“A Simple Prayer” was composed in the winter of 2017 in New York. It was composed with an idea in mind, which is that in spite of our differences we are, as my dear friend Maya Angelou would say, “more alike than unalike.“ This work is a plea and prayer for unity. It is a prayer without words, and it is especially pertinent today at a time when there seems to be so much divisiveness, hate and polarity within our country.
For several months in 2017 I had been focused on what is wrong with our country that the fire of divisiveness could be fanned so nonchalantly and carelessly. A wise yogi once said that we only get into trouble when we forget who we are. I ultimately came back to the fact that we all belong to the same human family which is the human race. It is upon that belief and with that thought in mind that “A Simple Prayer” was written. –Richard Danielpour
Mozart wrote the Rondo in D (more a set of variations than a true rondo) shortly after arriving in Vienna in 1782, following his bitter departure from his family in Salzburg, He used it immediately as a replacement for the original final movement of his Concerto in D, K. 175, written nine years earlier in 1773. We can only guess why he did this. Possibly he was anxious to charm his new audiences with a finale that was more straight froward and less “learned” than the somewhat contrapuntal original finale of K. 175. Combined with the first two movements of K. 175 and also as an independent piece, he played it often in Vienna and elsewhere, and it quickly became one of his most popular pieces. It was in fact one of the very few works that was published during his lifetime.
The K. 175 concerto – for which Mozart apparently wrote the Rondo K. 382 – is now usually numbered as his 5th piano concerto. It was actually his first original piano concerto. Nos. 1-4 are all arrangements of pieces for solo keyboard by other composers, probably intended as preliminary exercises in the art of writing concertos, and very likely under his father’s watchful eye. The fact that this concerto written at age 17, combined with the K. 382 Rondo, became one Mozart’s most well known and admired works during his lifetime is yet another reminder of the remarkable genius that lies behind so many of his early works – works that like K. 382 and 386 are now rarely performed.
The Rondo In A, K. 386, like K. 382, is one of Mozart’s early gems that is rarely heard. It may be a replacement for the finale of another concerto (in this case, K. 414, performed in October by COFE with soloist Andrew Hauze). It might also be the original version of K. 414’s finale. Or it may always have been intended as a completely independent piece, unrelated to K. 414 or any other concerto.
Until more evidence is uncovered, we can only guess as to its true origins.
If the origins and intent of K. 386 are obscure, the autograph manuscript and its history are even more bizarre, complex, and fascinating. The manuscript was sold in 1799 by Mozart’s widow Constanza to the music publisher J.A. Andre, but with the end of the piece missing. Somehow, still without an ending, it found its way to London in the 1830s, where it was auctioned off page by page (some pages even ripped in half) to many different people. A reduction of the piece, for solo piano, however, had been made by the Englishman CiprianI Potter (1792-1871), with his own ending. It was in this form that the piece was known for some 150 years.
During the last 60 years, scholars have discovered various pages and parts (but unfortunately not all) of Mozart’s manuscript in various places. And in 1980 the English scholar Alan Tyson discovered the ending! With the ending found but a few other parts of the piece still missing, Tyson, the Australian conductor Charles Mackerras, and the Viennese pianist Paul Badura-Skoda (one of my own pianistic mentors) collaborated on publishing a performing edition of the piece. It comprises more than 90% of Mozart’s original music, and it includes Mozart’s own ending! Our performance of K. 386 this evening is based on this edition. –James Freeman
Frustrated and feeling isolated in Salzburg, Mozart (now age 21) set out in 1777 with his mother to Mannheim, Paris, and Munich in the hope of finding for himself a more significant court position. It was a devastatingly unhappy trip. Not only was he turned down at all three courts, but his mother died unexpectedly while they were in Paris. Disappointed and still grieving, he returned to Salzburg early in 1779, resigning himself at least for the time being to his position there as court organist. Soon thereafter, he wrote the Two-Piano Concerto, presumably for himself and his sister Nannerl.
Though there are certainly moments of darkness in all three movements, the piece overall is an expression of great joy, delight in the possibilities of pianistic virtuosity, and exuberance. As with so many other composers, sad times do not necessarily produce sad music!
The two solo parts are absolutely equal, sharing the dialogue between them in countless different ways, and placing the orchestra more as accompaniment than in Mozart’s concertos for solo piano.
The equality of the two solo parts surely demonstrates that Nannerl must have been every bit as virtuosic a pianist as her brother. Later in Vienna, Mozart played the piece several times with one of his students, Josepha Barbara Auernhammer. It was with her in mind, too, that he later wrote the Two-Piano Sonata in D, K. 448, perhaps as a companion piece to K. 365. When we consider the list of people for whom Mozart wrote piano concertos – Countess Antonia Lodron and her daughters Aloisia and Josepha (the Concerto for Three Pianos, K. 242); Louise Jenomy (K. 271); Barbara Ployer (K. 449 and 453); Maria Theresia Paradies (K. 456) – it is clear that both Salzburg and Vienna could boast of any number of first-rate women pianists.
Throughout musical history the title Capriccio has been used for an exceptionally wide variety of pieces that are in fact types of dances, fugues, improvisations, fantasias, and cadenzas. The most common denominator among these is a preference for a free flow of ideas over formalistic thought. As early as the seventeenth century Praetorius wrote that in a capriccio “one takes a mood but deserts it for another whenever it comes to his mind to do so. One can add, take away, digress, turn and direct the music as one wishes…” This description has much in common with the process that occurred in composing Capriccio. Once the opening measures were decided, I had no idea of what the piece would become, only how long it would be since the commission was for a short work of five to 8 minutes duration. In retrospect, the resulting piece takes two or three ideas and explores them in ways that are questioning, playful, intense, mysterious, sad, laughing, gentle, and triumphant, until they eventually all disappear at the end.
Capriccio was commissioned by Chamber Orchestra FIRST EDITIONS, James Freeman conductor. The first performances took place on February 17 & 18, 2018, at Haverford College and Trinity Center for Urban Life respectively.