Saturday - May 1, 2021 | 7:30 pm & Thursday - May 16, 2021 | 3:00 pm
SBSOTV Episode 3: Mozart and Beethoven
The first half of our program highlights our wind section as we perform excepts from Mozart's opera, The Magic Flute, transcribed for Harmoniemuzik. (chamber winds)
We continue with the expressive Larghetto from Mozart's stunning Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-Flat.
Closing this program is Beethoven's exuberant Second Piano Concerto, featuring brilliant pianist David Kaplan.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Magic Flute (excerpts)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Piano Quintet in E flat
Ludwig van Beethoven | Piano Concerto No. 2
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Magic Flute (excerpts) (Die Zauberflöte, 1791; K. 620)
Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) premiered in 1791 at Emanuel Schikaneder’s theater in the suburbs of Vienna, the Theater auf der Wieden, which attracted audiences from all classes of society with its spectacular, machine-driven stage effects. The Magic Flute is a Singspiel, successful for its popular appeal; a Singspiel is not unlike modern musical theater, with spoken dialogue instead of the sung recitative found in opera, austere and straightforward musical structure, and a humorous plot centered around the lives of rural common-folk. The Singspiel as a genre emerged in Vienna in the early 1700s, but by the time it arrived in Mozart’s hands, with his Bastien und Bastinne (1768), The Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entführung aus dem Serail, 1782) and The Magic Flute, the genre had been fairly elevated. Mozart mixes the folksiness of the Singspiel with the ensemble build of Italian comic opera and the extravagance of serious Italian opera.
Mozart’s ability to blend styles draws not only from the trends of the time (the late eighteenth century musical aesthetic preferred the natural, simplified style of both Italian and “popular” musico-theatrical genres) but also from his own background and training. A musical child prodigy—a distinction he shared with his younger sister Maria Anna Mozart, affectionately nicknamed “Nannerl”—he traveled through Europe with his family displaying his virtuosic keyboard and compositional skills, picking up a diverse array of styles and trends from Austria, Germany, France, England, Holland, and Italy along the way. Though, like many composers of his time (such as Franz Joseph Haydn) he found employment with a patron (in his case, the Archbishop Colloredo’s court in Salzburg), he eventually broke away to work as a freelancing musician and composer in Germany, Austria, and other cultural centers across Europe. His operas were particularly well-received both during his lifetime and beyond.
The Magic Flute premiered the year Mozart died at the age of 35. A collaboration with Schikaneder as his librettist (and the originator of the role of Papageno), the Singspiel was a masterpiece of Masonic symbolism. The Magic Flute is based on stories from Christoph Matin Wieland’s fairy-tale collection Dschinnestan, and Masonic references can be found throughout—in the opera’s evocation of Islam and ancient Egypt, and it's coded (and not-so-coded) references to Masonic numerology, imagery, and ideology. Musical references to Freemasonry are inaugurated in the Singspiel as early as the overture through its reliance on the all-important number three and the “Masonic” key signature E-flat major (with its three flats). Act I even ends with a Masonic chorus, “Wenn Tugend und Gerechtigkeit” (“When Virtue and Justice”). The virtuosic influence of Italian serious opera can be heard in masterpieces like the “Queen of the Night” aria (“Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” [“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”]). The folk-like style of the German Singspiel emerges in Papageno’s aria “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” (“The Bird-Catcher, That’s Me”) and in Papageno and Pamina’s duet, “Könnte jeder brave Mann” (“If Every Good Man”).
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Piano Quintet in E-flat (1784; K. 452)
When he premiered it at the keyboard in 1784, Mozart considered his Piano Quintet in E-flat Major the pinnacle of his career. He wrote to his father that it “received the most remarkable applause; I myself consider it to be the best work I have ever composed. It is written for one oboe, one clarinet, one horn, one bassoon, and the pianoforte. How I wish you could have heard it! And how beautifully it was performed! To tell the truth, I was really worn out in the end after playing so much—and it is greatly to my credit that my listeners never got tired.”
Though this is Mozart’s only quintet with piano, it set the standard for later quintets with piano and winds, including those by Beethoven, Spohr, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Mozart’s equal and mellifluous treatment of these five separate instruments allows him to explore different instrument combinations and timbres, and this, in combination with the use of shorter musical statements and phrases, results in some fascinating textures and sonorities. Written during a period of intense concerto writing (he completed six in 1784 and then two more in 1785), the quintet itself is concerto-like in form, with the three standard concerto movements—a lively introductory movement in sonata-allegro form, a second movement at a slower tempo, and a third movement in sonata-rondo form. Coming as it did after most of Mozart’s wind ensemble writing (with his eight wind divertimenti completed in the mid-1770s and his three wind serenades in the early 1780s), it is the pinnacle of his chamber music for winds.
After a slow and serious introduction, the first movement moves into a charming Allegro moderato that foregrounds the piano and winds in turn, in short bursts of melody, harmonizing the winds in groups of two, three, and four. The middle movement, an unhurried but satisfying Larghetto, moves in turns between homophonic, chorale-like statements of the movement’s main themes, soaring solo lines in the winds accompanied by soothing arpeggios in the piano, and beautiful brief moments of imitation between all five instruments. The final movement, a playful Allegretto, presents its themes first in the piano and then the winds, trading the focus back and forth, foregrounding the piano through its more virtuosic moments, and each of the winds—oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon—through dedicated solo areas. The movement’s final cadenza is a fully composed, in-tempo group “improvisation” that brings the ensemble together in close imitation and gives each instrument its final moment to shine.
Ludwig van Beethoven | Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major (publ. 1801; Op. 19)
Though ultimately christened Beethoven’s second piano concerto, his Piano Concerto No. 2 was actually the young composer’s first completed piano concerto, begun in 1788 when he was eighteen years of age and revisited several times over the next decade before it was finally published. Beethoven had given a prior effort to the genre with an early piano concerto at the age of thirteen, but that 1784 attempt only survives in piano score. The concerto we hear in this concert is, in reality, his first full piano concerto, premiered with Beethoven at the piano at a charity concert in Vienna in 1795, given a revised slow movement and a new finale in 1798 (the original finale is now known as the Rondo, WoO 6), and put into print in 1801. It only comes in as No. 2 because Beethoven’s actual second piano concert, in C Major (Op. 15), was published in the same year and happened to be released first. (This “first” piano concerto was started in about 1795, seven full years after the B-flat Major concerto had taken root.)
As an early work in Beethoven’s oeuvre, the concerto’s structure and its instrumentation has been noted for its Mozartian influence—the use of the classical concerto form and of one flute and then pairs of winds and horns alongside the strings and piano. The piano, however, takes pride of place; there is little of the integration found in Mozart’s later concerti of the soloist with the orchestra. When sending the concerto to his publisher, Beethoven remarked that it was not “among my best works,” but the fact that he continued performing it after it had been published, and that he wrote a cadenza for the first movement years later in 1809, demonstrates that he nevertheless felt this concerto was worthy of his time and talent.
The first movement is the longest of the three, in an extended sonata-allegro form, with a generous orchestral introduction. The orchestra presents each theme before the soloist takes over, developing and expanding on them. As Phillip Huscher has noted, despite the movement’s “classical decorum,” there is an “explosive and rebellious” quality to it, as even in the opening orchestral tutti the music transitions suddenly, with a “jolt,” from B-flat to D-flat major. The second movement—the slow Adagio—turns towards the more lyrical and solemn, becoming almost chorale-like at moments and yet preserving the focus on the soloist. The finale, which Beethoven apparently put to pen only days before the premiere, is a short but pleasant rondo, with its recurring primary melody built on a short-long rhythm that rollicks along merrily, emphasizing the downbeat.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Overture from The Magic Flute
San Bernardino Symphony Harmoniemusik
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Larghetto from Piano Quintet in E flat
David Kaplan, Piano
San Bernardino Symphony Principal Winds
Ludwig Van Beethoven | Piano Concerto No. 2
David Kaplan, Piano
San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra - Anthony Parnther, Conductor