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The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Alexander Janiczek attentively re-discover the music produced during Mozart's years in Salzburg.
The most familiar music from his Salzburg years comprises the pieces in the standard classical instrumental forms – concertos, symphonies, keyboard sonatas – plus a few works from his large output of sacred music. The many serenades, cassations and divertimentos are much less well-known. The Divertimento, or Concerto, K113 is in fact a ‘foreign’ piece, composed during November 1771 in Milan, where Mozart had just experienced the triumph of his second operatic commission for the city, the Festa teatrale (Ascanio in Alba). For the fifteen-year-old composer, this was an important moment; this was the point where he ceased to be just a precociously gifted youngster, and became a composer with his own recognisable individuality. K113 is momentous in another way, too, as it was the first time he had written for the clarinet, an instrument that was to become immensely important to him in Vienna. On this first occasion, Mozart confined himself largely to the clarinet’s bright upper register. However, there are several moments that anticipate the great clarinet works to come, chief of them, perhaps, the beautiful melody at the start of the Andante, designed for the clarinet’s best cantabile register, and making use of a motif he was to return to several times, right up to the great Adagio of the String Quintet, K593. There are characteristically Mozartean features throughout the Divertimento, from the elegant opening sentence, neatly introducing the first movement’s contrasting characters whilst at the same time allowing each voice in the ensemble a say in the dialogue. The ceremonial style of the Menuetto contrasts most delightfully with its pensive, minor key Trio, and the playful finale is a splendid early instance of Mozart’s prodigality of invention; there are, in a tiny movement, about eight different ideas, all fitting together to make a balanced whole.
The series of six orchestral Serenades forms a significant part of Mozart’s Salzburg output. They have many common features: all are in the bright key of D major, written for a full orchestra including trumpets, and comprise seven or eight movements. Most were designed to accompany the end-of-year celebrations at the University: on an evening in early August the Serenade would be played twice, first at the Archbishop’s summer residence, and then in the Kollegienplatz (now the Universitätsplatz) to an audience of students and professors. Each of the Serenades is paired with a March (K189 belongs with K185), played en route to the two venues. In the decade from 1769, Mozart was the preferred composer for these Serenades. In 1773, however, when K185 (also known as the ‘Andretter’ Serenade) was written, he wasn’t present at the performance, as he was on an extended visit to Vienna with his father. Earlier in the year he had composed his first Violin Concerto, K207 and K185 is the first of four Serenades to include a solo violin. Typical of Salzburg practice is the alternation of flutes and oboes, played by the same players; the flutes appear in the March, the first of the two Menuettos, and in the following Andante grazioso.
The March immediately sets a celebratory atmosphere with its bold motifs and striking, witty changes of instrumentation and texture. The flutes become prominent during the suave, elegant second theme. The scale-wise main theme of the Serenade’s first Allegro, surprisingly announced by the bass instruments and the horns, leads to a range of further ideas, all based on fragments of scales; in this way the young master combines prodigality with coherence. However, it’s the opening idea that predominates, with its characteristic rhythm, returning emphatically in an extended coda. The following two movements form a miniature violin concerto, in the remote key of F major. First, there’s an Andante featuring a broad, sonorous, singing melody and a livelier subsidiary theme with trills and staccato repeated notes. Then comes a simple Rondo, where the orchestra reiterates the main Rondo theme, alternating with a variety of lively solo episodes. Towards the end the violin begins to join in as the theme is played, introducing a new continuation.
Back in D major, the trumpets, absent since the first movement, enhance the effect of a stately Menuetto. Its Trio is most unusually scored, with a melody entrusted to solo flute and viola, with another viola part and bass for accompaniment. The Andante grazioso has prominent parts for two flutes and for the horns, now pitched in the high key of A major. The bright, luminous sections for wind contrast most beautifully with the delicate, expressive writing for the violins. The second Menuetto, typically designed to be played at a faster tempo than the first, and in a more robust, popular idiom, starts with a striking, fanfare-like phrase for the whole orchestra in unison. This time there are two trios: the first, in the minor, reintroduces the solo violin, lightly accompanied by just violins and violas; the second gives its joyful, instantly memorable melody to the oboes and horns. The finale is preceded by a mock-heroic slow introduction. After three bars of stern unison, the winds introduce a motif that’s then adapted to form the main theme of the finale proper, a movement full of youthful high spirits. At the point where we expect a conclusion, Mozart springs a surprise – a coda whose main purpose is to introduce a grand Mannheim crescendo (a gradual rise of melodic line, dynamic level and excitement, over a constantly repeated bass note). An example of youthful exuberance, certainly, yet Mozart used the same device to round off the overture to The Marriage of Figaro in 1786.
In 1775 Mozart wrote the remaining four of his five violin concertos; the last three, especially, are amongst the most popular of his earlier works. After this, the only string concertante work he completed was the great Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola of 1779. But he did write three separate movements for violin and orchestra, two of which were probably intended as substitute movements for his own concertos. The Adagio in E major, K261, composed in 1776, is most likely designed to replace the Adagio of the A major Concerto, K219. Nowadays it’s never heard in this context, but with its more clear cut phrases, simpler form and with flutes substituting for oboes, it provides a lighter, more graceful, (if less profound) alternative.
The Rondo in B flat major, K269 probably dates from the same period, and again the likelihood is that it was intended to replace the original finale of K207, Mozart’s first concerto. This work has in places an air of old fashioned formality and the Rondo would certainly have helped to give it a more up-to-date air. By the mid-1770s, Mozart had evidently formed the conviction, maintained for the rest of his life, that the most effective conclusion for a concerto was a rondo, where the constant recurrence of a catchy main theme could induce an upbeat, relaxed mood. K269 is a more substantial, sophisticated Rondo than the one in the K185 Serenade. The violin announces the theme before it’s taken up by the orchestra and passages where the spotlight is on the solo part alternate with episodes of lively dialogue between orchestra and soloist.
In this case the Rondo, like those in the last three violin concertos, ends quietly – an otherwise unusual feature in Mozart’s orchestral music. One wonders whether it may reflect a preference of the Salzburg violinist, Antonio Brunetti, who is likely to have performed all these pieces. There’s a particularly effective quiet conclusion, too, to the Rondo in C major, K373, known to have been composed for Brunetti. In March 1781, Mozart was summoned from Munich, where he had been enjoying the success of his new opera, Idomeneo, to attend his employer, the Prince Archbishop Colloredo, on a visit to Vienna. Also in the Archbishop’s entourage were two other musicians, Brunetti, and the castrato Ceccarelli. Mozart was extremely discontented. Treated as a servant, required to perform without extra remuneration whilst being forbidden from accepting lucrative ‘outside’ engagements, he longed for independence. He was particularly irked to have to appear at a concert on 8 April 1781 at the Archbishop’s father’s residence, on the very evening when he might have been performing before the Emperor. However, he did produce three new pieces for this event: a ‘Recitative’ and ‘Aria’ for Ceccarelli, a beautiful Duo Sonata (K379) to play with Brunetti, and the violin Rondo. Mozart, it seems, was not a close friend of Brunetti – on one occasion he described him as ‘coarse and dirty’ – but from the music one would never guess this low opinion, or his lack of enthusiasm for what he referred to as a ‘foul concert’. The Rondo is urbane and lyrical, with occasional moments of operatic eloquence and brilliant display, while introducing some surprising, original touches of orchestration. It is a fitting farewell to his Salzburg years, and the work of a composer confident of making his way in the Imperial capital.
Duncan Druce © 2007