Tales from Salzburg
- Written by Tristan Morris-Mann
- Category: Featured - Radio
- Published: 24 January 2019
This Sunday is Mozart’s 263rd birthday and we’ll be saluting the master throughout the day with works by Mozart and inspired by Mozart. During our Sunday Musical Brunch Anthony McSpadden will bring you Tchaikovsky’s “Mozartiana” suite, along with Mozart’s “Jupiter” symphony, the Violin Concerto No. 2, the String Quartet K. 387, and the Sonata for two pianos K. 448.
The celebration continues that afternoon and evening on Sunday Classics with Raymond Jones. From 4:00-7:00pm, enjoy Schubert’s Fantasy on Themes by Mozart, Mozart’s Serenade in D, K. 185, the Franz von Suppe “Mozart Overture,” Mozart’s Mass in c, K. 427 “The Great,” Max Reger’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 in C, the “Linz.” Then from 10:00pm to midnight, hear a suite for winds from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” a piano concerto from his son Franz Xaver Mozart, and a Sinfonia Pastorale from his father Leopold. The night caps off with Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in g, K. 550.
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27th, 1756. The parents quickly decided to change Theophilus to Amadé; only on rare occasions would they use the more serious ‘Amadeus’. The young Mozart quickly showed an aptitude for music, being able to imitate on the piano by the age of 3. Mozart’s family traveled as much as they could so that Leopold Mozart could show off (and some might say exploit) Wolfgang and his sister Maria Anna, known as Nannerl. The kids would be made to play blindfolded, upside down, and backward. Wolfgang, being the younger and more outgoing of the two, drew more attention, causing Nannerl tension and jealousy. Mozart quickly grew more gifted at the piano, and at improvising. The form of a concerto was a great vehicle that allowed Mozart to not only show off his composition skills but also his skills at the keyboard. He began writing them by age 11. However, these were not his original compositions, rather borrowing sonatas and other works of composers he admired and turning them into a concerto.
Mozart wrote his first real piano concerto while he lived in Salzburg from March 1773 until September 1777 (although escaping to Vienna to job hunt with his father when he could). Mozart was serving under the Archbishop Colloredo, a position he detested. In a letter to his father in 1786, he wrote: “Heaven, if I had followed my inclination, before leaving the other day I would have wiped my behind with my last contract”. It was in 1773 when Mozart finished his Piano Concerto No. 5, K. 175. He was 17 at the time. Many of his early piano concertos (No. 5 through No. 9) were composed during this period in Salzburg. Mozart would have performed the premieres of these concertos himself, with an improvised cadenza that would allow him to show off for the crowd.
This period was not just productive for his piano concertos, but for his musical output as a whole, adding over one hundred works to the catalog. From December of 1774 to March 1775, Wolfgang and Leopold were in Munich. Wolfgang had been commissioned by the prince-elector of Bavaria to compose an Opera buffa, his K. 196, The Make-Believe Garden Girl. The premiere was a great success met with enthusiasm from the crowd. The Archbishop Colloredo, who just so happened to be conveniently in Munich, was not thrilled at the thought of Wolfgang’s success spreading and threatening to take him away from Salzburg. While the opening night may have gone well, the following performances were a train wreck. The musicians used were mediocre, with a cast that would even make my singing sound good.
Mozart’s Serenade in D, K. 185, which was composed while he was in Salzburg under Colloredo, is one of the many works we’ll enjoy this Sunday to celebrate Wolfgang’s birthday!