Friday, July 29, 2011

Mozart’s European Vacation / Les vacances de Mozart

English text – le texte français suit
This week’s instalment of our Musical Holiday is a music link post featuring three Mozart symphonies that are named after European cities. I will stray from the “itinerary-style” I used for the past two weeks, and spend some time rather on Mozart, and the context for each of these symphonies, which span the last quarter (or so) of his Symphonic output,
Symphony No. 31 “Paris”
On two occasions, Paris provided an important destination for Mozart's travels. On the "Great Western" trip, which Mozart's father Leopold undertook with the family in order to introduce his child prodigies to the world, the children were lavished with gifts and other selected royal favours. Years later, when Wolfgang returned as an adult, he wanted to develop as a musician and perhaps find a more stable professional position. He introduced himself to the aristocracy, performed at their salons and spent his spare time teaching composition to the daughter of the Duc de Guines. (She "plays the harp magnifique," he reported to Leopold; it was for her and her father that he composed the Concerto for Flute and Harp in C, K. 299.) During these months in Paris, Mozart wrote some other memorable works: most of his flute concertos, the ballet Les Petits Riens and this Symphony.
Symphony No. 38 “Prague”
Mozart is often said to have had a special relationship with the city of Prague and its people. Mozart biographer Maynard Solomon writes of “an enthusiasm for Mozart that has passed into legend, with Prague seen as the good city that supported and understood him at a time when he had allegedly been neglected, even scorned, by Vienna.”
Mozart is claimed to have said, "Meine Prager verstehen mich" ("My Praguers understand me"), a saying which became famous in the Bohemian lands.
Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro, which premiered in Vienna, was produced in late 1786 in Prague with tremendous success. The orchestra and some affiliated music lovers funded a personal visit by Mozart so he could hear the production. Mozart arrived on 11 January 1787 and was feted everywhere. On 19 January he gave an "academy" (that is, a concert for his own profit) at which the “Prague” Symphony in D major was premiered.
Symphony No. 36 “Linz”
Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and is located in the north centre of the country, approximately 30 km south of the Czech border, on both sides of the Danube.
By all accounts, a stopover in the Austrian town of Linz on his and his wife's way back home to Vienna from Salzburg in late 1783 would have been a honeymoon of sorts. They stayed for more than two weeks as gusts of Count Thun, whose daughter-in-law was one of Mozart's Viennese piano pupils. Toward the end of that sojourn Mozart, who had a talent for drawing, sketched one of the paintings in the Count's palace and presented it to Constanze with the mock-serious inscription, “Dessiné par W.A. Mozart Linz ce 13 novembre 1783; dédié à Madame Mozart son épouse.”.
Of the music he composed in Linz, and the hospitality he enjoyed there, he wrote to his father with some excitement on October 31:


How dare he pack shirts, socks and underwear and NOT a symphony!!
When we arrived at the gates of Linz, a servant was standing there to conduct us to the Old Count Thun's, where we are still living. I really cannot tell you how they overwhelm us with kindness in this house. […] I am going to give a concert in the theatre, and, as I have not a single symphony by me, I am writing away over head and ears at a new one, which must be ready by then.
The entire symphony in C major (now known as the “Linz” Symphony) was written in four days to accommodate the count's announcement of a concert. The première in Linz took place on 4 November 1783.
Christopher Hogwood and Trevor Pinnock have dominated the scene for the last 20 or 30 years as masters of the “period instrument” movement, recording baroque, classical and early-romantic works with small ensembles, using period instruments. We were lucky to stumble onto a set of Mozart symphonies available openly by Pinnock and the English Concert. By all means, browse the links provided below and the MP3 Lemon site for more of the Pinnock cycle, which includes a few of the “annex” Mozart symphonies:
Our tour stops at the foot of the Austrian Alps, until next week.
I think you will love this music too.
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Commentaire français
Le volet d’aujjourd’hui de nos séjours musicaux consiste de liens musicaux plutôt que d’un montage baladodiffusé. En vedette, trois symphonies de Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dont les surnoms rappellent les voyages du compositeur. Nous allons donc mettre de côté l’aspect «itinéraire» de nos billets précédents et se concentrer sur ces voyages et leur pertinence.
Symphonie No. 31 “Paris”
Mozart a visité la France à deux occasions: lors d’une tournée de jeunesse chapeautée par son père, Léopold, et plus tard, lorsqu’un Mozart jeune adulte était à la recherche d’un emploi et de commandites.
Lors de ce deuxième séjour, Mozart s’est mêlé à l’aristocratie française, et a enseigné – entre autres – chez le duc de Guines, dont la fille était une harpiste «magnifique». Mozart a composé son concerto pour flûte et harpe à leur intention, et a également produit ses concerti pour flûte, son ballet Les petits riens, et cette symphonie.
Symphonie No. 38 “Prague”
La réputation de Mozart s’étalait de par l’empire Austro-Hongrois, et la ville de Prague a eu sa part de premières. On dit que Mozart avait un faible pour les résidents de cette ville, et on lui attribue "Meine Prager verstehen mich" ("Mes Pragois me comprennent
Lors de la première locale des Noces de Figaro, les musiciens et mélomanes locaux ont invité Mozart afin qu’il puisse assister à la performance. Il arriva le 11 janvier 1787, et se produit en concert le 19 janvier, avec la première de sa symphonie en ré mineur dorénavant surnommée «Prague».
Symphonie No. 36 “Linz”
Linz est la troisièeme ville d’importance en Autriche, et fut un des arrêts d’un Mozart jeune marié, lors d’un voyage en 1783 qu’on pourrait qualifier de lune de miel.
La bru du comte Thun était l’émule de Mozart, et il fut l’invité du comte lors de ce séjour, en 1783. Le comte organisa une académie de concert pour Mozart (i.e., un concert au profit du compositeur). Si on comprend la correspondance entre Mozart et son père, cet événement imprévu prit Mozart de court, et il dut produire une symphonie pour le concert car, en ses propres mots «je n’en ai pas avec moi».
Ô comble de malheur! Dans ses valises, hormis ses bobettes, pas de symphonie…
Il s’en suit que sa symphonie en ut majeur («Linzer») fut composée en quatre jours, et représente fort probablement le summum de la symphonie dite classique.
Le triptyque primé est indicatif du mouvement « instruments de période », avec des effectifs plus modestes, et une lecture beaucoup plus aérée. Il s’agît de prestations signées Trevor Pinnock, un des chefs les plus réputés du courant  «authentique». J’ai fait cette trouvaille récemment, et le site choisi (MP3 Lemon) offre des albums complets (ou presque), donc en boni vous trouverez d’autres symphonies de Mozart dans les liens ici-bas. Furetez le site pour trouver la plupart (sinon l’intégrale) des symphonies de Mozart par maestro Pinnock et l’English Concert.
De retour la semaine prochaine au pied des Alpes pour le prochain volet de notre série.
Bon séjour, et bonne écoute
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Musical Links / Liens musicaux
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock cond./dir.
No. 31 (D major/ré majeur) "Paris", K. 297: http://mp3lemon.org/listenalbum/5390/ (plus: symphonies nos. 24, 25 & 30)
No. 36 (C major/ut majeur) "Linz", K. 425: http://mp3lemon.org/listenalbum/5392/ (plus: symphonies nos. 32, 34 & 35)
No. 38 (D major/ré majeur) "Prague", K. 504: http://mp3lemon.org/listenalbum/5383/ (plus: symphony(nie) no. 39)