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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) Complete Church Sonatas
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the only
surviving son and second surviving child of Leopold Mozart, later Vice-Kapellmeister in
the musical establishment of the Prince- Archbishop. His father soon realised the
exceptional talent of his son, which he carefully nurtured, thereby sacrificing his own
career as a composer and violinist. Mozart and his older sister Anna-Maria, a gifted
keyboard-player, toured Europe, amazing audiences by their musical precocity, while
Leopold Mozart saw to it that his son profited from the experience that travel could
bring. Journeys to Italy followed, and there the young Mozart was able to satisfy the
ambition that any composer of the day would have by the composition of operas. By 1772,
however, childhood had come to an end, and Mozart, now sixteen, was faced by the necessity
of employment; now under a new archbishop in Salzburg, a man of modernising tendencies in
matters liturgical, who nevertheless retained a very clear idea of w hat was due to him
from members of his court musical establishment. A remaining obligation in Milan was
fulfilled, with the opera Lucio Silla, but
from now on opportunities for travel were more restricted. In 1777 Mozart, refused leave
of absence, resigned from his position as Konzertmeister in the archiepiscopal service,
seeking employment at first in Mannheim and then in Paris, but to no purpose. By 1779 he
was with mutual reluctance in the service of the archbishop once more, this time as court
organist. Matters came to a head after the success of his opera Idomeneo in Munich and a
subsequent visit to Vienna in the entourage of the arch bishop. The denial of
opportunities for performance there led to a final quarrel and Mozart's dismissal. For the
last ten years of his life he remained in Vienna in precarious independence, taking a
dowerless wife, and attracting initial attention as a composer, performer and teacher,
until the novelty wore off, and audiences sought new attractions. At the time of his death
in 1791 Mozart's fortunes seemed about to take a turn for the better, with the success of
the German opera The Magic Flute and the possibility of employment at the Cathedral.
The seventeen brief Church Sonatas or Epistle Sonatas were
written for use in Salzburg between the years 1772 and 1780. The first group of three, K.
67 - 69, were written in the former year and are scored, as are the majority of these
short pieces, for two violins, bass and organ. The brevity of these single-movement works
is explained by the new archbishop's insistence that the entire Mass should not last more
than three-quarters of an hour, an abbreviation that Mozart himself deplored, as we
understand from a letter on the subject written in 1776 to his former mentor, Padre
Martini, in Bologna. The second of the group, K. 68, in B flat major, introduces a brief
element of contrapuntal imitation in a second subject, the whole in an abridged sonata
form, found also in the third of these sonatas, K. 69, in D major. The same year has been
proposed as the year of composition of the sonatas K. 144 and K. 145, similar in form and
scoring, and explicable by the fact that Mozart was now employed as Konzertmeister of the
Cathedral orchestra and was obliged to spend five months of 1772 at home, before returning
to Italy towards the end of the year.
The following six sonatas, K. 212, K. 241, K. 224, K. 225, K.
244, K. 245 and K. 274, also scored for two violins, bass and organ, have been credibly
ascribed to the years 1776 and 1777 in Salzburg. K. 263, in C major, includes a pair of
trumpets in its scoring, adding ceremonial emphasis. It was written in December 1776. K.
278, in C major, written in March/April1777, is scored for two violins, cello, bass, pairs
of oboes, trumpets and drums and organ.
On his return from Paris early in 1779 Mozart assumed more
specific cathedral duties. The Epistle Sonata K. 329,
in C major, is scored for strings without viola, and pairs of oboes, French
horns, trumpets and drums, with a more elaborate part for the organ, which he played
himself. K. 328 returns to simpler orchestration, two violins, bass and organ, the
instrumentation of the last of the series, K. 336, written in March 1780, but now with a
solo organ part, as weIl as a ripieno organ basso continuo.
János Sebestyén was born in Budapest in 1931 and studied at
the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music. In 1971 he established the harpsichord department of
the Academy, which he has headed since that date. His career as a performer and teacher
has taken him as far afield as Japan, his reputation increased by his very successful
recordings for a number of record companies, both in Hungary and abroad. A number of
important awards in Hungary have added distinction, including in 1984 the title Cavalière
of the Italian Republic for services to music.
Ferenc Erkel Chamber Orchestra
The Ferenc Erkel Chamber Orchestra, named after the
distinguished 19th century Hungarian composer, was formed in 1985 by fourteen students of
the Bela Bartók Conservatory in Budapest. The artistic director of the orchestra, which
plays without a conductor, is the violinist Lili Aldor, a member of the Ferenc Liszt
Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra has a repertoire that ranges from the Baroque to the
twentieth century and has won praise in Hungary and abroad for the youthful energy and
brilliance of its performance.
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MOZART: Church Sonatas (Complete)