Friday, July 17, 2015

Mozart’s European Vacation

Our Summer 2015 Friday Blog and Podcasts reach into past musings. Today's post is a repeat of a ITYWLTMT Blog Post from July 29, 2011.

Some of the post's content and illustrations were changed to fit this month's thematic arc.

This week’s instalment of Mozart Gets my GOAT is a music link post featuring three Mozart symphonies that are named after European cities. Let me spend some time on 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.
I think you will love this music too.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony no. 31 in D Major, K. 297  "Paris"
Mozart Akademie Amsterdam
Jaap Ter Linden, conducting


Symphonie no. 36 in C Majorr, K. 425 "Linz"
Berliner Philharmoniker
Karl Böhm, conducting

Symphonie no. 38 in D Major, K. 504 "Prague"
Philharmonia Orchestra
Otto Klemperer, conducting

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