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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 29, 30 and 38
"The playing of the Capella Istropolitana is winningly resilient in the superb set of 15 of the Mozart symphonies under the British conductor Barry Wordsworth. ... It was his version of the G minor Symphony, no. 40, which I chose as one of my top three when I was comparing more than 70 versions of that work. ... Almost all of the 15 symphonies contained on the five discs (no. 25 and nos. 27-41) are equally electric."
BBC WORLD SERVICE
Wolfang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Symphony in A Major, K. 201
Symphony in D Major, K. 202
Symphony in D Major, K. 504 'Prague'
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the
second surviving child and onIy surviving son of Leopold Mozart, a violinist and composer
in the service of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. The boy was taught by his father, who
in 1756 had published his famous book on violin-playing and enjoyed something of a
reputation both for this and for his wider cultural interests, typical of the new
generation of musicians of the mid-eighteenth century. By the age of six Mozart had shown
such obvious ability that his father resolved to dedicate himself to the furthering of
what seemed a God-given talent. Tours followed, to Munich, Vienna and the imperial palace
at Schönbrunn, to Pressburg (the modern Bratislava), and in 1763 to Paris and to London.
The greater part of Mozart's childhood passed in this way, as he and his elder sister
Anna-Maria performed at the keyboard, and the boy, at least, set himself to the
concomitant experience of composition, learning eagerly not only from his father but from
the very distinguished musicians that he met on his travels.
In 1769 Mozart, accompanied by his father, made the first of
his three extended visits to Italy, honoured by the Pope with the title Knight of the
Golden Spur and instructed in Bologna by the doyen of Italian composers, Padre Martini. He
was to return to Italy in the autumn of 1771 for the performance of his stage-work Ascanio in Alba in Milan, where the opera Lucio Silla was commissioned for the following year,
and where hopes of permanent employment at the court of the imperial governor, a son of
the Empress, proved illusory. The decade was to bring Mozart little satisfaction. He and
his father continued to entertain material ambitions that Salzburg could never satisfy,
particularly since the death of the old Archbishop in December, 1771, and the succession
of a more modern churchman, sympathetic to the reforms that Joseph II was to institute in
In 1777 Mozart left the archiepiscopal service, the only way he
could now secure the freedom to travel as he wished, while his father chose to retain the
necessary security of his employment at Salzburg, where, since 1763, he had held the
position of Vicekapellmeister, the summit of his career. Accompanied by his mother, a
homely woman who exercised no authority over her son, he visited Munich, spent time with
his father's relations in Augsburg, dawdled hopefully in Mannheim, where his association
with the young singer AIoysia Weber suggested dreams of successful concert tours together,
and finally reached Paris. He found France and the French aristocracy little to his liking
and failed to make the kind of impression that his earlier visits as an infant prodigy had
excited. In June his mother died, and in September he began to make his way slowly back to
Salzburg, where he was to be reinstated, remaining a reluctant servant of the archbishop
until a final quarrel and breach during the course of a visit to Vienna in 1781.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in Vienna, in
independence of his father and of a patron. As a performer he aroused immediate interest,
which he met for a time by an astonishing series of piano concertos, while as a composer
he achieved successes in a form denied him in provincial Salzburg, with a popular German
opera in 1782, followed by The Marriage of Figaro,
Don Giovanni, and then Cosi fan tutte. In 1791, the year of his death, his
fortunes, which had waned materially as Vienna became accustomed to his presence, seemed
to have turned. In that year he wrote an opera for the coronation of the new Emperor in
Prague - from Vienna there had been no such commission - and in the later autumn his
German opera The Magic Flute was staged in a suburban theatre in the capital to general
approval. By the end of the year he was dead, leaving material ambitions unrealised and
the Requiem, about which he had had moments of superstitious fear, incomplete.
The splendid Symphony in A
Major, K. 201, was completed in Salzburg on 6th April, 1774, its composition
falling, therefore, between his return from a brief visit to Vienna in the autumn of 1773
and a journey to Munich at the end of 1774 for the staging of his new opera La finta giardiniera. The symphony is scored for the
traditional orchestra of strings, with pairs of oboes and French horns, and is in the
usual four movements.
The Symphony in D Major, K.
202, bears the date 5th May, 1774, and is, therefore, also a product of a
materially fallow period in Salzburg. It is scored for the usual orchestral forces, with
the addition of a pair of trumpets - trombe lunghe, in the composer's autograph.
The Prague Symphony
belongs to the last decade of Mozart's life and was completed in Vienna on 6th December,
1786, to be given its first performance at the Prague National Theatre on 19th January in
the following year. The Bohemian capital had always held Mozart in special regard and
during the composer's visit the concert at which the symphony was played included Mozart's
keyboard improvisations, one on a theme from Figaro, a performance of which he directed
two days later. It was for Prague that he was to compose the opera Don Giovanni in 1787, the year of the symphony, which
seems to have formed part of the memorial programme in the presence of Mozart's widow and
son Karl in 1794.
Known sometimes as the symphony without a Minuet, containing
only three movements, the Symphony in D Major, K. 504,
calls for an orchestra that includes pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets,
timpani and strings.
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of the
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as an orchestra
large enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based in Bratislava, its name
drawn from the ancient name still preserved in the Academia Istropolitana, the historic
university established in the Slovak and one-time Hungarian capital by Matthias Corvinus,
the orchestra works principally in the recording studio. Recordings by the orchestra in
the Naxos series include The Best of Baroque Music,
Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, fifteen each
of Mozart's and Haydn's symphonies as well as works by Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann.
Barry Wordsworth's career has been dominated by his work for
the Royal Ballet which started when he played the solo part in Frank Martin's Harpsichord
Concerto, which was the score used by Sir Kenneth MacMillan for his ballet, Las Hermanas. In 1973 he became Assistant Conductor
of the Royal Ballet's Touring Orchestra and in 1974 Principal Conductor of Sadlers Wells
Royal Ballet. He made his debut at Covent Garden conducting MacMillan's Manon in 1975 and since then has conducted there
frequently. He has toured extensively with the Royal Ballet, conducting orchestras in New
Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Canada and Australia, where he has been Guest
conductor for Australian Ballet.
In 1987 while retaining his connection with both Royal Ballet
Companies as Guest conductor, Barry Wordsworth also worked with the Royal Liverpool
Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, the Ulster Orchestra,
the BBC Concert and the London Philharmonic Orchestras. He also continued to work with New
Sadlers Wells Opera, with whom he has recorded excerpts from Kalman's Countess Maritza and Lehar's The Count of Luxembourg and The Merry Widow. For the Naxos label Wordsworth
recorded a number of Mozart and Haydn symphonies, works by Smetana and Dvorák and for the
Marco Polo label works by Bax.
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MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 29, 30 and 38