Concert Notes: Mozart’s Last Concerto

MCO’s first program for 2014, Mozart’s Last Concerto, will be performed on Friday 28 February and Sunday 2 March.

Concert Notes

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

String Symphony No. 10 in B minor

The String Symphonies were written while Mendelssohn was a pupil of Carl Friedrich Zelter. Between 1821 and 1823 he composed thirteen such symphonies which drew on those of C.P.E. Bach. Some writers have described the string symphonies as academic exercises, however they are much more than this.

Around this time, from 1822 to 1824, Mendelssohn produced five concertos, one for piano, one for violin and three double concertos (two for two pianos, and one for violin and piano) in addition to a range of choral and stage works. These precede some of his more remarkable youthful compositions, including the String Octet (1825) and the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826).

String Symphony No. 10 in B minor was completed in May 1823 when Mendelssohn was 14 years old. It survives as a one-movement piece with three sections rather than movements; it is uncertain whether it was conceived as a single- or a multi-movement work (which was the case with all of the other string symphonies).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major K. 595

Mozart’s contribution to the form of the concerto is extraordinary. As he extended the form and concept of the sonata, symphony and opera, he developed and refined the form of the concerto across a wide range of instruments.

Piano Concerto No. 27 is the last of Mozart’s piano concertos. It was completed in Vienna in January 1791 and Mozart performed it in March – possibly making this the last work he performed. The work precedes the completion of the operas Die Zauberflöte and La clemenza di Tito, as well as his Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet, along with work on the Requiem.

This concerto is scored for flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns and strings. The orchestration is lighter than other late concertos (except no. 23) that include trumpet and timpani. The three movements are in major keys. Each is expansive in scope and contrasting in mood and temperament. While optimistic in outlook the work is at times introspective and poignant. The writing for the piano (including the candenzas) is filled with utter brilliance and the interplay between the piano and orchestra is exquisite.

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Impromptu for String Orchestra

The Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, played a significant role in the definition and formation of the modern Finnish national identity. The central core of his output is the set of seven symphonies. To these are added the choral music, the tone poems, suites and incidental music that draw on great epics of the past.

In composing this work Sibelius drew on his Impromptus for piano Op. 5 – free-form improvisatory musical compositions. The work was completed in 1894 and the first performance was with the Musical Society of Turku conducted by the composer in the same year. This arrangement for string orchestra offers different insights into the original.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Symphony No. 36 in C major K. 425 “Linz”

This symphony was written in Linz over just four days, leading up to its first performance in early November 1783. Mozart and his wife Constanze stopped in Linz on their return to Vienna after a visit to Leopold Mozart in Salzburg. The symphony was performed again in Vienna the following year.

The work is scored for two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings. Nothing in this relatively long work suggests the extreme haste in which it was composed. The symphony opens with a slow introduction – Mozart’s first use of this format in his symphonies. The spirited allegro is followed by a siciliana-like slow movement, a robust minuet, and the finale. The outer movements are punctuated with trumpets and timpani.

Concert notes written by Prof. David Forrest (c) Copyright 2014