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Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K546

composer

 
Mozart neither disparaged Bach, nor considered it in any way retrogressive to be influenced by Bachian counterpoint. In 1782, as director of Baron van Swieten’s Sunday concerts in Vienna, he played Bach fugues, made transcriptions of Bach fugues and wrote fugues of his own in tribute to his connoisseur patron’s enthusiasm for Baroque music. In 1789, en route to Berlin, he visited Bach’s Thomaskirche in Leipzig where he improvised for an hour on the chorale Jesu meine Zuversicht. Bach’s Leipzig successor, Cantor Doles, sat beside him at the organ, pulling the stops and saying ‘old Sebastian Bach has risen again.’

The visitor, it was observed, was ‘a young, modishly dressed man of medium height,’ who played ‘beautifully and artfully for a large audience.’ The choir sang Bach’s fine motet, Singet den Herrn, in his honour, and Mozart examined Bach’s autographs: ‘The parts spread all around him, held in both of his hands, on his knees, and on the adjoining chairs.’ Two years later, in The Magic Flute, he would give the Two Armed Men stern, beautiful, hauntingly Bachian music to sing.

The Fugue in C minor dates from six years earlier, when Mozart was first immersed in contrapuntal studies. Originally written for two pianos, it was arranged in 1788 for strings and given the slow, sombre introduction which so strikingly adds to its intensity, yet which Mozart described as no more than ‘a short adagio for two violins, viola, and bass, for a fugue I wrote a long time ago.’ The Adagio is filled with bold, expressive harmonic progressions. The Fugue, once set in motion, rolls on relentlessly to its close. The music, playable by string quartet or string orchestra, has a hard-edged severity quite uncommon in Mozart, but confirming how the Baroque and the Rococo could co-exist in Classical Vienna. A dark, somewhat spooky, conductorless performance of it was given at Herbert von Karajan’s funeral in 1989.

from notes by Conrad Wilson 2003

Recordings

Mozart: Requiem
Studio Master: CKD211Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
LCO Live - Mozart, Beethoven & Rossini
SIGCD201Download only

Track-specific metadata for CKD211 track 18

Fugue
Artists
ISRC
GB-ASH-03-21118
Duration
4'23
Recording date
16 December 2002
Recording venue
Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland
Recording producer
Tim Oldham
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs & Andrew Hallifax
Hyperion usage
  1. Mozart: Requiem (CKD211)
    Disc 1 Track 18
    Release date: March 2003
    Download only
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