Franz Joseph Haydn – Notturno in G major, Hob. II:27
Ludwig van Beethoven – Wind Octet in E flat major, Op.103
Johannes van Bree – Allegro for Four String Quartets in d minor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Symphony in C major K.551 “Jupiter”
Rebecca Huber, concertmaster
Anna Riu , Gabriel Sánchez Prieto, Go Yamamoto, Rachel Stroud, Matthew Greco, Elise van der Wel, Daphne Oltheten, Enrique Gómez-Cabrero Fernández, violins
Annemarie Kosten , Sam Kennedy, Amy Shen, and Luca Alfonso Rizzello, violas
Robert Smith, Roberto Alonso Álvarez, Aleksandra Renska and Paulina Ptak, violoncellos
Carina Cosgrave, double bass
Joanna Marsden, flute
Robert de Bree and Dorota Gorłow , oboe
Thomas Carroll and Elise Bonhivert, clarinet
Pierre-Antoine Tremblay and Renske Wijma , horn
Takako Kunugi and Hugo Rodríguez Arteaga, bassoon
Nicholas Emmerson and Patrice Boileau, trumpet
Antonio Pierno García, timpani
A kaleidoscope is a cylinder containing angled mirrors and a chamber filled with small colourful items. When one looks into the end, one can see a vibrant design. When one turns the chamber, the very same colourful items produce constantly changing patterns. Each of the pieces we have chosen for tonight’s programme illuminates intersections between chamber and orchestral music.
The evening begins with a microcosm of the orchestra. We have chosen to perform Joseph Haydn’s Notturno in G major, Hob.II:27, with one player per part. From this point, we display the individual talents of the wind and string sections with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Octet in E flat major, op.103 and Johannes van Bree’s Allegro in d minor for Four String Quartets. Reuniting the wind and string sections, our programme culminates with Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony.
In the late 1780s, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) composed a set of at least five concertos and nine notturni on the request of Ferdinand IV, the King of Naples. Like Haydn’s employer Prince Nikolaus Eszterházy who loved to play the baryton, Ferdinand IV liked to play his favourite bizarre instrument: the lira organizzata, the unfortunate child of an organ and a hurdy-gurdy. Ferdinand IV was thrilled by Haydn’s music and invited Haydn to visit him in Italy, but unfortunately, Haydn was already on his way to London on a tour organized by the violinist Johann Peter Salomon.
Unwilling to let good music go to waste, the enterprising composer re-orchestrated several of these Notturni for his first London voyage, replacing the solo lira parts with flute and oboe. The Notturno in G major Hob.II:27 is the only one of these pieces for which Haydn composed new music. During the revision, he added a slow introduction to the sprightly first movement. Haydn set the Notturni with two viola parts rather than a single middle voice. The warmth of two violas contributes to the ardent mood of the Adagio. A rustic Vivace assai follows, featuring radiantly virtuosic writing for solo violin.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) met Joseph Haydn in July 1792 in Bonn, and the famous composer was sufficiently impressed by the young Beethoven’s talents that he agreed to let him study with him in Vienna from November 1792 with permission and support of the Elector Maximilian of Bonn. Beethoven was probably inspired to write for Maximilian’s Harmoniemusik, a chamber ensemble of only winds who provided entertaining music for parties and other social occasions. It is unclear whether Beethoven wrote his Octet, later labelled op.103, during his early years in Bonn or after his early visits to Vienna. The Octet was probably completed by 23 November 1793 when Beethoven wrote to Simrock in Bonn to ask whether his friend, a music publisher and horn player, had managed to play the Octet yet. Beethoven’s original title for this piece was Parthia dans un Concert, linking the Octet directly to the late eighteenth century Harmoniemusik tradition. In contrast to many pieces written for Harmonie ensembles which focus on dance music, Beethoven’s Octet follows a symphonic scheme in four movements.
Johannes Bernardus van Bree was a Dutch composer, violinist and conductor. In 1838, he formed a string quartet which focused on the quartets of Beethoven and Louis Spohr. Few composers wrote for combinations of multiple quartets. For comparison, Mendelssohn’s celebrated Octet combines two string quartets. The Allegro in d minor for Four String Quartets was written around 1845. Van Bree’s Allegro features charming melodies which recall Mendelssohn. The quartets often speak with each other, and at particularly emphatic points, the ensemble combines all 16 voices. Van Bree also passes the melody between all the voices for an effect which is not only pleasant to hear, but engaging to watch.
Despite its celebrated status as one of the finest symphonies of the Viennese Classical era, Mozart’s Symphony in C major K.551 continues to pique the curiosity of scholars and musicians alike. Few details regarding the “Jupiter” Symphony are completely certain due to a comparative lack of documentation about Mozart’s musical activities. After Leopold Mozart’s death in 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote to fewer people and did not manage to keep as diligent records about his compositions and concerts as his father had. Mozart worked furiously on three symphonies during the summer of 1788 including Symphony 39 in E flat major, Symphony 40 in g minor, and Symphony 41 in C major. It is likely that these pieces were intended for a series of concerts either in the casino at the Trattnerhof or the new casino at the Spielgasse, but it is unclear whether this concert series ever took place. Though the date of the premiere is unclear, Mozart recorded his completed C major symphony in his work catalogue on 10 August, 1788. The origin of the “Jupiter” symphony’s nickname is also questionable. Johann Peter Salomon, a violinist and impresario, may be credited with tacking the name onto Mozart’s symphony on an early piano reduction, according to comments attributed to Franz Xavier Mozart.
Whatever ambiguities surround the “Jupiter” symphony’s creation, it remains a work of unprecedented grandeur and splendour. The festive tonality of C major blazing with trumpets and drums recalls the Viennese tradition of C major symphonies written for important feast days. The first movement begins with several loud “noise-killing” gestures possibly meant to grab the attention of a boisterous casino crowd. Each of the main themes which follow explore the realm of comic opera. Before the fanfare which closes the first half, Mozart quotes his own “Un Bacio di Mano” K. 541, an insertion aria he wrote for Pasquale Anfossi’s 1788 comic opera, Le gelosie fortunate.
The Andante cantabile in F major combines passionate lyricism with delicate string figuration. Despite its serene opening, this movement moves quickly into unexpected agitation and anxiety. The idiosyncratic Minuet begins with unusually quiet opening gestures. Mozart explores more assertive, martial themes in the Trio. One may notice a four note theme in the second half of the trio which will be developed further in the fourth movement.
The Finale is a sublime work in which Mozart demonstrates his contrapuntal prowess. Mozart uses many types of contrapuntal treatment including simple canon, fugato, stretto, inversion, double fugue, retrograde inversion, and more all while alternating passages written in galant style with stile antico passages. Mozart delays the climax of the movement until the coda when all themes may be heard simultaneously in five part invertible counterpoint, but the most powerful statement follows when all voices come together.