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Great Music for Closest, Nearest and Dearest


Text of the booklet "W.A.Mozart OBOENSPITZE, volume 1 / ALEXEI UTKIN / HERMITAGE ORCHESTRA"


Great Music for Closest, Nearest and Dearest

Little is known about Giuseppe Ferlendis who was appointed as oboist at the court of Archbishop of Salzburg Prince Hieronymus Colloredo on April 1, 1777 .

Ferlendis might have been a profound or average musician, however, irrespective of his abilities his appearance in Salzburg orchestra inspired young W.A. Mozart to create one of his rare compositions for soloing oboe: Concerto in C major KV 314.

Did the successful composer feel so bored that it gave him the impetus to create it while he had to spend months and years of his youth in the Austrian province he felt aversion for?… Whatever it might be but when at the end of September of same year (1777) Wolfgang set out for an important musical tour of Europe in search of the worthy application of his talent (for the first time without his father, accompanied only by his mother), he took the manuscript of the new concerto with him – as a kind of business card, one of spectacular samples of his composing accomplishment.

The choice of Mozart should be considered successful: that Salzburg Concerto really proved the “all-purpose” composition. Its virtues were first acknowledged by Mozart’s new friends, virtuosos of the remarkable court orchestra of Mannheim, in whose enjoyable company the young Mozart spent a few happy months in 1777 – 1778. Friedrich Ramm, one of the best oboists of his time, able to produce musical sounds of incomparable sweetness and depth, famous for his heartfelt and natural masterly manner of performance, used to perform that Mozart’s masterpiece as culmination of his programme (the young author of the concerto proudly commented on that in his letters to his father from Mannheim). The public interest in the Concerto KV 314 was still high even later: in 1783 a “certain oboist of Earl Esterhazy” was eager to pay 3 ducats for its manuscript.

However, Mozart himself did not object to getting some money from the Concerto which seemed to arouse the audience approval. Thus, when he was commissioned to write a series of compositions for soloing flute by one of his Mannheim admirers, a certain De Jean (a wealthy flutist amateur, archly named in Mozart’s letters “an Indian” as well as “a brave Dutch”), the young composer hurriedly tried to sell off the customer the transcription of KV 314 concerto for flute solo in D major as one of them. And it was that very flute transcription that became widely known to public for a very long period of time while the concerto with oboe solo (“concerto for Ferlendis”) was considered to be vanished. Only in 1920 in Salzburg the orchestra parts of the original score in C major were discovered.

That De Jean’s commission is as a rule also related to the composition of Andante for flute with orchestra KV 315 in C major. This Andante was probably composed to replace Adagio ma non troppo from the flute concerto KV 313 in G major – a profound heartfelt composition which evidently appeared too tough for one of the modest flutist and music-lovers; the performances of those primitive musicians invariably made Mozart furious and aroused his anger even with the wind instrument itself which was not to blame, though. We may presume that the composer himself would have hardly protested against the transcription of his Andante KV 315 for oboe solo presented in this album.

The concertos with soloing wind instruments created in 1777 – 1779 are a splendid demonstration of young Mozart’s composing method; at that time he was approaching the prime of his glorified maturity. We should not look for profound ideas and spirituality, distinguishing a lot of his late compositions; one had better admire the refined transparent music, flexible and fresh melodic lines, varying shades of lyric feeling as well as his optimistic perception of life although it was too wise considering his age.

The basis of early Mozart’s concertos is the orchestra, performing numerous diverse functions: it forestalls and prepares the appearance of the soloing melody, joins in and accompanies its ending, provides a reliable and never clumsy support which is always to the point; from time to time it starts a dialogue with the soloist always staying in the background.

The motives of opening tutti are as a rule simple and unpretentious, lacking refined individual details. However, everything is changing with the soloist joining in. Lots of elements of his part are not new. Already known to us from tutti episodes, they are realized in a different way, as if passed through the poet’s soul, inspired and warmed up by his heart. The most simple, sometimes even crude elements of the original music material transform through numerous changes into ultimate plastic melodies, woven into elaborate patterns of remarkable beauty; thus in Allegro aperto (KV 314) a broad, full of gracious changes, soloing melody begins its movement getting in and gradually reintonating the clumsy buffoon “tricks” from the concluding part of the orchestra exposition. This manner of composing could be compared with a refined hand-made embroidery; artful inventiveness and artistic inspiration of the author do not allow commonplace repeats: each return of one of the leading motives becomes the reason for giving a new, sometimes unexpected direction to the melodic stream.

The richness of fine emotional shades are combined by young Mozart with bright vivid contrasts between the movements of the cycle. The finale of concerto KV 314 composed in the form of rondo is extremely rich music reminding of lively songs from French comic operas. Again and again coming back to the wonderfully harmonious and graceful refrain of this rondo, the composer does not seem to be able to say good bye to it; the last appearance of this motive is dated 1781 when Mozart used the refrain in the singspiel “Abduction from the Seraglio” (as a theme of Blondchen’s aria “What bliss, what delight”.

On the contrary, the slow movements of the cycle are the concentration of the most profound and serious lyric images. A sensitive listener may probably appreciate how much more refined, elevated and varied Adagio ma non troppo from Concerto KV 314 is than Andante KV 315 intended for De Jean. Nevertheless, the fascination of the latter is completely irresistable. Even the introductory phrase of the orchestra imitating the chords of plucked string instruments cannot help going straight to the heart of the sentimental music lover. The melody to follow, also reminding an audience of the popular home-made music compositions of the 18 th century, is graceful, sweet and easy to listen to (as well as the form of the whole Andante). For the comfortable melancholic meditation the composer carefully identifies a small central section in minor full of heartfelt intonations…

In his letter of February 14, 1778 Mozart again complains to his father of his dislike to flute music, writing anxiously that some of his commissioned compositions would not be worthy of his name. With reference to Andante KV 315 his apprehension seems vain. Nevertheless, the music for De Jean, with its style and quality little differing from the other instrumental opuses of that period, became one of the fateful landmarks in the short life of the composer.

Mozart failed to fulfill the commission of the “brave Dutch” completely and therefore, quite fairly, received a little less than half of the promised fee. The unfortunate instrument is not to blame, the explanation being the first serious love of the young man to an equally young promising singer Aloysia Weber. Poor Mozart lost his head having forgotten not only about that amateur flutist not appealing to him much, but about the interests of his own family which was in bad need of money. Wise Leopold Mozart, a worthy representative of the old patriarchal way of life, in his letters from Salzburg was trying to bring his child to reason, his fatherly reproach aimed at setting him on the right path. However, the youth was getting mature and interpreted those reproaches as excessive interference in his private life; it could have occurred to Wolfgang for the first time that his dear beloved parent was not only too strict to him but just did not like him.

The distrust arising since that moment between the two people, who used to be so close to each other, never transformed into straight coldness and alienation. Having become adult and independent, Wolfgang always demonstrated respect towards Leopold asking for his advice and parent blessing when needed. However, he was so missing complete sincerity in mutual relations with his father and other relatives!

Fortunately, Mozart was a composer and everything that he could not capture on paper with the use of words found its perfect embodiment in the melodies of his best compositions. Shocked by his mother’s death (3 July of the same 1778, in Paris) he writes not only a letter to his relatives where he tries to encourage them, expressing his grief in the words of lofty consolation, but also an incomparable clavier sonata KV 310 in A minor, the famous tragic theme of which sounds against the background of continuously pulsating chords; only the heroic strain of will helps to keep that hearty impulse…

Nine years later, in spring 1787 Mozart learns about his father’s lethal disease. He sends him his farewell message. In this letter dated April 4, the son is trying to share with his father the product of his inmost meditations about death as the source of bliss, tells him about his passionate desire to set out for Salzburg immediately to hold the dying man in his arms, but expresses a timid hope that the patient is recovering. And again everything which remained untold the composer expresses in his great chamber composition with desperately pulsating main theme – Quintet for strings in G minor KV 516.

Finished on 16 May, 1787 (Leopold died on the 27 th of the same month without seeing his son before death), the quintet strikes us by the force of feelings expressed in it – tragic and light lyric, joyful without restraint. There might not be any point describing them in words.

It should only be pointed out that the recording of the quintet presented in this album is unique. Probably at the time of Mozart the mere idea to perform such a composition replacing the first violin by oboe could have hardly occurred to anybody. In many episodes (let us recall at least masterly passages from the main section of the finale) the part of the first violin is extremely difficult, and it is hard to imagine some oboist of the late 18 th century to set about playing it. In the context of classicist esthetics sensitive to such changes the adding oboe to string ensemble should be regarded as the change of genre of this music; from the composition for a homogenous set of instruments assuming a relative equality of the ensemble members, the quintet transforms into a kind of chamber orchestra with oboe solo. This effect was not obviously foreseen by Mozart in this case, but we know his other chamber compositions (first of all, it is the quartet for oboe and string trio in F major KV 370 intended for the same F.Ramm) where the masterly part of wind instrument explicitly stands out against the background of other parts.

Roman Nassonov, translation by Olga Andrushkevich

Text of the booklet "W.A.Mozart OBOENSPITZE, volume 1 / ALEXEI UTKIN / HERMITAGE ORCHESTRA"


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