Concert Notes: Mozart The King

MCO’s Mozart The King can be heard in Melbourne on Sunday 24 November and Thursday 28 November at Melbourne Recital Centre.


Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801)
The Secret Marriage: Overture
The Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801) was born near Naples. After his schooling he travelled extensively in Italy, taking up appointments in various cities, including St Petersburg, Warsaw and Vienna, before returning to Naples in the later years of his life. While he is predominantly remembered as an operatic composer (having written more than 80 operas), he wrote a large amount of sacred music including oratorios and masses, secular cantatas, sonatas for solo keyboard, symphonies, concertos and chamber music.
His operas were performed in the major houses of Europe, from St Petersburg to London, and were particularly popular in Vienna and the Hungarian court of Esterháza where, between 1783 and 1790, Haydn conducted 13 of Cimarosa’s operas, with many performed several times. L’italiana in Londra saw at least 14 repeat performances in five years.
In late 1791 Cimarosa was appointed Kapellmeister to the court in Vienna by Leopold II. With the appointment was the commission to write a new opera, Il matrimonio segreto (The Secret Marriage), based on the 1766 text by George Colman the Elder and David Garrick. The opera was first performed in February 1792 at the Imperial Hofburg Theatre. This premiere has the reputation of eliciting the longest encore in the history of opera: indeed, the emperor was so pleased with the work he ordered refreshments for the performers and then an immediate repeat performance of the entire opera! Soon after its premiere, performances were staged in numerous cities including Berlin, Milan, Barcelona, London, Lisbon, Madrid and Paris.
The overture opens with three chords similar to the opening of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) and immediately heads off into hurtling string passages reminiscent of Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) of Mozart.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Romance No 2 in F major for violin and orchestra Op 50 (arr string orchestra Keith Crellin)
In addition to the violin concerto, the piano concertos and the triple concerto, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) wrote a number of smaller single movement works for solo instrument and orchestra. The Romance in F Op 50 was written in 1798 and had its first performance in the same year but was not published until 1805. Interestingly, although composed before Romance No 1 in G Op 40 (1801–2) which was published in 1803, this work was not published until 1805, thus explaining why it is known as Romance No 2 and not No 1.
The four year period between the composition of these two works was an especially productive time for the composer, resulting in, among others, the first two symphonies, the third piano concerto, the six string quartets Op 18, nine violin sonatas (including the Spring and the Kreutzer), and eleven piano sonatas (Op 13 to Op 31).
The work follows the structure of a two-episode rondo (ABACA coda). The return of the main theme provides a sense of stable repose. The work is notable for its fine lyricism and beautiful sense of grace.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major K482
I. Allegro
II. Andante
III. Allegro
After Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) returned to Vienna, in the period from 1782 to 1786, he wrote 15 piano concertos. The concerto was a popular vehicle for him to perform and supplement his income. The E flat concerto was the third piano concerto written in 1785 and follows the concertos in D minor K466 and C major K467. While it is often overshadowed by these two remarkable works, it stands its ground with its distinct character and individuality. In the following year Mozart went on to compose the concertos in A major K488, C minor K491 and C major K503. Over this time, he was focussed on writing Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro).
The concerto is scored for flute, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings. This is the first time that Mozart incorporated clarinets in the score of a piano concerto. He subsequently employs clarinets in the following A major and C minor concertos.
In the opening Allegro the composer combines a richness of ideas and invention. The movement is characteristically ceremonial with trumpets and timpani fanfares and yet it is a canvas of interconnected ideas and instrumental colours. Here the piano is a remarkable part of the overall texture with the interplay of the numerous wind solos. The Andante in C minor is a theme with variations and is reminiscent of Mozart’s two other piano concertos that have C minor slow movements (K271 and K365). This is arguably one of Mozart’s most exquisite slow movements. The poignant main theme unfolds over the three variations with their increasingly emotional depth. The Allegro finale is a rondo and commences with the feel of hunting music, similar in character to the third horn concerto (K447). The movement is interrupted with an Andantino cantabile episode with a strikingly simple melody before hurtling back to the main theme to conclude.
Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Symphony No 98 in B flat major The King
I. Adagio – Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Menuetto: Presto
IV. Finale: Presto
Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) is one of the most celebrated composers of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His catalogue of works is immense and his influence on Western music is immeasurable. James Webster, writing in Grove Music Online, states “Although Haydn’s sobriquet ‘father of the symphony’ is not literally true, in a deeper sense it is apt: there is no other genre in Western music for which the output of a single composer is at once so vast in extent, so historically important and of such high artistic quality.” Haydn moulded and honed the form of the classical symphony. From his experiments and iterations of the fast-slow-fast movements, with the gradual introduction of a minuet and trio movement, we see the emergence of the modern symphony.
The German violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon engaged Haydn to visit London in 1790–91 and 1794–95. For these visits the composer was commissioned to write two sets of six symphonies that we now know as the ‘London’ symphonies. These symphonies demonstrate the composer’s originality in concept and execution; he continually pushed the boundaries to unexpected and remarkable conclusions.
The B flat Symphony was composed in early 1792 and first performed in March of that year with the composer conducting from the keyboard and the orchestra led by Salomon. The work is scored for one flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, strings and keyboard.
The opening Adagio in B flat minor consists of a series of broken chords. This motive then forms the basis of the main theme of the Allegro in B flat major. The movement is in sonata form with its ingenious development of ideas.
Much has been written about the Adagio second movement. The musicologist Donald Tovey suggested that this movement was Haydn’s requiem for Mozart who died in the previous December. The movement is in sonata form and the hymn-like main theme is reminiscent of ‘God save the King’ and has a direct reference to the Agnus dei from Mozart’s Coronation Mass K 317 and the Andante from his Jupiter Symphony.
The fast and measured Menuetto and trio provide a rustic contrast to the previous movement. The expansive Presto finale is in sonata form and takes us through a series of wild and exciting contrasts. The development section is marked by a number of violin solos and prior to the conclusion there is a short solo for the keyboard.
David Forrest