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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 1 - 5
"warm, vigorous and rhythmically strong"
Classical Good CD Guide
"they are played with such engaging style and elegance"
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Symphony No.1 in E Flat Major, K.16
Symphony No.2 in B Flat Major, K.17 (attr. Leopold Mozart)
Symphony No.3 in E Flat Major, K.18
(Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787) Op. 7, No.6)
Symphony No.4 in D Major, K.19
Symphony No.5 in B Flat Major, K.22
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of the
violinist and composer, Leopold Mozart, a musician employed by the ruling
Archbishop, and a man of some intellectual ability. In childhood Mozart and his
elder sister Anna-Maria, known in the family as Nannerl to her brother's Wolferl,
toured Europe as infant prodigies, received at court in the countries they
visited and providing a general subject of curiosity and interest. The
children's education and musical training was supervised by their father, who
was quick to realise his son's genius and sacrificed his own career to foster
As Mozart grew to manhood there was evident a disparity between his natural
expectations and the realities of provincial Salzburg, where an indulgent patron
had been succeeded by an Archbishop very much less willing to allow members of
his household to absent themselves for months or years on end. Leopold Mozart
had, perforce, to be content with his lot as Vice-Kapellmeister, but in 1777 his
son left Salzburg, accompanied only by his mother, to seek employment elsewhere,
in Munich, Mannheim or Paris, where, in June, 1778, his mother died. Nowhere did
there seem to be a position available in any way equal to what Mozart saw as his
desert, and early in 1779 he returned reluctantly to Salzburg, where he was
given a position once more, with equal reluctance, by the Archbishop.
The summer of 1780 brought a commission for an opera in Munich. Idomeneo,
re di Creta, was staged therewith some success in January, 1781. There
followed a summons from the Archbishop to attend him in Vienna and an uneasy few
months in which the young composer grew increasingly resentful, irked by his
subservient position and the refusal of his patron to allow him to earn money
and honour by performing before the Emperor. In May there was an open quarrel,
resulting in Mozart's dismissal. For the remaining ten years of his life he was
to seek to earn a living in Vienna, independent of a patron, although he was
later to be given a relatively unimportant position at court.
The Vienna years, during which Leopold Mozart was no longer at hand to
control his son's wilder plans, brought initial success in the opera-house and
in the public concerts Mozart gave. His marriage to an impecunious girl, whose
earlier acquaintance he had made in Mannheim, when he had courted her sister,
did nothing to assist his career, and by the end of the decade he was often
depressed by the financial difficulties of the course he had chosen. He died in
1791, at a time when his fortunes seemed about to take a turn for the better.
Although he had been ignored by the new Emperor, he had, nevertheless, fulfilled
a coronation opera commission in Prague and was enjoying some popular success
with his new German opera The Magic Flute. The unfinished work he left
included a Requiem Mass, later completed by his pupil Süssmayer.
During the second half of the century the orchestral symphony, derived in
part from the Italian operatic overture of earlier years, assumed increasing
importance. Its most common instrumentation, calling for pairs of oboes and
French horns, with a four-part string section and possible keyboard continuo,
suited very well the resources most often available in the musical
establishments of ruling families and the nobility. The four-movement symphony,
including a Minuet and Trio generally as its third movement,
opened with an Allegro in the tripartite sonata- or sonata-allegro form
of a two-subject exposition, followed by a development and recapitulation. A
contrasting slow movement in a related key was often in ternary form, a central
section framed by a repeated opening section. The symphony might be expected to
end in a form of rondo, following the key-pattern expected in sonata-form and
offering contrasted episodes framed by a repetition of the principal theme.
Mozart's first attempts at the symphony were made during the fruitful and
extended concert-tour undertaken between June 1763 and November 1766. Of these
the first were written during the family's stay in London, followed by a further
symphony written at The Hague, as the Mozarts made their way gradually home
In April, 1764, Leopold Mozart, his wife and his two children, Nannerl and
Wolfgang Amadeus, left Paris, where the children had amazed the curious by their
musical feats, for London. The Channel crossing was as uncomfortable as ever,
expensive and emetic in its effects, and the enthusiasm of porters at Dover
proved overwhelming. Soon, however, the family was established in lodgings in
Soho, and Wolfgang and his sister had played at court to the delight of the King
In August Leopold caught a dangerous infection, which weakened him very much.
He explained in a letter to his Salzburg landlord Lorenz Hagenauer about the
mysteries of an English illness called "a cold", for which the best
cure was foreign travel, although the natives apparently chose rather to sweat
it out. For his convalescence he moved with his family to Chelsea and it was
there, in September, that Wolfgang, unable to practise in case he should disturb
his father, set to work on his first symphony, his sister sitting by him and
copying the parts as he wrote.
The Symphony in E flat major, K.16, scored for pairs of oboes and
horns, with strings and cembalo, is remarkable as the work of a child of eight,
although in some respects inevitably derivative. In particular the influence of
Johann Christian Bach, youngest son of the Leipzig Thomaskantor, is clear, and
supported by the known facts of the association of the two composers during the
London visit. In three movements, the symphony opens with a sonata-form Allegro,
its first motif contrasted with an elegant series of suspensions, and the
second subject allowing the violas a little more to do than was often the case.
There is a slow movement full of the appropriate feeling and a suitably cheerful
The Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, K.17, is now attributed to
Leopold Mozart. It offers a bright first subject in its brief exposition,
followed by a short development. The E flat slow movement, without wind
instruments, is dominated by the first violin melody, as is the Menuetto, followed
by a cheerful Presto.
The third symphony in the old Breitkopf und Härtel numbering, now discarded,
is the Symphony in E fiat major, K.18, copied out by Mozart. The
symphony, which is of particular interest in its use of a pair of clarinets
instead of oboes, is by Christian Friedrich Abel, son of the viola da gamba
player Christian Ferdinand Abel, a colleague of Johann Sebastian Bach at Cöthen,
and now settled in London as an associate of Bach's youngest son Johann
Christian in the Bach-Abel Concerts at Almack's Great Room in King Street, St.
James's. The symphony, in transparent sonata-form in its first movement, with an
Andante largely entrusted to the strings and a final rapid Mannheim Presto,
obviously impressed the young Mozart, who was in other respects much
indebted to Johann Christian Bach.
Symphony No.4 in D major, K.19, was also written in London during the
Mozarts' stay in the city. Scored again for pairs of oboes and horns, with
strings, this D major symphony is clear in its texture, its broadly sonata-form
first movement followed by a G major Andante and final Presto. Another
symphony from this period has more recently come to light, in time to be
included in the first volume of the Neue Mozart Ausgabe editions of the
symphonies, from which K.17 and K.18 are rightly omitted.
Mozart's Symphony No.5 in B flat major, K.22, bears the date of
December 1765 and was written during the period the Mozart family spent in the
Netherlands. A mistaken remark on the manuscript suggests that the symphony was
written for the installation of Willem V of Orange as Stattholder, but this
seems unlikely, since the installation took place on 8th March of the following
year, when the young Mozart wrote two sets of appropriate keyboard variations.
The B flat Symphony follows the prescribed formula, and remains a
pleasing example of the style of the time, while lacking the qualities that
Mozart was later able to instil in his symphonies.
Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Formed in 1967, the Northern Chamber Orchestra has established itself as one
of England's finest chamber ensembles. Though often augmented to meet the
requirements of the concert programme, the orchestra normally contains 24
musicians and performs both in concert and on disc without a conductor. Their
repertoire ranges from the baroque era to music of our time, and they have
gained a reputation for imaginative programme planning.
Concerts take the orchestra throughout the North of England and it has
received four major European bursaries for its achievements in the community.
With a series of recordings of Haydn and Mozart symphonies for Naxos the
orchestra makes its debut on disc.
Nicholas Ward Nicholas Ward was born in Manchester in 1952, the son of
parents who had met as members of the Hallé Orchestra. In consequence music
played an important part in his life from childhood, allowing him, after less
successful attempts as a pianist, to learn the violin and, at the age of twelve,
to form his own string quartet. This last continued for some five years, until
he entered the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he studied
with Yossi Zivoni and later, in Brussels, with André Gertler. In 1977 Nicholas
Ward moved to London, where he joined the Melos Ensemble and the Royal
Philharmonic, when the orchestra worked under Antál Dorati as its Principal
Conductor. He became co-leader of the City of London Sinfonia in 1984, a
position followed by appointment as leader of the Northern Chamber Orchestra, of
which he became Music Director two years later, directing from the violin. In
this form the orchestra has won high regard for its work both in the concert
hall and the broadcasting studio.
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MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 1 - 5