Saturday, December 2, 2017, 3:00 p.m.
JCC Arts Center Concert Hall
JCC, 29 Changgyeonggung-no 35-gil,
Mozart: Horn Quintet in E-flat Major, K. 407 (1782)
Mozart: Concerto no. 12 in A Major for Piano and String Quartet, K. 414 (1782)
Schumann: Adagio and Allegro in A-flat Major for Horn and Piano, op. 70 (1849)
Mendelssohn: Double Concerto in d minor for Violin, Piano, and Strings (1823)
NOTES ON THE PROGRAM
The 2017 Chamber Music Today season commences with a timeless celebration of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, and Robert Schumann, a trio of master composers that bridged the Classical and Romantic periods in Germany and Austria. The program begins in Classical Vienna with the sweet, gentle, and elegant melodies of Mozart’s K. 407 Horn Quintet and K. 414 Piano Concerto, both composed in 1782 in the months after his marriage to Constanze Weber. Robert Schumann, an immortal figure of the German Romantic period, composed his beautifully vocal yet highly technical Adagio and Allegro in 1849 at the height of his most productive period of composition, surprisingly having initially intended it for amateur performance despite the piece’s incredibly virtuosic French horn writing. Bridging the gap between Mozart the Classical master and Schumann the Romantic is none other than the youthful genius Felix Mendelssohn, whose brilliant Double Concerto in d minor nimbly balances the solo piano and solo violin and closes the program in a thrilling musical adventure that pays homage to traditional Classical forms while simultaneously gazing ahead toward the highly emotive Romantic style.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
(Born January 27, 1756, Salzburg; died December 5, 1791, Vienna)
Horn Quintet in E-flat Major, K. 407
Dedication: Austrian horn player Joseph Leutgeb
Other works from this period: String Quartet in G Major, K. 387 (1782); Arrangement of Fugues by J.S. Bach for String Quartet, K. 405 (1782); Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1781); Concerto no. 12 in A Major for Piano and Strings, K. 414 (1782)
Approximate duration: 18 minutes
Unlike the modern horn—the valve horn, invented in 1814 by Heinrich Stoelzel (1777–1844)—Mozart’s eighteenth century horn was valveless, demanding the player to create different pitches by adjusting lip pressure or shifting the hand in the bell of the instrument. This made the instrument well-suited for the simple parts written for horn in operas and symphonies, but it was considered too fastidious for solo works. That is, until Mozart started writing for Joseph Leutgeb.
A family-friend of the Mozarts from Salzburg, Leutgeb was a horn soloist of the highest mark. (To play something so difficult on a valveless horn, Leutgeb’s technical ability must have been spectacular.) He left Salzburg for Vienna in 1777, living above and operating a tiny cheese shop purchased with the help of a loan from Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart. Mozart soon moved to Vienna and was released from service to the Court of Salzburg in June of 1781, as he described, “with a kick on my arse…by order of our worth Archbishop.”
By late 1781, Mozart had quickly established himself as the finest keyboard player in Vienna. His compositional career took root, writing his first notable opera commission, Die Entführung aus dem Serail. All the while, Mozart embarked on his first few months of marriage to Constanze Weber. His letters reveal Leopold’s reluctant consent to Wolfgang marrying Constanze, along with a plea, “[Father,] please have patience with poor Leutgeb. I shall have a word with him and ensure that he repay you [for the cheese shop loan], at any rate by installments.”
Mozart and Leutgeb retained a strong relationship after moving to Vienna. The candid and often humorous nature of their friendship is clearly visible in the Horn Concerto in D Major, K. 412, where Mozart wrote into the manuscript taunting remarks to Leutgeb like, “Take it easy, you animal…ouch, how flat you play…are you finished yet?...enough, enough.”
The Horn Quintet is among the four works that Mozart intended for Leutgeb. Much like a concerto, the horn sits in the starring role of the opening Allegro and closing Rondo finale movements. Following a buoyant string introduction, the horn gently guides the ensemble through the lyrical main subject before continuing on through showy octave jumps and rapid scales, an immense feat for the instrument of Mozart’s day. The second movement Andante is treated as a lyrical duet between the violin and horn, with sustained accompaniment that makes the string ensemble feel larger than a quartet. With some relation to the theme of the Andante, the energetic finale brings the horn back into the solo role with a virtuosic episode in E-flat major contrasted with a lyrical passage in c minor.
Mozart writes the string quartet for violin, two violas, and cello, and it’s presumed that Mozart, a violist, premiered the work alongside Leutgeb. While it’s unusual to see a string quartet with two violas, it shouldn’t be understated that the timbre of the viola blends far better with the horn than that of a violin, making it a natural choice to double.
– © 2017, Andrew Goldstein
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
(Born January 27, 1756, Salzburg; died December 5, 1791, Vienna)
Concerto no. 12 in A Major for Piano and String Quartet, K. 414
First performance: 1783, Lent, with Mozart at the piano
Other works from this period: String Quartet in G Major, K. 387 (1782); Arrangement of Fugues by J.S. Bach for String Quartet, K. 405 (1782); Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1781); Horn Quintet in E-flat Major, K. 407 (1782)
Approximate duration: 24 minutes
It’s far from secret that while Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the most influential composers of his day and hours, he was a terrible businessman. Commissions were plentiful, especially following his March 1781 move from Salzburg to Vienna, but Mozart spent liberally on a luxurious and careless lifestyle. Adding to his debts was the medical condition of his wife, Constanze Mozart, which racked heavy costs for lengthy stays at health spas. Mozart borrowed frequently, especially from his brother, Mason Michael Buchberg, writing, “should you desert me, my brother, I shall be exceedingly unhappy and innocently doomed with my poor sick wife and child.”
Nevertheless, Mozart’s way of doing business in Vienna was quite unusual. For instance, in publishing a set of three piano concertos (to which the Concerto no. 12 in A Major belongs), he advertised:
“Herr Mozart, Kapellmeister offers three recent piano concerts performed with the accompaniment of a large orchestra and winds (or “quattro,” string quartet), issued only to those who have to subscribed beforehand by bringing four ducats to Mozart’s residence.”
It should be noted that at the time—approaching the 1782 winter concert season—Mozart was not yet a Kapellmeister of anything. Nobody took advantage of his offer, so Mozart sought a publisher for these three concertos, finally getting them issued with Vienna’s Artaria in 1785. Mozart later published only one more piano concerto (Concerto no. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595), despite writing twenty-three piano concertos in his lifetime.
What Mozart lacked in business savviness, he made up for in his incredible artistry. As a pianist himself, Mozart often debuted and performed his own piano concertos to great acclaim. In fact, he wrote the concertos to please every listener in Vienna, writing in a letter to his father, “These concertos are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are also passages here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less discriminating cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why.”
This elegant concerto, here performed with piano and string quartet, rarely departs from the youthful energy provided by its setting in the key of A major. The Allegro introduces the theme with the strings before the second violin explodes with rampant energetic sixteenth notes. The piano enters, echoing the main theme with an airy accompaniment of strings. Throughout this lengthy first movement, Mozart leaves room for the pianist to demonstrate virtuosity, with exacting scales and trills ornamenting this otherwise light opening movement.
The second Andante movement is based on the overture of La calamita de cuori by Johann Christian Bach, who had died on January 1, 1782. Mozart considered the movement a musical epitaph to the elder composer, who was a dear mentor to him in London. Closing the work is a catchy Rondo; the finale Allegretto with dense orchestration in similar form to the opening Allegro. Mozart originally intended the finale to be his Rondo in A Major, K. 386—published posthumously as a stand-alone work—but he only wrote the K. 386 for orchestra and winds, while the K. 414 carries the subtitle “additionally for Quattro.”
– © 2017, Andrew Goldstein
(Born June 8, 1810, Zwickau, Saxony; died July 29, 1856, Endenich, near Bonn)
Adagio and Allegro in A-flat Major for Horn and Piano, op. 70
Other works from this period: Detailed in the notes below
Approximate duration: 8 minutes
The years 1848–1850 saw a great surge in Schumann’s creative output. In 1849 alone, he completed nearly forty works, including the Spanisches Liederspiel, op. 74, and Lieder-Album für die Jugend, op. 79, among numer¬ous other songs; the Zwölf vierhändige Clavierstücke für kleine und grosse Kinder (Twelve Four-Hand Piano Pieces for Small and Large Children), op. 85; the orchestral Concertstück for Four Horns, op. 86, and Introduction and Allegro appassionato, op. 92; and an assortment of chamber works: the Phantasiestücke for clarinet (violin or cello) and piano, op. 73; the Drei Romanzen, op. 94 for oboe (violin or clarinet) and piano; Fünf Stücke im Volkston for cello or violin and piano, op. 102; and the Ada¬gio and Allegro, op. 70, scored optionally for horn, violin, or cello, and piano.
Schumann originally titled his Opus 70 “Romanze and Allegro;” indeed, its Adagio movement conveys the most deeply felt Romantic sentiment. The cello leads with a gently arching line, marked Langsam, mit innigem Ausdruck (“slowly, with intimate expression”), its initial ascent by semitone suggesting a come-hither glance. The piano responds in kind. An amorous dialogue ensues, the two partners issuing intertwining lines, increasingly ardent until the contented drowsiness of its coda.
The Adagio proceeds attacca to the muscular Allegro, marked Rasch und feurig (“quickly and fiery”). Schumann’s music is commonly understood as a dialogue between the composer’s alter egos: Florestan, the masculine (in eighteenth-century parlance) and extroverted; and Eusebius, the feminine voice of tenderness and pathos. Following the unabashed poignancy of the Adagio, the Allegro is unmistakably the purview of Florestan.
—© 2017 Patrick Castillo
(Born February 3, 1809, Hamburg; died November 4, 1847, Leipzig)
Double Concerto in d minor for Violin, Piano, and Strings
First performance: July 3, 1823, Berlin
Other works from this period: Piano Quartet no. 1 in c minor, op. 1 (1822); Piano Quartet no. 2 in f minor, op. 2 (1823); Violin Sonata in f minor, op. 4 (1823); Sinfonias nos. 9–12 for Strings (1823)
Approximate duration: 35 minutes
In the decades following his death in 1750, Bach’s music fell, if not quite into obscurity, into some measure of neglect. But in 1824, the 15-year-old Felix Mendelssohn received from his grandmother what would be a gift of great historic consequence: a copy of the score to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Five years later, Mendelssohn’s obsession with Bach and his particular affinity with this work culminated in a celebrated performance of the Passion at the Berlin Singakademie. The performance—led by the brilliant 20-year-old conductor Felix Mendelssohn—revitalized interest in Bach’s music throughout Western Europe, thus crediting Mendelssohn as the author of the modern Bach revival.
Mendelssohn composed his Double Concerto in d minor for Violin, Piano, and Strings in 1823, as a fourteen-year-old prodigy. The well-to-do Mendelssohn family regularly staged Sunday morning musicales at their home throughout Felix’s youth as a vehicle for his (and his sister Fanny’s) blossoming gifts; the Double Concerto was composed for and premiered at one of these events. Though composed during Mendelssohn’s adolescence, the Concerto exhibits the craftsmanship of a tremendously precocious composer. Not surprisingly, the prodigious young Mendelssohn caught the attention of Western Europe’s musical community through these musicales and came to be regarded by many as the second Mozart. Astonished at his rapid development, Mendelssohn’s teacher Carl Friedrich Zelter noted, “He is growing beneath my eyes.”
At the time of the Double Concerto’s composition—one year prior to his discovery of the St. Matthew Passion—Mendelssohn was very much under the spell of Bach, as much as he was absorbing the musical innovations of his own time, particularly the late works of Beethoven. The Double Concerto reflects this dichotomy between the Baroque influence on Mendelssohn’s music and the emerging Romantic energy that would come to define the nineteenth century. Moreover, in addition to the synthesis of Baroque and Romantic elements, another striking element of the work is Mendelssohn’s treatment of the two soloists: the violin, a brilliant, melodic instrument, generally entrusted with music of soaring lyricism; the piano, Mendelssohn exploits for its massive sonority, combining powerful chordal textures with dazzling runs up and down the keyboard.
Also noteworthy about the Concerto is its sheer youthful exuberance. One can hear in this work how much music the young, insatiably curious Mendelssohn has swirling around in his head—and it all comes out, unapologetically, in this no-holds-barred concerto.
The work begins with the strings issuing a contrapuntal theme, reminiscent of a Bach fugue, but infused with the spirit of Romantic Sturm und Drang. As the theme unfolds, the contrapuntal texture grows increasingly intricate.
Mendelssohn introduces a long-breathed second theme, in F major—a markedly Romantic contrast to the compact first theme. The orchestral exposition ends with a return to the Bachian counterpoint of the opening measures; but the piano’s furious entrance rips the music from its Baroque reverie back into the era of Beethoven.
The soloists unite the Baroque and Romantic idioms, with the piano presenting the Bachian first theme in its left hand, as a foundation for the overt Romantic gestures in the right hand and the violin. The rest of the ensemble follows suit.
The soloists soon take over the lyrical second theme; the strings answer with a fragment of the Bachian theme, which, in short order, and seemingly out of nowhere, plunges the music into showy salon fare. One of this movement’s greatest delights lies in discovering how the young and, at times, cheeky Mendelssohn inventively weds together all of these elements: Baroque counterpoint with Romantic Sturm und Drang, profundity with showmanship, heroism with salon music.
Later in the movement, Mendelssohn introduces another dramatic turn: a declamatory recitative in the violin, theatrically set above piano tremolando. It’s easy to imagine this music, in another era, as the soundtrack to a love scene in a silent film. This dreamy music segues abruptly back to the frenetic energy that came before—from which Mendelssohn steers the first movement to its final measures.
Mendelssohn follows the fireworks of the Concerto’s expansive first movement with a heartfelt Adagio. After the initial tutti statement of the theme, most of the movement is given over to an intimate dialogue between the two soloists. The full ensemble comes together again only for the movement’s magical conclusion. The warm texture of the strings, playing sotto voce, surround the soloists with an ethereal glow.
The final movement begins with an impassioned statement, uttered first by the piano, then joined by the solo violin. The full ensemble responds with emphatic terseness. The fiery energy of this music is countered by brighter, elegant second theme. Throughout the proceedings, whether tempestuous or calm, Mendelssohn spotlights the soloists throughout with passages of pyrotechnic virtuosity.
—© 2013 Patrick Castillo
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