WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791) Symphony No 38 in D, K.504 ( Prague) (1786)

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791) Symphony No 38 in D, K.504 ( Prague) (1786)

i. Adagio – Allegro
ii. Andante
iii. Presto

In the never-ending search for a steady salary such as Haydn had with Prince Esterhazy Mozart had found himself employed in Salzburg, the town of his birth, by Archbishop Colloredo, with whom he had a very difficult relationship. A free spirit such as Mozart deeply resented being told what, and how, to compose, and although the position had enabled him to write symphonies and concertos as well as the required church music he yearned to spread his wings no matter what the cost to his finances.

In 1781, shortly before his 25th birthday, he was ordered by the Archbishop to fulfil some duties in Vienna; enjoying the freedom, he refused to return to Salzburg at the appointed time, whereupon, to his delight, he was sacked. Except for some European tours he was to remain a resident of Vienna for the remaining ten years of his life, and his maturity led him into composing what remain today as some of the greatest of all operas, concertos and symphonies, not to mention choral, instrumental and chamber music.

As it was for Handel in London, opera was the most lucrative money-maker and Mozart’s Vienna years saw the three classic operas with libretti by Lorenzo Da Ponte, The Marriage of Figaro, K.492, Don Giovanni, K.527, and Casi Fan Tutte, K588, plus virtually his last, The Magic Flute, K620, while piano concertos, instrumental and chamber music kept audiences aware of his performing genius.

It remains, however, something of a mystery as to why he only wrote six symphonies over these last ten years; whilst Haydn would find himself commissioned handsomely to write his last twelve symphonies in two trips to London from 1790 until 1794, Mozart seemed to feel that symphonies were somewhat out of fashion. In 1783 he made a tour through Austria and was actually caught without a symphony when his hosts in Linz asked him to include one in the concerts he was due to give; in response he miraculously wrote his wonderful 35th symphony, now known as the Linz, K.425, in a mere four days.

A Symphony No 37 seems to be lost, while the final three symphonies, including the tragic G minor, No 40, K.550, and the heaven-scaling No 41, K.551, now known as the Jupiter, were all written in a sudden burst of energy in 1788, but it is not known what inspired him, and there is little direct proof that they were ever performed before Mozart’s death in December 1791. That leaves No 38, K.504, the Prague.

The city of Prague seems to have been to Mozart what London was to be to Haydn – a home-from-home where he was completely worshipped. Late in the autumn of 1786 his new opera Figaro, which had been premiered to initially lukewarm acclaim in Vienna, became a huge success in Prague, and in January 1787 he travelled to the city to capitalise on his opera’s success, taking with him the symphony he had completed on 6 December .This 38th symphony had been commissioned for concerts in December ‘in Vienna, but it is thought that its actual premiere took place on this visit to Prague, once again to huge acclaim, on 19 January, hence its nickname.

The symphony finds the same effervescent spirit as Figaro in the body of the first movement and in the last movement – there are even pre-echoes of the Overture to his final major opera, The Magic Flute, which also would be a magnificent success in Prague – whilst the slow movement finds a similar consolatory atmosphere to that of Figaro ‘s final scene. The dark, D minor introduction to the symphony and the somewhat feverish opening to the first movement Allegro foreshadow the supernatural drama of the new Da Ponte opera, Don Giovanni, also commissioned at this time in Prague and, once again, premiered in the city later that year, 1787, on 29 October.

The opening Adagio does indeed begin ominously, and becomes still more so, ending with descending chromat ic scales which chill the atmosphere further. Breathless syncopation accompanies the lower strings’ sinister intonings at the start of the D major Allegro , answered by wind, brass and timpani, the horns and trumpets straight out of Figaro; the energy becomes rather more overt and even flamboyant shortly, before calming into a new, more elegant subject . The development explores the material which had begun the Allegro, leading to a dynamic recap which sweeps us to the end without the customary coda.

The Andante, in G major, brings warmth and humanity, its opening five notes a much gentler variant of one of the pervading motifs in the preceding Allegro. A brief foray into minor-key angst is immediately defused; serenity is the lasting impression of this beautiful movement.

There is no Minuet or Scherzo; it is thought that preferences in Prague at the time were for a three-movement structure.

The final Presto immedi<Jtely signals its Puckish, offbeat humour, and the opening witty theme provides the basis of the development , which for a moment takes us into ‘Storm and Stress’ (Sturm und Orang) territory. Of all Mozart’s later symphonic movements this is surely the one which most finds the genial wit of Mozart’s mentor Haydn. The Prague is a work of pure genius, which surely stands on the same exalted pedestal as the magnificent final three symphonies .

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JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809) Trumpet Concerto in E flat (1796)

JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809) Trumpet Concerto in E flat (1796)

i. Allegro
ii, Andante
iii. Finale: Allegro

Whilst the trumpet and its ancestors were amongst the earliest of all wind instruments, dating back prehistorically to conch shells and other signalling devices, many thousands of years later the orchestral instrument, usually made of brass and basically an artistically curled-up version of the long posthorn, was still only capable of a relatively limited number of notes, governed largely by the tightening and loosening of the player’s lips, known as the embouchure.

This instrument was known as the natural trumpet, and although it featured in many of the great symphonies of Mozart and Haydn’s own, its limitations meant that its role seldom rose above providing basic harmony. In the latter years of the 13th century there were prototype versions of a trumpet with keys, which made it a little more versatile, but it was the young principal trumpeter of the Viennese Imperial Court, a friend of Haydn, Anton Weidinger, born in 1767, who felt there was enormous further potential in the instrument; although he was only in his mid-20s he developed in the early 1790s a much more sophisticated keyed trumpet, and allied with skilful embouchure adaptation this meant that the trumpet could for the first time play scales in semitones and change key. Weidinger gave it the wonderful title of klappentrompete.

It didn’t take long for Haydn, always looking for exciting new developments, to take the keyed-trumpet on board and in 1796 he wrote a concerto for the instrument which remains conceivably the best-loved trumpet concerto of all time, perhaps challenged only by that of Hummel, who had been Haydn’s assistant at the Court of Esterhazy.

Greatly inspired, Haydn rapidly absorbed the capabilities of the new instrument, demonstrating them graphically in the composition of his concerto with technical help from Weidinger, although it took nearly four years for Weidinger to feel ready to premiere the work, at the Burgtheater, Vienna, on 28 March 1800; strangely the very same night saw the British premiere of Haydn’s magnum opus, The Creation, in London. Although there was great excitement in Vienna over the new capability of the trumpet, Weidinger remained virtually the only exponent of the keyed instrument and composers continued to write orchestrally for the natural trumpet; Weidinger was to live for another half a century, long enough to see the advent in the 1840s of the valve trumpet, which would finally give a new dimension to the instrument’s orchestral role. Sadly Haydn’s concerto fell into disuse for virtually a century after Weidinger’s initial performances and the original manuscript was lost until a trumpeter by the name of Paul Handke found it in 1899 and made a fair copy initially for himself to play. In 1908 the concerto was rescued further by Professor Franz Rossbach, principal trumpet of the great Vienna Philharmonic, who gave its first performance in Vienna for over 100 years. Its first performance in Britain was a BBC broadcast on 30 March 1932 given by Ernest Hall, who served as principal trumpet of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1929 until 1953.

Today the Trumpet Concerto is arguably Haydn’s most popular concerto, together with the C Major Cello Concerto, which, by coincidence, was also lost, this time until 1961. Over recent decades the finest exponents of the concerto have included the late former conductor of MSO John Wilbraham, Maurice Andre, Hakan Hardenberger and Alison Balsam.

The pre-eminent Haydn scholar and editor HC Robbins Landon, putting the concerto in perspective, writes “Unfortunately, the revolutionary characteristics of Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, so apparent at the time, are totally lost on modern audiences used to hearing the modern valved trumpet.

“The opening Allegro begins with an extensive orchestral introduction of the themes and style of the piece, including fanfares, and the solo trumpet when it arrives reiterates the opening theme – its own fanfares reminding the original audience that yes, this really was the military instrument they were familiar with. Intriguingly Haydn introduces the instrument’s greater capabilities only gradually, making a feature of passages moving in semitones and later in rapid semiquavers, and even demi­ semiquavers in the Andante. Eventually the cadenza offers the solo instrument a chance to show off further .

The Andante is in the style of a Siciliana such as we heard in the Fireworks Music, but is much more openly expressive – indeed it is one of Haydn’s most beautiful inspirations. The lilting character superbly demonstrates the trumpet’s lyrical capability, while also allowing moments of virtuosity as the soloist decorates the melodies.

The Finale, Allegro, once again begins with an orchestral exposition of the main theme, which the trumpet repeats on its entry – here the 1800 audience would have been astonished to hear that the solo part could emulate the agility of the orchestral strings and wind. Once again in this movement the orchestra is an equal partner with the trumpet, whilst allowing the soloist ample opportunity for exciting technical display .

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GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL (1685-1759) Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749) arr. Mackerras/Baines

GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL (1685-1759) Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749) arr. Mackerras/Baines

i. Ouverture: Largo — Allegro
ii. Bourrée
iii. La Paix
iv. La Réjouissance
v. Minuet

On 23 February 1685, while the Monmouth Rebellion was fomenting in England, was born in Halle, Germany, one of the greatest Baroque composers of all, George Frideric Handel; a month later would see the birth just over a hundred miles away in Eisenach of his finest contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach. Each would live until the 1750s and bestride the musical world like a colossus, raising the art of composition to a whole range of new peaks. Despite a Europe-wide reputation Bach was to centre himself in his homeland for the duration of his career; Handel, on the other hand, trained in Halle, Hamburg and in Italy but found huge acclaim in Britain, and decided to settle in London in 1712, becoming a naturalised British subject in 1727, the year his anthem Zadok the Priest was written for the Coronation of George II, which inaugurated the tradition of its performance at every Coronation since.

Although both Bach and Handel became giants in oratorio and masses, Bach’s Passions and the B minor Mass and Handel’s Messiah (1742) occupying the highest reaches of Mount Parnassus, they diverged in other aspects; while Bach immersed himself in writing for the Church, perfecting the choral cantata, Handel capitalised upon the thirst of Londoners for the new genre of opera, writing some forty, including Rinaldo, Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, Rodelinda and Semele.

The genre in which they found perhaps the greatest degree of similarity was in the orchestral Suite, each following the current model of collections of dances in diverse styles.

Handel, having continued to enhance his reputation in England, became the Royal favourite, and in 1717 King George | requested a collection of orchestral pieces to accompany his progress on the Royal Barge up the River Thames from Whitehall Palace ti Chelsea on 17 July. Fifty Musicians played and repeated several times three large suites of dances between the departure at 8pm and the return to Whitehall after midnight, and of course those Suites have become known as the Water Music.

Handel remained the favourite when George II succeeded to the throne, and was the natural choice to provide a further suite for a concert in Green Park, London, on 21 April 1749 celebrating the end of the Europe-wide War of the Austrian Succession, which had been brought to a close in 1748 with the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. The celebration was to be marked with a full-scale fireworks display, and was apparently attended by some 12,000, who caused a three-hour traffic jam on London Bridge. (Times don’t change!). The weather rather spoilt the display, however, and there were many misfires, which caused a number of injuries and the burning down of one of the pavilions.

At first Handel scored Music for the Royal Fireworks for full orchestra including strings, but reluctantly had to remove the string parts when it was pointed out that the King’s preference was for a Band comprising only Wind, Brass and Percussion. On the night the massive Band consisted of no less than 24 oboes, 12 bassoons and a double-bassoon, nine trumpets, nine horns (these latter two sections pre-keys or valves) and a huge battery of percussion.

A month later, for the first non-Royal performances, Handel had reinstated the string parts to double the oboe and bassoon parts, with variety being maintained by making sections either Wind-only or Strings-only.

This orchestration is the basis of the arrangement by Charles Mackerras and Anthony Baines, whose scholarship in performance practices in Handel’s day with regard to rhythms, articulation and decoration is integral.in the parts being used tonight.

The opening of the Ouverture, the Largo, is the epitome of baroque style, with angular, double-dotted rhythms throughout the orchestra and a magnificently measured stride. The Allegro dances much more light-footedly, once more with pervading crisply dotted rhythms. A further Largo intervenes, then the Al/egro returns to bring the movement to a splendid close.

The Bourrée trips along merrily, its two halves taken alternately by Wind and Strings. La Paix (The Peace) is in the form of a Siciliana with a rocking rhythm, quietly contemplating the relief at the end of the War, to be followed by the grandest movement of all, La Réjouissance (The Rejoicing), with brass and timpani prominent. Finally the Minuet, in this case expansive and triumphant, brings the Fireworks Music to a suitably celebratory end.

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