W.A. Mozart, Piano Concerto in E flat Major, K. 449

February 9, 1784, was an especially significant day for the 28-year-old Mozart.  On that day he finished writing the E flat Piano Concerto, K. 449 (probably begun two years earlier) and made it the very first entry in a new catalog of his works.  He maintained this catalog throughout most of the rest of his life, adding the titles of new works, together with the dates on which they were completed, and musical incipits of one or two measures written on two staves.

In this catalog Mozart indicated that the instrumentation for what we now list as K. 449 included 2 oboes, and 2 horns “ad libitum,” that is, with optional winds. And in a letter to his father he added that the concerto could be performed “à quattro ohne Blasinstrumenten,” with the usual four orchestral string parts (two violins viola, cello/bass) but without winds.  It is this version of the piece that COFE performs this evening. “À quattro” has also been taken to mean that the piece could be performed with just four string players, as chamber music.

Three years earlier, in 1781 at age 25, Mozart realized he could no  longer abide living and working in relatively provincial Salzburg.  As a court employee, he felt his talent was being wasted, and he deeply resented what he considered the musical and social bondage that entailed, as well as the constraints on pursuing his career.  Against his father’s wishes, he submitted his resignation, and until his death in 1791, without the financial safety net of a court appointment, his life and work were centered almost entirely on Vienna.

In 1782 he wrote a set of three piano concertos (K. 413, 414, 415), his first concertos for Viennese audiences.  In these three concertos the wind parts are “ad libitum,” suggesting a possible relationship between them and the later K. 449.  (All of Mozart’s concertos after this time include prominent and obligatory wind parts.) Recent scholarly investigations into the various kinds of paper Mozart used during his lifetime corroborate the idea that K. 449 was indeed begun in 1782.  The beginning of the piece only is written on the same kind of paper Mozart used for some of the earlier concertos of 1782.  The rest is on paper datable to 1784.  For whatever reasons, Mozart seems to have abandoned work on this concerto for two years, finishing it only in time for him (and his pupil Barbara von Ployer to whom it is dedicated) to perform in Vienna. Perhaps he felt the three concertos of 1782 constituted a complete set to which K. 449 did not really belong, setting it aside until an occasion arose for completing it.

As with the Concerto K. 271 which COFE performed this past February with pianist Charles Abramovic, Mozart wrote out a first-movement cadenza for the soloist.  We can assume that this was for use by Fräulein von Ployer (as it had been for K. 271’s Frau Jenomy), since he himself would certainly have improvised his own cadenzas.  Otherwise the two pieces are very different.  K. 449 is less overtly dramatic, more gallant, more genial, more intimate.  As Mozart wrote to his father, “It is a concerto of a very special kind, written more for a small orchestra than a large one.”

Mozart clearly slipped easily back and forth between boldly asserting his musical independence from his contemporaries and predecessors, and accepting them and their basic style as models on which to build.  This may have been due to his own mood at any one time, but more probably was related to the nature of the specific circumstances, audiences, performers.  When he wanted to please and entertain an audience with lighter music like divertimenti, he seems to have done that with great ease and little effort.  When, for especially important audiences (operas), performers (symphonies and concertos), or publications (chamber music) he wanted to make a statement about his genius and the miraculous things it could produce, he exerted himself to his fullest.  It is perhaps in the last great fourteen piano concertos (K. 449 of 1784 to K. 595 of 1791) that that genius shines most clearly,  for these were very public works for significant audiences, but even more important, they were invariably written with Wolfgang himself in mind, as a pianist as well as a composer. – James Freeman

W.A. Mozart, Serenata Notturna, K. 239

The terms “serenade,” “divertimento,” “partita,” and “cassation” were all virtually synonymous for late 18th-century composers, describing light compositions of several short movements, designed for outdoor entertainment.  “Notturno” signified only that the piece was intended for an evening’s entertainment.

Mozart’s “Serenata Notturna” is nonetheless an unusual piece.  It combines a string orchestra with timpani (but without timpani’s usual companion of two trumpets) with a solo concertante string quartet whose lowest voice Mozart’s indicates as “basso,” not “violoncello” which instead appears as the lowest written voice in the orchestra.  (The double bass, or “Violone,”  then actually provides the true sounding bass, an octave below the cello, for both the quartet and the orchestra.) The piece hearkens back to the baroque concerto grosso, with all three movements focusing on the alternation and interchange of the solo quartet and the orchestra.  The three movements themselves are unusual – a march, a minuet with trio, and a rondo – more compact than the usual five or six movements of most serenades and divertimenti. The third movement, “Rondeau,” is especially charming with its sly returns of the rondo theme, introduced in our performances (as we imagine would surely have taken place with Mozart’s own orchestra) by quasi-comical lead-ins to the principal theme.

Mozart’s manuscript indicates the piece was completed in January 1776.  Given the time of year, it was probably written for an indoor entertainment of some kind.  But what might that occasion have been?  Is it possible that Mozart (born January 27, 1756)  wrote the piece for a party celebrating his own 20th birthday?  Might that explain the fact that the “Serenata Notturna” is a special, quite unique piece, among the multitude of occasional works for entertainments of various kinds he wrote throughout his life? – James Freeman

Lamentation, for Oboe, String Orchestra, and Three Angels: Arne Running

Arne Running’s 1991 Program notes for “Lamentation”

When James Freeman asked me to write a piece for Orchestra 2001, the request came at a time when I was experiencing considerable distress.  An event had recently occurred in my life which created intense inner turmoil.  There are many tools a person can use to work through a personal crisis: the composing of “Lamentation”  became one such tool for me.

In “Lamentation,” I have tried to express sorrow – sorrow born of spiritual conflict and loss of illusion.  The music also contains passages representing violent anger.  (Of all the Italian expression markings appearing in the score, it is the word  violento which recurs most frequently – a total of twelve times .

The music begins quietly, and the first section works towards a violent climax. The middle section is a dialogue between Three Angels (represented by three trumpets) and an opposing spiritual force (represented by the low strings). The section reaches a climax which is both triumphant and violent, after which there is a reappearance of the quiet music heard at the very beginning.  The work concludes with a brief, gentle “hymn” – and finally, quiet acceptance of life’s unresolvable mystery. – Arne Running

 

James Freeman’s story of Arne Running and “Lamentation”

“Arne Running was a Philadelphia treasure.  As composer, conductor, clarinetist, and human being, he was truly legendary.  One of the finest musicians I’ve ever known, Arne was perpetually – almost relentlessly –  working on improving all his musical skills.  Testing clarinet reeds, mouthpieces, instruments, new fingerings, embouchures, were unceasing ongoing pursuits. But he was continually challenging every other aspect of his musical being as well, always with an aim to being an even more perfect and skilled artist. He loved music with all his heart and was never satisfied with just being a terrific and much admired clarinetist, composer, conductor.  There was always a higher plateau he felt he needed to reach.  He provided a model for all of us to follow, and I think everyone who knew him has benefitted enormously from that model and from knowing this immensely talented and humble man.

Dorothy and I had known Arne very slightly when we were all students in Boston. It was a great joy for us to become close friends with him once we were together in Philadelphia. When we saw Arne and Nancy’s devotion to their beloved Springer Spaniel Sam while they visited us at home, we realized how much they reflected our own feelings for our new assortment of English Cocker Spaniel puppies, and that bond became even closer.

In 1991 I asked Arne to write a new piece for Orchestra 2001, then in only its third year of existence.  The result (which he dedicated to Dorothy and me) was  “Lamentation for Oboe, String Orchestra, and Three Angels.”  (The angels become three trumpets in the piece itself.)  We premiered the work in October of that year with the composer conducting.  I think it is an immensely powerful and moving masterpiece.  Said the Welcomat’s music critic Tom Purdom, “Arne Running’s brand-new Lamentation . . . is a series of darkly beautiful musical gestures unified by a strong personal emotion.  The heart of Running’s Lamentation is a lengthy oboe solo – beautifully played by Dorothy Freeman – that’s surrounded by muted trumpets, somber cello interludes and tender ultra-high melodies for the first violin.”

Curiously, Arne never listed the piece among his works on his website.  Also, we do not know of any later performances of the piece.  I can only speculate that the “Lamentation” was so personal  an expression of  dismay and grief,  for whatever reason,  that  he did not want it to circulate.  There is a mystery here that we may never be able to decipher.

About a year ago, I asked Arne if he would write a new 5-8 minute piece for string orchestra for the Chamber Orchestra FIRST EDITIONS concerts coming up in September 2016.  Arne was ill at that time but he still hoped he would be able to  complete the work.  He sent me a small handful of measures during the winter but it was not enough to give one an idea of what the piece might eventually become.  Then, sadly,  there was no more. Arne passed away in March 2016.    We are honored to revisit the “Lamentation” from 1991, twenty-five years later, in order to replace what I am sure would have been a wonderful new piece. We think there could not be a more appropriate replacement and we dedicate this performance to Arne’s memory.” – James Freeman

For the Uprooted: Janice Hamer

For the Uprooted has no dramatic program, traditional form or systematic method. The music seemed to arise as a response to the turbulence of our current world, and its destabilizing effect on countless lives.

Maestro Freeman offered the option of referring, in the commissioned work, to Mozart’s K.449, performed in this concert by my friend and colleague Marcantonio Barone. I have fleetingly done so, evoking a melody from the Andantino of the concerto, which in turn quotes—deliberately or not?—a movement from Bach’s Cantata 140, “Mein Freund ist mein.”

I dedicated this piece, with deep gratitude, to James Freeman and Lori Barnet. Freeman’s invitation encouraged me to “get back on the horse” after a non-composing period. The idea of a solo cello part for Lori Barnet occurred to me after I accepted the commission. She has played a significant and generous role as midwife to innumerable new works by Philadelphia and Washington composers, including several of mine. – Janice Hamer

Many in One: Heidi Jacob

When considering the possibilities for writing a string orchestra piece I was immediately struck by the homogeneous nature of the medium as well as the lush, lyrical possibilities of the great romantic string orchestra works by Dvorák, Elgar,Tchaikovsky and Samuel Barber. However, I also wanted to explore the rich contrasts of color and orchestration in works such as Bartok’s Divertimento.

This work is a dialogue between solitary and collective identities.  Structurally the work is palindromic, beginning with a solo violin that makes it way to the fulcrum of the work, a fugue that commences in the second violins.  At various points, unison rhythmic gestures break apart to become contrapuntal. The use of solo instruments in the work is meant to reflect historically, going back to the concerto grosso of the Baroque era.

The title of the work, Many in One, is from Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name from his Leaves of Grass. The question of the private, isolated versus cooperative and communal in America that Whitman speaks to in this poem has resonance today, going beyond our country, and the struggles the world continues to face.

from Many in One

Leaves of Grass 1856
Walt Whitman

 

Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, nature,
governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive
other lessons,
Underneath all to me is myself—to you, your-
self,
If all had not kernels for you and me, what were
it to you and me?

……

I match my spirit against yours, your orbs, growths,
mountains, brutes,
I will learn why the earth is gross, tantalizing,
wicked,
I take you to be mine, you beautiful, terrible, rude
forms.

Pentaprism: Cynthia Folio

Cynthia Folio: Pentaprism is based on a five-note motive. The title is derived from a five-sided prism, found in many cameras, that transforms a beam of light by 90 degrees. Throughout the piece the motive is altered as if heard through a prism. The initial appearance of the motive (G-Ab-G-Eb-C)—a simple major seventh chord—is revealed one note at a time over a span of twelve measures. The piece ends by reversing the process, by “erasing” the motive one note at a time until only the first note remains. The form is a kind of arch with a climax before the coda, where the major seventh chord is expressed in an unabashedly diatonic context.

The principal players in each section are featured as soloists for two reasons: first, this mimics the idea of contrast between solo and ensemble that is embodied in the Mozart concerto; second, the pairing of professional musicians with students allows a degree of virtuosity for the more seasoned performers.

W.A. Mozart, Symphony K. 16

K. 16 in E flat Major is probably Mozart’s very first symphony. The Mozart family’s first grand tour of Europe, begun in June of 1763 (Wolfgang age 6) took them to Munich, Mannheim, Mainz, Koblenz, Brussels, Paris, and eventually London, where they spent some 15 months.  Wolfgang and sister Nannerl were both prodigies, and their father Leopold took every opportunity to have them perform for nobility and royalty.  It was especially the younger Woflgang who amazed all audiences with his ability to improvise.

In London, the family became friends with Johann Christian Bach (1735-82), a son of J.S. Bach and without question one of the finest composers of the day.  Many scholars have found the influence of J.C. Bach (“the London Bach”) in Wolfgang’s earliest works.

Some years after Wolfgang’s death in 1791, his sister Nannerl recalled the following about the origins of what we believe to be his first symphony, K. 16.

“On the fifth of August {we} had to rent a country home in
Chelsea, outside the city of London, so that father could
recover from a dangerous throat ailment, which brought him
almost to death’s door. {…}  Our father lay dangerously ill;
we were forbidden to touch the keyboard.  And so, in order
to occupy himself, Mozart composed his first symphony….”
(Translation from Neal Zaslaw’s exhaustive and marvelous
“Mozart’s Symphonies” of 1989).

Nannerl goes on to say that the work included trumpets and kettledrums, though K. 16, at least in Wolfgang’s surviving manuscript score, does not. It was not unusual, however, for trumpets and timpani to be considered optional, notated separately, and added to the orchestra if one desired.

The inscription on the autograph manuscript score of the complete symphony is as follows: “Sinfonia di Sig: Wolfgang Mozart a London 1764.”  Mozart was 8 years old.  The manuscript is written in his own hand, though it appears that Leopold made a few minor corrections, especially in the first movement. The inscription is probably in Leopold’s hand.

A facsimile of the autograph manuscript is printed in the Neue Mozart Ausgabe’s edition of the work.  Even the manuscript demonstrates the incredibly precocious nature of this child.  I will try to remember to leave that facsimile on my stand at the end of our performance of the piece.