanded force, weight, majesty, and which generated a sense of spiritual depth or personal growth. This intent put Beethoven at what musicologist Richard Rodda calls “the threshold of a new creative language, the dynamic and dramatic musical speech that characterizes the creations of his so-called ‘middle period.’”

The following few years were among the most productive of Beethoven’s life. Between 1802 and 1806 he produced three full symphonies, about twelve piano sonatas, two concerti, his opera Fidelio, various songs for voice and piano, and chamber pieces. He wrote: “I live only in my music … and have scarcely begun one thing when I start another.” The C Minor Sonata was written in 1802, at the dawn of this period,.

The Sonata is filled with contrasts in both sound and mood. Commentator James Reel writes,  “[It] may be grim … it is Beethoven in his most famous mood, an initially depressive state that is gradually overcome through a spasm of anti-Fate fist-shaking.”

The first movement is an Allegro con brio, and the material for the whole movement is present in the first theme. According to commentator Samuel Midgley, it resembles “a taut spring about to snap.” The development is played pianissimo and continues to use the first subject almost exclusively. It is at this point that Beethoven begins to highlight various contrasts with a lighter, more martial theme. Beethoven’s developments are often asymmetrical, with a slightly longer latter part in keeping with traditional classical form. In the coda, there is a brief moment, when the theme seems to attempt an escape into the wholesome land of C Major but inevitably falls back into C Minor, cementing its character into something Rodda calls “simultaneously morbid, dramatic, and defiant.”

The Adagio cantabile is a different story. It is set in A-flat Major and soothes us after the first movement. Cantabile means “singable,” and Beethoven’s melody is sweet and light and features lovely ornamentation. Rodda suggests that the melody may be based on a hymn. However, Beethoven counters the melody slightly with subtle chromaticism and carefully strips the material down to its bare essentials. It dissolves into a scalar passage and continues with some variations before finally returning to its full form. Never during this time does it really lose the peacefulness or its basic melodic contour.

The third movement, a playful scherzo, is shorter than the preceding ones and provides a welcome contrast to the surrounding movements, finally arriving in bright C Major. Beethoven displays the customary rhythmic twists and turns, maintaining high energy throughout. Rodda points out that the “rough rhythms … occasionally devolve into argumentative, stomping rhetoric.” This gives way to the trio section, presented as a small-scale canon of great seriousness.

Beethoven presents the finale in sonata-rondo form, in which the main theme is less an actual melody than a slightly unsettled ascending harmonic sequence. Beethoven does construct a stronger melodic language in the episodes, which are generally optimistic, though there is a surprise about halfway through. This somewhat resurrects the first movement’s storm, bringing the work full circle both formally and expressively. Rodda describes the coda as “one final warning shake of the fist.”

Interestingly, this sonata was not originally scored for violin and piano, as you might assume, but for “Pianoforte with Accompanying Violin.” This is not to say that the violin part is unimportant here. But it gives us a window into Beethoven’s intent that the violin functions more as a foil to balance out the drama in the piano part. The orchestrated version you will hear today is a collaboration between tonight’s conductor, Yaniv Segal, and composer Garrett Schumann, and was premiered by the Naples Philharmonic in January of this year.  The orchestration calls for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets, timpani, and strings.

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Concerto Nos. 7 & 23

Michelle Merrill, conductor
Michael Boyd, piano
Ryan Behan, piano

Program:

Haydn - Symphony No. 49 in F Minor "La Passione"
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 7 in F Major
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major

Symphony No. 49 in F Minor “La Passione”
Josef Haydn (1732–1809)

Haydn completed his “La Passione” Symphony in 1768 while serving as Kappelmeister to the Esterházy family. This symphony is from Haydn’s da chiesa style, a classification referring to the overall form of the symphony. While a symphony usually has a slow movement and a dance or variation movement sandwiched between two faster outer movements, this one follows the old-fashioned sonata da chiesa, or church sonata form, presenting the movements in a slow-fast-slow-fast order. 

The title “La Passione” was not given to the symphony by Haydn but by the publisher sometime after the work was premiered. Musicologist A. Peter Brown notes that it is “a title with no claim to authenticity, and some have believed it to be a work for Holy Week.” While the structure of the movements and the retroactive title suggest a sacred intention, it would not have been performed in church because purely instrumental music would not have been presented as part of the liturgy.

Musicologist Elaine Sisman has a very different idea of the work, however. She cites a Viennese source that refers to this work as Il Quakup [recte quacquero] di bel’ humore (“The good-humored Quaker”). This suggests ties to a slightly obscure single-act comedy from the early 1770s called Die Quaker, which was in turn a translation of a popular French play of the time. Sisman goes on to claim that the symphony is more “light-hearted” than we’d naturally assume, and doesn’t really have any particular “tragic minor-mode associations.” If we choose to view the symphony in this light, we’d have to categorize it as one of Haydn’s theater symphonies.

Another deviation from the traditional symphonic form can be found in the key signatures: each movement keeps the same key and mode. Commentator John Palmer points out that F Minor is an appropriate key for the subject matter and the somber quality of the work, and that keeping the key consistent lends a sense of unity to the full work.

The title, “La Passione,” applies especially well to the first movement (Adagio), with what Brown calls “its pathotype theme, the sighs and suspirations, the descending bass line, and the predominantly soft dynamics interrupted by forte and fortissimo.” The movement opens in darkness, moving heavily forward with a reluctance that Haydn scholar H. C. Robbins Landon suggests could reference “the winding line of penitents before the Cross.” Haydn also uses inverse climaxes here, where the highest point is the softest and lowest is the loudest. Brown also notes that this is the first time Haydn writes two climaxes into the same exposition. He brings both back in the recapitulation, and the movement ends softly.

The other three movements are all faster, and the second (according to Brown) “fully exemplifies the Sturm und Drang style [this can be translated in several ways, the most widely accepted of which is ‘storm and stress,’ a style in music developed in parallel with that in German literature]. Within the “Passione” concept, it is a musical earthquake.”  Notice Haydn’s use of syncopation in the accompanimental figures to create a sense of nervousness.

The third movement, a Minuet and Trio, gives some relief from the intensity of the first two movements. The Trio presents the only real lightening of atmosphere in the symphony, though, shifting into the major mode. The first horn has a lovely solo in this section.

The final Presto takes thematic elements from the previous three movements and distills them into their most concentrated form. Brown suggests that this is another unifying tactic, and notes that Haydn also employed it in other symphonies from ca. 1770–72 – most notably in Nos. 44 and 45.

A high percentage of Haydn’s compositional output occurred during his time at Esterhazy court under the encouragement of Prince Nicolaus. There, Haydn was financially secure and artistically appreciated, both of which gave him the opportunity to experiment and innovate. This shows especially clearly in his string quartets and symphonies, of which there are many. When we think now of the word symphony and all that it implies, we tend to presuppose a large sound and, consequently, a large number of players. However, Haydn would have had a group no larger than twelve or sixteen at those first performances.

His Symphony No. 49 is scored for two oboes, two horns, bassoon, and strings.

 

Piano Concerto No. 7 in F Major, K. 242 “Lodron”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

Mozart dedicated his seventh piano concerto to (in his own handwriting on a special presentation copy) “Her Excellency, Her Ladyship, the Countess Lodron … and her daughters, their Ladyships the Countesses Aloysia and Giuseppa.” As it was dedicated to all three women, the original score calls for three solo piano parts. Each part varies in its technical difficulty, suited to each performer. The first two are considered moderately difficult and the third (for the youngest daughter) is far simpler.

Annotator Jim Yancy notes, “When Mozart himself eventually played this concerto in 1780, in one of his last public performances in Salzburg, he rearranged it for two pianos, a version that makes greater demands on the soloists. It is thought that the original second performer of this version was Mozart’s sister.” Due to the simplicity of the third part, little is lost in this rearrangement, and despite the relative simplicity of the solo parts, this concerto is filled with all the usual imaginative grace expected from a Mozart concerto. 

The first movement, a lively Allegro, opens brightly before the soloists’ develop a rich harmony with the added third part. This movement features a cadenza, shared by all three parts. The second movement is a lovely singing Adagio, with gorgeous, long melodies. The last movement is marked a more moderate Rondeau, Tempo di Menuetto. Each soloist has a chance to come through here, but the orchestra carries most of the dramatic weight.

Mozart calls for two oboes, two horns, strings, and three solo pianos. Tonight, you will hear the arrangement for two pianos.

The other concerto on tonight’s program is No. 23 in A Major, K. 488. Mozart completed this concerto in 1786. During this time in his life and career, he was generally preoccupied with vocal music, specifically Le nozze di Figaro. This was at least partly due to the fact that his audiences were clamoring for opera. However, he had faith that he could produce a concerto fresh and interesting enough that the fact that it wasn’t an opera wouldn’t matter.

Besides the composing he was doing, most of Mozart’s income in the years surrounding the composition of this concerto came from his performances, and these concerti (Nos. 22–24) were almost certainly premiered during a series of concerts in 1786. Though all three are staples of the repertoire, this one stands above the other two as one of Mozart’s most intimate and expressive, possibly thanks to the soloistic elements in the orchestral parts, rendering them closer to chamber music than is usual for a concerto accompaniment.

The first movement is an Allegro in traditional sonata form, with the main thematic material presented first by the orchestra and then taken up by the soloist. This movement is calm and lyrical, with the exception of several dramatic moments in the development, which musicologist Cuthbert Girdlestone describes as “Mozart’s daimon … suddenly surge[ing] up from the depth.”

The Adagio holds a special place in Mozart’s catalogue. It’s the only piece he wrote in F# Minor, and also the last time he would write a minor-mode slow movement in an instrumental piece. Mozart wrote a lovely melody in it for flute and clarinet, appearing in the middle of the movement – another example of his sensitive chamber writing. The last movement is marked Allegro assai and is essentially a rondo. According to annotator Chris Meyers, this movement “puts Mozart’s mercurial wit and humor on full display.”

This concerto is scored for flute, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, strings, and solo piano. Incidentally, this concerto, together with Nos. 22 and 24, are the first in which Mozart used clarinets, a relatively new instrument in the eighteenth century. This was unusual enough that Mozart felt compelled to include a note: should the orchestra not have a clarinetist, the part could be replaced by violin or viola. Mozart uses the clarinets in place of the brighter sounding oboes, producing a darker, smoother color. This is especially evident in the slow movement.

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Concerto Nos. 5 & 20

William Eddins, conductor and piano

Program:

Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 5 in D Major
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor
Beethoven - Symphony No. 4 in B-Flat Major

Piano Concerto No. 5 in D Major, K. 175
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

Mozart produced many piano concerti during his life, and they are among his finest works. However, it was later discovered that his earliest efforts were actually based on the music of other composers, including sonata movements by C. P. E. Bach and several other Baroque composers. Mozart also arranged three of J. C. Bach’s keyboard sonatas as concerti. Musicologist Philip Radcliffe notes, “Being wise after the event, it is easy to see that they do not show any very individual traits, but they do contain some agreeable music.” His fifth piano concerto in D Major, completed in 1773, when he was 17 years old, is his first completely original contribution to the genre.

Despite his youth, Mozart had already completed a few symphonies, although none of his most famous. The scoring in this piano concerto is simple but foreshadows elements of his later mastery. He also keeps to the traditional form with three movements – marked Allegro, Andante ma un poco adagio (in the neighboring key of G Major), and Rondo: Allegro.

The first movement is in full sonata form, and lively in character. It somewhat lacks Mozart’s usual lyricism, but even this early piece shows the humor we’ve come to expect of Mozart. Radcliffe claims that the “bustling atmosphere of the first movement suggests that of the overture to a comic opera.”

The second and third movements are also in full sonata form and begin with the usual orchestral introduction. In the Adagio, Mozart experiments a little with light chromaticism, creating some wonderful colors. In the Rondo, Radcliffe explains, “[Mozart] confronts a technical problem [he] was interested in: introduction of contrapuntal elements into sonata form.” This is something he would revisit in some of his chamber music and in some of the opera overtures, particularly Die Zauberflote. Since the theme in part of the last movement is mostly made up of longer notes, Mozart gives the solo piano the more virtuosic and accompanimental role of decorating the theme as it’s played by the orchestra.

Mozart wrote a lot about this concerto in his letters, and it’s clear that it was a great favorite of his. He performed it until the year of his death.

The concerto is scored for two oboes, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, strings, and solo piano; the trumpets and timpani are not called for in the second movement.

Mozart entered his Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466 into his catalog of works on February 10, 1785, and premiered it himself in Vienna the next day. This is not one of his light works – it’s not warm or calm – and it provides a good contrast to the previous concerto on tonight’s program.

Annotator Phillip Huscher writes that this is Mozart’s first concerto in a minor key, which is “in itself an unusual, forward-looking choice … Like the terrifying chords that open Don Giovanni (and return when Don Juan is dragged down to hell), or the Lacrimosa from the Requiem (the last music Mozart wrote), the concerto established D Minor as the darkest of keys and seemed at first almost to exhaust its tragic potential.”

This dramatic and tragic bent is no doubt one of the main reasons that Mozart’s Concert No. 20 is now sometimes referred to as “Beethovenesque.” This concerto was also undeniably popular (more so than Mozart’s other works) in the nineteenth century, when despite most composers’ claims of loving Mozart’s music, there were also rumblings from many that it was, as annotator Herbert Glass describes, “too courtly, too innocent, hardly able to reflect the world as they saw it.” This concerto, however, felt more authentic to an audience accustomed to a darker beauty. Maybe for this reason, Mozart’s Concerto No. 20 was a great favorite of Beethoven’s, who sometimes performed it and even wrote his own cadenzas for it, since Mozart left none of his own.

The first movement, marked Allegro, demonstrates an unusually complex relationship between the soloist and the orchestra. This is the source of the drama. Mozart uses pulsing syncopations to create both tension and motion, and after the orchestra introduces what we think is the main theme, the piano, in an utter break with expectations, does not answer but instead plays its own phrases. The piano part is mostly unornamented; Glass compares it to the recitative in opera, when the text takes precedence over the music. In turn, the piano’s phrases are not taken up by the orchestra.

The second movement is a graceful and lyrical Romanze, showing (as so much of his instrumental work does) Mozart’s incredible talent for operatic writing. (A Romanza is a term generally referring to an instrumental work with a songlike character, and it often includes a narrative element, like a ballad.) The piano opens this movement alone, bringing relief from the intensity of the previous movement. But Mozart can’t help reminding us of the angst that came before, and so inserts a volatile G Minor interlude, called by Mozart’s father “the noisy part with the fast triplets.”

The finale (Allegro assai), dark and menacing, opens with the theme in the piano, which the orchestra goes on to develop. Mozart displays especially excellent writing for the wind section in this movement. There is no transition before the sudden brightness of the major tonality; the conclusion to the concerto seems to resolve the conflict by force. In his book, written in 1945, titled Mozart, Alfred Einstein describes this as “a coda of enchanting sweetness, which represents at the same time an affecting ray of light, a return to the social atmosphere of earlier works, the courtly gesture of a grand seigneur who wishes to leave his guests with a friendly impression.”

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor is scored for flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, strings, and solo piano.

 

Symphony No. 4 in B-Flat Major (1806)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

Beethoven wrote his fourth symphony in 1806, two years after his momentous third. It was originally his intention to follow his “Eroica” with the C Minor (the fifth), of which, by 1805, he’d already completed two movements. Beethoven had been commissioned to write a symphony and was writing the C Minor for that purpose, but instead he decided to dedicate it (and his sixth, the “Pastoral”) to someone other than the commissioner. The fourth symphony was then written to fulfill his commitment.

There is a bit more mystery surrounding this fourth symphony than most of his others. For example, there are fewer primary sources, such as sketches and reviews (which would have appeared in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung), and far less research done on this work than his others. It, along with the eighth Symphony, is also not performed as often as his others. Also, like the eighth, it is lighter and more classical in style. It is possible that the two larger-than-life works on either side are partly responsible for the fourth symphony being a bit overlooked, the way the eighth stands in the shadow of both the bright seventh and the colossal ninth. Composer Robert Schumann once said that the fourth symphony is like “a slender Greek maiden between two Norse giants.”

In general, Beethoven’s fourth symphony is characterized by lightness, brightness, and a spirited grace and elegance. The first movement opens in a slow tempo, punctuated with detached, deliberate notes. Composer Hector Berlioz explains that these are “the background upon which the composer is afterwards enabled to display other melodies of more real character.” This is a technique often employed by Haydn and Mozart also. The slow introduction is something Beethoven seems to have learned from Mozart and Haydn, and something he used in both his First and Second symphonies and would do again in the Seventh. After the close of the Adagio, the Allegro bursts forward with great spontaneity.

The second movement is a broad Adagio of incredible sweetness. Once again, Beethoven has caught perfectly the balance between expressiveness and a careful holding back. Musicologist Sir George Grove calls this movement an example of “the celestial beauty which Beethoven (the deaf Beethoven) could imagine and realise in sounds… we rise from good humour and pleasure to passion as even Beethoven’s fiery nature has perhaps never reached elsewhere.” Beethoven included the indication cantabile in this movement, meaning to sing, and Berlioz loved it so much that he claimed it defied analysis, that it “seem[ed] as if it had been sadly murmured by the Archangel Michael on some day when, overcome by a feeling of melancholy, he contemplated the universe from the threshold of the empyrean.”

The Minuet and Trio features phrases in duple rhythm set over triple meter, giving the feeling of running forward and making the melodies seem more surprising. In the autograph manuscript, it’s clear that Beethoven originally marked the tempo allegro molto e vivace, but later thought better of it, omitting the word molto. As is often the case with trio sections, the tempo relaxes a little, creating more contrast with the menuetto. Beethoven writes a lovely melody in the winds in the Trio, which Grove describes as “as delicate as the song of a robin singing, as robins do sing, over the departed delights of summer.”

The finale (Allegro ma non troppo) features less syncopation and rhythmic play than previous movements and includes faster motives in the strings (especially the violins). The effect is almost that of a perpetuum mobile. To quote Berlioz again, “It is one animated swarm of sparkling notes, presenting a continual babble.”

Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony was premiered in 1807 and calls for two drums, two trumpets, two horns, flute, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, and strings. 

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