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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART: Oboe Quartet, K. 370 / Horn Quintet, K. 407 / A Musical Joke, K. 522
"performances are again admirable"
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Quartet in F Major for oboe, violin, viola & cello, K. 370
Quintet in E Flat Major for horn, violin, two violas and cello,
Ein musikalischer Spass (A Musical Joke), K. 522
Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a musician who was later
appointed Vice-Kapellmeister to the ruling Archbishop, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart won
international fame as a child prodigy. Adolescence in Salzburg proved less satisfactory,
particularly after the death of the old Archbishop and the succession of a new patron who
showed much less indulgence to members of his household. Leopold Mozart had early realised
the exceptional gifts of his son and had made it his business to develop them to the
detriment of his own career, but father and son both understood that provincial Salzburg
was far too limited in its opportunities.
In 1777 Mozart's impatience with the limitations of Salzburg
had grown to such a pitch that it seemed he must seek his fortune elsewhere. The
Archbishop refused permission for Leopold Mozart and his son to travel abroad, although,
of course, he was happy to accept their resignation, should they wish it. Mozart himself
chose this course, while his father, with greater prudence, stayed in Salzburg. The
journey was to take the young musician to Augsburg, Munich, Mannheim and finally to Paris.
In this he was accompanied by his mother, a woman of simpler
sensitivities, who had little control over her son's wilder enthusiasms, one of which, the
beginning of a romance with Aloysia Weber, a young singer in Mannheim and one of the
daughters of an unimportant member of the Electoral musical establishment, proved
distinctly alarming. Mozart later married a younger sister of Aloysia Weber, when
eventually free of paternal control in Vienna.
Mannheim, where the Elector Palatine had his court, had one of
the best orchestras Europe had ever seen, in the words of an English visitor, Charles
Burney, "an army of generals". In December 1777, however, during Mozart's stay
in the city, the Elector of Bavaria died, the succession falling to the Elector of the
Palatinate, who in August 1778 moved his court to Munich. Early in 1779 Mozart was back
again in Salzburg, where he returned with some reluctance, petitioning the Archbishop for
the position of court organist, which was granted him, as his father had arranged. Two
years later he was able to visit Munich for the staging of his new opera, Idomeneo, and it seems probable that his Oboe Quartet was written in Munich at this time,
perhaps for the former Mannheim oboist Friedrich Ramm and members of the Munich Electoral
orchestra. He had earlier written the Sinfonia
Concertante, K. 297b, for a group of Mannheim wind-players that included Ramm.
The Oboe Quartet is a particularly attractive work, providing Ramm with an unostentatious
opportunity for subtle virtuosity. The classical first movement allows a brief
contrapuntal use of a descending fourth as instrument follows instrument in the central
development. The slow movement, with its florid comment on the principal melody entrusted
to the oboe, is followed by a final rondo in which the oboe proposes the principal melody,
echoed by the violin, before episodes that allow the wind instrument further elements of
After the success of the opera Idomeneo in Munich, Mozart found the service of the
Archbishop of Salzburg increasingly distasteful. From Munich he was summoned to Vienna,
and there found himself denied opportunities to impress the Emperor. In May he secured his
dismissal, thus jeopardising the livelihood of his father as well, and moved into lodgings
with the Weber family. Frau Weber, after all, still had daughters to marry off, after the
marriage in 1780 of the eldest, on whom Mozart had once set his heart. By 1782 he had
married a younger sister, Constanze, and settled in Vienna in independence of both father
and patron, a situation that brought initial success and subsequently more variable
fortune before his early death in December 1791.
Mozart wrote his Quintet in
E fiat major, K. 407, for French horn, violin, two violas and bass (cello) in
Vienna in 1782. The work was written in the composer's first year of independence in
Vienna for the Salzburg horn-player Ignaz Leutgeb (Leitgeb), who had been a member of the
musical establishment of the Archbishop and had followed the Mozarts to Italy in 1773.
Leutgeb had settled in Vienna in 1777
and there established himself, with money borrowed from Leopold Mozart, in w hat he described as "ein kleines
schneckenhaus" (a little snail-shell of a place), with business as a cheesemonger. He
remained a loyal friend of the Mozarts and it was for him that the composer wrote his horn
concertos and other works with horn obbligato.
The quintet, after a brief introduction, allows the horn the
principal themes, briefly developed before the re-appearance of the first subject in a
recapitulation. The strings open the slow movement, followed by the horn, a reminder of
the praise French critics had bestowed on Leutgeb twelve years before, when he was the
first to use hand-stopping horn technique in the city and was much admired for his ability
to "sing an Adagio". The quintet ends with a rondo, in which the horn announces
the principal melodies in a texture to which the use of two violas instead of two violins
adds a sonorous element.
By 1787 Vienna had grown accustomed to Mozart's presence in the
city. He had followed the success of his German opera >Die
Entführung aus dem Serail in 1782 with the Italian Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) in 1786,
and now Prague, a city that always valued Mozart, had commissioned the opera Don Giovanni. On 28th May, however, Leopold Mozart
had died in Salzburg. There followed correspondence between him and his married sister
Nannerl over the disposition of their father's property. During the course of these
negotiations he wrote his lighthearted jeu d'esprit Ein
musikalischer Spass (A Musical Joke), perhaps remembering his father's
contribution to similar genres.
Scored for two French horns and strings, with a doubled second
violin part, the reason for which remains obscure, unless to secure a proper imbalance
suitable to village musicians, the Musical Joke makes fun of clumsy attempts at the
classical form, with banal repetitions, endless and meaningless sequences. The first
movement leads to an unusually solemn Minuet and a Trio with a place for w hat might pass
for virtuoso performance by the leading violinist of the group and exposure for the second
violin's accompaniment figuration. The French horns rest during the slow movement in which
the village first violinist may shine once more, especially in his cadenza. The final
rondo, with elementary imitative counterpoint on the most banal of musical figures, leads
to final disaster, as the diversion comes to an end on a series of resounding discords.
Joszef Kiss, oboe
Jozsek Kiss was born in Sátoraljaujhely in 1961 and studied in
Budapest, before joining the Budapest Symphony Orchestra in 1982. He remains a principal
oboist in the orchestra and assistant professor of oboe at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of
Music. In 1984 he won the bronze medal at the Toulon International Oboe Competition and
four years later the wind-players' prize of the Hungarian Radio.
Jeno Keveházi, French horn
Jeno Keveházi was born in 1949 and since 1968 has served as
first horn-player in the Hungarian Radio Orchestra. He won first prize in 1979 at the
Colmar Competition for Wind-Players and in 1979 at the Premio di Ancona Competition. He is
a member of the Pro Brass Ensemble.
The members of the Kodály Quartet were trained at the Budapest
Ferenc Liszt Academy, and three of them, the second violin Tamas Szabo, viola-player Gabor
Fias and cellist Janos Devich, were formerly in the Sebestyen Quartet, which was awarded
the jury's special diploma at the 1966 Geneva International Quartet Competition and won
first prize at the 1968 Leo Weiner Quartet Competition in Budapest. Since 1970, with the
violinist Attila Falvay, the quartet has been known as the Kodály Quartet, a title
adopted with the approval of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education. The Kodály
Quartet has given concerts throughout Europe, in the Soviet Union and in Japan, in
addition to regular appearances in Hungary both in the concert hall and on television.
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MOZART: Oboe Quartet, K. 370 / Horn Quintet, K. 40...