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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21 / Violin Concerto No. 5
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Violin Concerto No.5 in A, K. 219
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K. 467
Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus and the
subsequent film based on the play presented an apparent paradox. For dramatic
rather than historical purposes Mozart was shown as a thoroughly unworthy
vehicle for divine inspiration, as opposed to the jealous old court composer
Antonio Salieri, worthy but uninspired. The truth of the matter must be rather
different. Mozart had been brought up to mix with a higher level of society and
to avoid too much contact
The five violin concertos that Mozart
wrote in Salzburg in 1775 might seem to offer a similar paradox, at least when
they were performed by the violinist Antonio Brunetti, a man whom Mozart was
later to describe as a disgrace to his profession, coarse and dirty. Brunetti,
a Neapolitan by birth, had been appointed Hofmusikdirektor and
Hofkonzertmeister in Salzburg in 1776 and in the following year he succeeded
Mozart as Konzertmeister, when the latter left the service of the Archbishop of
Salzburg to seek his fortune in Mannheim and Paris. In 1778 Brunetti had to
marry Maria Judith Lipps, the sister-in-law of Michael Haydn, who had already born
him a child. Mozart himself was fastidious about the company he kept and he
clearly regarded Brunetti as uncouth. Nevertheless the exigencies of his
profession found Brunetti providing tolerable performances of the concertos.
The first soloist, however, seems to have been Franz Xaver Kolb, a Salzburg
musician and a competent enough violinist. We hear in passing of these
performances by Kolb and by Brunetti in letters from Leopold Mozart to his son
written during the latter's absence in 1777 and 1778, letters that paint a
clear enough picture of the kind of music-making there was to be had in
Salzburg, and from Mozart's own letters, the.4'astly superior standards of
Mannheim, and, given the exaggerations of French taste, of Paris.
By the age of nineteen Mozart encouraged
by his father Leopold had become increasingly anxious that a place should be
found for him in a more distinguished position than Salzburg could ever offer.
His dissatisfaction was to lead to his attempt to find employment in Mannheim or
in Paris, and finally, in 1781, to a breach with his patron the Archbishop and
to a final decade of precarious independence in Vienna.
Limited as it might have been, Salzburg,
all the same, offered some oppor1unities. In 1775 the Archbishop commissioned a
setting of a Metastasio libretto, Il re pastore, for the official visit
to the town of the Archduke Maximilian Franz in April. The violin concer1os
were written later in the year and as we have seen provided at least a reminder
of Mozar1's achievement during his long absence.
The Concerto in A Major, K. 219,
opens with the customary orchestral exposition, followed unexpectedly by an
Adagio entry for the soloist, the first two notes poised perilously over an
abyss of orchestral silence, before the murmur of the moving orchestral
accompaniment is heard. This is a prelude to the soloist's own version of the
Allegro, and subsequent development and recapitulation.
The slow movement allows the solo violin
to repeat and complete the opening theme, while the middle section offers a
contrast of theme and key. This is followed by a final movement in the speed of
a Minuet and in the form of a rondo, one of its contrasting episodes an example
of what passed for "Turkish" music in Austria in the late eighteenth
century, a fashionable piece of exoticism.
Mozart completed his D Minor Piano
Concerto, the first in a minor key, on 10th February, 1785, after his
removal to precarious independence ill Vienna. He played it for the first time
the following day at the first of a series of subscription
concerts that he had arranged at the Mehlgrube, Vienna Neumarkt. Leopold Mozart
was in Vienna for the occasion, impressed by the style in which his son was
living and the rent he paid, the cheapness of the concert hall and the distinction
of the audience. In the same letter home to his daughter Nannerl he describes
the new concerto as "very fine”, adding that it was still being copied
when he arrived in Vienna, so that Mozart had had no time to play through the
final rondo before the performance. Leopold Mozart's pupil Heinrich Marchand
was to play the concerto in Salzburg the following year, with Michael Haydn
turning the pages for him and able to see for himself the skill with which the
work had been written.
The concerto opens in a mood of tragic
intensity, the initial rhythm bringing its own sense of urgency. The orchestra
introduces much of the matter of the movement, before the entry of the piano
with music of characteristic poignancy. Mozart left no written cadenza, a deficiency
variously supplied by Beethoven and by Brahms a token of the esteem in which
they held the work.
The slow movement, in B flat major, brings
with it an air of great serenity, broken temporarily by a sudden burst of sound
in G minor and an interlude of tempestuous drama, before calm returns.
The soloist leads into the final rondo,
followed by the orchestra. A second theme in F Major leads back once more to
the principal theme, and it is this second theme, that after the central
development section takes us forward to the somewhat cursory D major conclusion
to a composition of considerable dramatic tension.)
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest
violinists. After studying with her father, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the
first student of Shinichi Suzuki, the creator of the famous Suzuki Method of
teaching children to play the violin. Subsequently she went to Japan's famous
Toho School of the Juilliard School in the United States, where she studied
with Joseph Fuchs.
Takako Nishizaki won Second Prize in the
1964 Leventritt International Competition (First prize went to Itzhak Perlman),
First Prize in the 1967 Juilliard Concerto Competition (with Japan's Nobuko
Imai, the well-known viola-player), and several awards in lesser competitions.
She was only the second student at Juilliard, after Michael Rabin, to win her
school's coveted Fritz Kreisler Scholarship, established by the great violinist
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most
frequently recorded violinists in the world today. She has recorded ten volumes
of her complete Fritz Kreiler Edition, many contemporary Chinese violin
concertos, among them the Concerto by Du Ming-xin, dedicated to her, and a
growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violin concertos, among them
concertos by Spohr, Bério, Cui, Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she
has recorded Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Mozart's Violin Concertos Nos. 3
and 5, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven and the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky,
Beethoven, Bruch concertos.
Peter Lang was born in 1946, the son of
the organist Herman Lang. His teachers in music included his father, Kurt
Neumüller, Friedrich Gulda and Géza Anda, as well as Bernhard Paumgartner and
Gerhard Wimberger. His first public appearance with an orchestra was in 1955,
followed by his professional début in Munich under Paumgartner in 1962. Since
then he has given concerts in many of the musical centres of the world, in
Europe, America and Japan, appearing with conductors of the distinction of Claudio
Abbado, Neville Marriner, Otmar Suitner, Militades Caridis and many others. He
is professor of piano and head of the keyboard department at the Salzburg
Mozarteum Hochschule and in 1968 took over the direction of the Mozarteum
International Summer Academy from Rolf Liebermann.
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MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21 / Violin Concerto No...