Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra: Mozart Sinfonia Concertante

Itzhak Perlman on violin and Pinchas Zukerman on viola, accompanied by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra,  Zubin Mehta, conducting, perform Mozart's K.320d [364], First Movement:1779, after a difficult period in his life, shortly after his return to Salzburg.

Sara Carlton writes in the program notes for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra that this piece came "out of the ashes of this sorrow and disappointment':
Mozart did not have an easy time in his early 20’s. He no longer had the status of a child prodigy and was in the employ of a man whom he detested, Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg. In 1777 Mozart left for an extended tour of Paris and Mannheim hoping to find a new, more genial patron. However, the trip came to naught. Not only did the young Mozart fail to secure a post in Paris, but his mother died of a sudden illness. Out of money and options, a sorrowing and desperate Mozart went to Vienna to ask his sweetheart Aloysia Weber (sister of his eventual wife, Constanza) for her hand in marriage but was turned down. Grieving and broke, Mozart returned to Salzburg without funds, job prospects, fiancé, or mother.

Out of the ashes of this sorrow and disappointment, Mozart wrote the Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major shortly after his return to Salzburg in the summer of 1779. The last and crowning glory of Mozart’s efforts in this genre, this composition is considered Mozart’s musical ‘coming of age,’ as the young composer shows a new musical independence and maturity. More like a double concerto than a symphony, 39 this work treats the violin and viola solo parts equally, often having one instrument finish the melodic line begun by the other. The layers of highly emotional, yet supremely balanced dialogues which develop not only between the soloists, but also between winds and strings, and orchestra and soloists, weave together a tapestry of sound that is exquisitely Mozart.

Mozart likely was the viola soloist in the first performance and his love of the instrument is evident in the care he took to ensure that it would produce a brilliant effect. Although the orchestra score is in E-flat, the
viola part is actually written in D, with instructions that the instrument be tuned up a half step “and perhaps a shade sharp” so that it would stand out more effectively against the orchestral timbre. (Duration approximately 30 minutes.)
That such beauty can come out of such sorrow is a moving testimony to Mozart's genius to transmit what resided deeply in both his head and his heart to a wide audience. As well, due credit must also go to this orchestra and to Perlman and Zukerman, who do a masterful job of interpreting and bringing out the best of Mozart's feelings and expression. Are we not the fortunate listeners of such beautiful music? Even the sorrow is uplifting.

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