Mozart – Symphony No. 39

Mozart was 32 when he wrote his last three symphonies in the summer of 1788. Seven successful years as an independent composer-performer-impresario in Vienna had made him prosperous. However when the Austrian Empire, of which Vienna was the capital, declared war on the Ottoman Empire (today, Turkey) in February of that year, the Viennese economy fizzled, and Mozart’s career fizzled with it. His livelihood depended on the Viennese moneyed class, which dwindled as upper-class men left the city to serve as military officers, or went to their country estates to avoid questions about why they weren’t serving.

In June of 1788 Mozart moved his family from his apartment in the centre of Vienna to a more spacious suburban residence at Alsergrund 135 (today Währingerstraße 26), a seven-room apartment with a garden attached. The rooms were spacious and it is speculated that Mozart intended to use the large rooms for rehearsals of music he was about to compose. It was in this house that Mozart would compose his last three symphonies (Nos. 39, 40, and 41, all from 1788), and the last of the three Da Ponte operas, Cosi fan tutte, which premiered in 1790.

Evidently the music for Symphony 39 was already in Mozart‘s head as he made the move to Alsergrund and he finished it on June 25; No. 40 followed on July 26 and No. 41 on August 10. That’s two months give or take a few days, a compositional speed record for such masterpieces.

Contrary to common belief, Mozart heard and possibly performed the three symphonies. He had orchestra parts copied, an expense he would not have incurred unless he needed them for a performance and he went to the trouble of re-orchestrating the G-minor Symphony to add clarinets, an effort that would have made no sense unless the Symphony were going to be played.

Mozart included symphonies, most likely from this final set, in concerts he gave in Leipzig in 1789 and Frankfurt in 1790, and a Mozart symphony was performed at a concert led by Antonio Salieri in Vienna in 1791. Programs do not include numbers for these symphonies but it is not likely that Mozart would have passed up a chance to show off one or another of his new works. The orchestra for Salieri’s 1791 Vienna concert included the clarinetists Johann and Anton Stadler, probably the reason for the second version of the G-minor Symphony with clarinets.

The Symphony in E-flat is the only symphony from Mozart’s adulthood that does not use oboes, which means that the clarinets are given unusual prominence. It also has a slow introduction, a common feature in symphonies of the day, but rare in Mozart. This slow introduction is a grand procession eventually dissolving in a few misty bars before the energetic Allegro makes a cautious entrance.

The ambling Andante con moto and the energetic Minuet are typical of Mozart’s mature symphonies. The middle section of the Minuet, with one clarinet playing a simple but unforgettable little tune over the other clarinet’s bubbling arpeggios, would most likely have been composed with the Stadler brothers in mind.

Mozart’s finales are often remarkable for their sheer number of melodic ideas, but the finale of this Symphony relies essentially on a single theme, explored, varied and worked over in the style of Haydn.

Mozart – Clarinet Concerto in A

Anton Stadler was born in 1753 in Bruck an der Leitha, 40 km southeast of Vienna. In 1756 his family moved to Vienna where his brother Johann was born. The pair were to become two of the finest clarinetists in the city.

In his day, Anton Stadler enjoyed a reputation far beyond the confines of Vienna as an excellent clarinetist and player of the basset horn. It is uncertain just when his friendship with Mozart began, but the two men were probably already acquainted by 1784, when Stadler performed “a large wind piece” by Mozart (perhaps the Gran Partita, K. 361) at an academy in Vienna. Whatever the case, the first time they are known to have played music together was on 20 October 1785, at a benefit concert for Vienna’s Masonic lodges. Stadler also experimented with the construction of the clarinet, adding to the length of the instrument which extended the range of the instrument downward by four semitones, creating what is called a basset clarinet.

At the peak of his compositional abilities and just weeks before his death, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed the Clarinet Concerto in A major. He wrote it specifically for his friend and fellow freemason, Anton Stadler and for the basset clarinet which Stadler had created. This was hardly the first time Mozart wrote for Stadler. He was the intended player for numerous orchestral parts and several chamber works, including the “Kegelstatt Trio” K. 498 and the Clarinet Quintet K. 581.

Mozart gave Stadler the completed concerto on October 9th or 10th along with traveling money (about $3,000 today) to travel to Prague, and told the clarinetist to make use of the concerto at the benefit concert the artist had arranged in that city. Stadler arrived in Prague on October 13th or 14th and according to Prague city records, Stadler’s concert took place at the Royal Old City Theater on October 16th, 1791.

Like the original basset clarinet, the autograph of Mozart’s clarinet concerto was lost, or perhaps even pawned by Stadler on the European tour that followed the Prague benefit concert. The concerto we hear these days is a version edited by modern day publishers so it can be played on today’s instruments. Ms. Katz performs the Henle Edition edited by Henrick Wiese.

For this concerto, Mozart chose an orchestra with flutes instead of oboes, bassoons, no brass instruments except for two horns, and a full complement of strings, to make it possible for the soloist to be heard distinctly above the ensemble.

The first movement begins with flowing melodies that exploit the clarinet’s rich tone in an atmosphere of gracious lyricism.

The Adagio second movement is undoubtedly one of Mozart’s most sublime slow movements. This movement displays the exquisite singing quality of the clarinet and the musicality of the clarinetist. A reviewer wrote Stadler in 1784,

Never should I have thought that a clarinet could be so capable of imitating a human voice so closely as it was imitated by thee.  Verily, thy instrument has so soft and lovely a tone that nobody who has a heart can resist it.”

The finale is a capricious rondo that captures the lighthearted, comical quality of the clarinet.  Mozart contrasts the rondo theme with other melodies that are harmonically adventurous and unexpectedly moving.

Chevalier de Saint-Georges – Symphony in D, Op 11 No 2

Early in 1779, (just ten years before the storming of the Bastille) Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, began performing music with Queen Marie-Antoniette at Versailles, at her request. In Vienna Marie-Antoniette had grown up with daily instruction in voice, harp and forte-piano and now as the first royal hostess at Versailles since Marie de Medici she supported and participated in performances of the finest classical music.

Joseph Bologne was born in the French colony of Guadeloupe to the plantation owner George Bologne de Saint-Georges and his African slave Nanon. They lived for some time on an estate on St. Domingue (now Haiti) before his family finally settled in Paris in around 1749. In the French capital Joseph’s talents for music and athletics were realized. At the age of 13 Saint-Georges became a pupil of La Boëssière, a master of arms, and also had riding lessons with Dugast at the Tuileries and would become one of the finest swordsmen in Europe.

Little is known of his musical education but it has been suggested that he studied the violin with Leclair and composition with Gossec. 1769 is the year of his first professional engagement, as a violinist in Gossec’s orchestra, the Concert des Amateurs. He made his public début as a soloist with the Concert des Amateurs in 1772, performing two of his own Violin Concerti Op 2. When Gossec became a director of the Concert Spirituel in 1773, Saint-Georges succeeded him as musical director and leader of the Amateurs which rapidly won recognition as one of the finest orchestras in France. (It was Joseph Bologne de Saint-Georges who commissioned and premiered the six Paris Symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn.)

The first performance of the symphony on our program today was given in Paris at the Hôtel de Soubise, by the Concert des Amateurs. The music is identical to the Overture to the opera L’Amant Anonyme first performed 8 March 1780.

L’Amant Anonyme (The Anonymous Lover) is the only one of six operas by Saint-Georges to survive in its entirety. Madame de Montesson, who was the secret wife of the Duke of Orleans and a patron of Saint-Georges, sponsored the premier of the opera at her private theater in 1780. It tells the story of Valcour, a man secretly in love with his friend Leontine, but because of social norms is unable to tell her of his affections. It is entirely possible that Saint-George found himself in a similar situation.

Beethoven – Violin Concerto

The year 1803 was a turning point for Beethoven. Having come to terms with his growing deafness, he also came into his own as a composer, breaking free from the classical, Viennese style in which he had begun his career and asserting his own voice in a new, “heroic” style marked by his Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica.” The next five years were a  fertile time for him, and saw the composition of a number of his most famous works, including the “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” piano sonatas, a Piano Concerto (1805–6), the first version of his opera Fidelio (1805), and his fourth and fifth symphonies — both completed in 1806, the year he composed the Violin Concerto.

Nikolaj Znaider, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Riccardo Chailly

The concerto was written for 26-year-old violinist Franz Clement, a conductor at the Theater-an-der-Wien for which Beethoven had begun his work on Fidelio. Beethoven completed the concerto in a rush, finishing either close to or on the day of the performance. Clement not only sight-read the part, but between the first and second movements he also threw in a couple of compositions of his own — which he played with the violin turned upside-down. Such showmanship was typical of musical performances of the period, but though the audience appears to have enjoyed the event, critical response to the concerto was lukewarm. It was not until 1844, almost 20 years after Beethoven’s death, that the work gained popularity when another young virtuoso, 13-year-old Joseph Joachim, took the piece on a European tour with his friend Felix Mendelssohn conducting.

Katherine Hoover – Summer Night

Katherine Hoover was born in West Virginia and resides in New York, where she maintains an active career as composer, conductor, and flutist. She is the recipient of a 1979 National Endowment Composer’s Fellowship and many other awards, including an 1994 Academy of Arts and Letters Academy Award in Composition. Four of her pieces have won the National Flute Association’s Newly Published Music Competition, in 1987, 1991, 1993 and 1994.

Ms. Hoover’s works have been performed by many orchestras. Her tone poem Eleni: A Greek Tragedy, premiered by the Harrisburg Symphony under Larry Newland in 1987, has been performed by eleven other orchestras. including the Fort Worth Symphony, under conductor John Giordano. Her Clarinet Concerto, written for the jazz virtuoso Eddie Daniels, was premiered by Mr. Daniels with the Santa Fe Symphony. In January, 1994, Ms. Hoover conducted the premiere of her Night Skies, a 25-minute work for large orchestra, with the Harrisburg Symphony.

“Summer Night was completed in July, 1985, and premiered by the New York Concerto Orchestra outdoors at Lincoln Center the following September. The flute and horn are a rather mismatched pair in many ways. To let their individual qualities sound, I began with a short soliloquy for each. This is followed by a slow dance which grows out of the soliloquies, and then a lively one, as the instruments (or characters, or thoughts) meet and interact.” K.H.

Fanny Mendelssohn – Overture

Fanny Mendelssohn, sister of Felix, was born in Hamburg in 1805. She first learned piano from her mother, and later studied in Paris and Berlin. Her musical training and talent were comparable to that of her brother. She performed weekly at her parents home in Berlin and wrote more than 400 works, most of which were never published. Although her father and brother discouraged her from publishing, her mother and her husband, artist Wilhelm Hensel, eventually persuaded her to submit some works for publication.
Most of Fanny Mendelssohn’s compositions were songs, piano pieces, and chamber music; she also wrote cantatas and oratorios. The Overture, one of her few orchestral pieces, is written in a Classical style.

“The work boasts bold modulations, a finely controlled rise and fall of tension, and scoring of a resourcefulness bordering on the quirky – some very low pedal notes for the horn, and a trumpet fanfare appearing from out of the blue.” (THE TIMES, March 10, 1994)

In her own words…
“I’m beginning to publish…and if I’ve done it of my own free will and cannot blame anyone in my family if aggravation results from it…then I can console myself with the knowledge that in no way did I seek or induce the kind of musical reputation that might have brought me such offers. I hope I shall not disgrace you all, for I am no femme libre…If it [my publication] succeeds, that is, if people like the pieces and I receive further offers, I know it will be a great stimulus to me, which I have always needed in order to create. If not, I shall be at the same point where I have always been.”