Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Haydn - Piano Sonata No. 59 In E-flat Major Hob. XVI/49

Unlike Mozart and Beethoven, Haydn was not a virtuoso pianist. He could get around on the keyboard well enough, but most of his playing was with other instruments in chamber music or (as was the practice of his day) leading the orchestra from the keyboard and playing along to fill out the ensemble.  He did practically no solo playing in public. But the number of pieces he wrote for solo keyboard is substantial, with 62 sonatas (by modern reckoning) for the instrument alone, plus numerous other pieces.  Haydn not only saw the keyboard sonata evolve during his lifetime, he participated in its evolution.

Haydn played the harpsichord, clavichord, organ and later in his career the piano. Haydn wrote many of his early sonatas for harpsichord, a few for harpsichord or piano, but seven out of the last eight sonatas he wrote specifically for the piano. In the later sonatas for piano Haydn's style of writing changed to take full advantage of the dynamic capabilities of Viennese pianos and extended these changes after his introduction to the large 6 octave range and increased dynamic capabilities of English pianos during his two concert tours of the country. But the Sonata No. 59 in E-flat was written in 1789 before his trips to England. The expression markings are sparse (at least in the first edition, later editors added more) but they are there, especially sforzando markings that denote a sharp, sudden emphasis on a note.

The sonata is in 3 movements:

I. Allegro -  Haydn opens the first movement with a theme in the tonic of E-flat:

Not much of a theme perhaps, but Haydn makes much of the theme later. The second theme appears and is even more plain but it does 
manage to contrast the first theme enough to keep things interesting. The second theme leads to a repeat of the initial theme, but the theme has already gone through a change and is now more ornamented than before. After the decorated initial theme plays through there is a coda that offers up some new material, a theme that is played by crossing hands and a short section in thirds answered in the bass then the treble. After the repeat of the exposition, the development section grows out of the last notes of the coda to the exposition into counterpoint that leads to the first theme reappearance in changing keys. Material from the exposition coda returns and is developed.

After a short cadenza the recapitulation begins. The second theme returns, transformed to the home key, there is a short coda and the section comes to an end with a flourish. As with many sonatas of the time, Haydn directs the entire development and recapitulation sections be repeated. to my ears, the beginning of the repeat is rather jarring after hearing the close of the section the first time, but perhaps that is what Haydn intended. He wasn't above such things.

II - Adagio e cantabile - A tender adagio in B-flat that is interrupted by an impassioned section in a minor key. The alternation between the major and minor themes continues with both themes being decorated and expanded. The initial theme finally wins out and leads to a short coda that wraps up this gentle movement.

III. Finale : Tempo di Minuet - The minuet is in the home key, while the middle section is in the key of E-flat minor. The minuet returns the music to the home key and the sonata is finished with a short coda and a final cadence.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Brahms - Piano Quartet No. 3 In C Minor, Opus 60 'Werther'

In 1853 when Johannes Brahms was 19, he made a concert tour as accompanist to the violinist Eduard Reményi. On the tour he met Franz Liszt (where tradition has it that he fell asleep while Liszt played the piano) and Joseph Joachim, violinist and composer. Joachim became a good friend  and gave Brahms a letter of introduction to Robert Schumann. Later in 1853 Brahms traveled to Düsseldorf and proceeded to impress and enchant both Robert Schumann and his wife Clara.

Brahms stayed with the Schumann's for a few days, and Robert was so impressed with the music he heard from the young composer that he wrote an article for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal of Music) announcing Brahms to the musical world. The article titled Neue Bahnen (New Paths) begins with Schumann writing briefly about new and upcoming composers until he reveals the name of Brahms:
Robert and Clara Schumann
...I thought of the paths of these chosen ones that pursued the art of music with the greatest participation, there must suddenly appear one who would be appointed to utter the highest expression of time ideally, one who did not bring us the championship gradually, but, like Minerva, would spring from the head of Zeus fully formed. And he has come, a young blood, at whose cradle Graces and Heroes stood guard. His name is Johannes Brahms... His  appearance  announced to us: this is an anointed one. Sitting at the piano he revealed wonderful regions. We were drawn into ever widening circles, which made an orchestra of wailing and loud cheering voices from the piano. There were sonatas, more like veiled symphonies; songs whose poetry you without knowing the words would understand, although a deep singing melody passed through all; single piano pieces, partly demonic, partly of the most graceful form; then sonatas for Violin and piano; Quartets for strings; and each so different from the others... May the highest Genius strengthen his genius!
High praise that did as much harm as good, for it put undue pressure on a 20-year old composer that
was still finding his way. Brahms was self-critical by nature, and this passing of the mantle made him even more so.

When Schumann attempted suicide in early 1854, he voluntarily had himself put into a mental hospital for Clara and his children's sake. Brahms lived in the Schumann household intermittently from that time until Schumann's death in 1856. During this time he wrote two piano quartets, No. 1  In G minor opus 25,  and No. 2 In A Major opus 26.  He also drafted a third piano quartet in C-sharp minor, but this one wasn't to achieve its final form until almost twenty years later.

Young Werther
After revising and rewriting, the third piano quartet was finally completed in 1874. The home key of the work was dropped to C minor from C-sharp minor with the quartet becoming one of Brahms most dramatic chamber works. The nickname 'Werther' came from Brahms acquaintance with Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther that deals with a young man that falls in love with a woman that is already married, and so Werther commits suicide. The parallels in Brahms' life in 1855 when the work was begun are evident, for he fell in love with Clara Schumann at the time. There is no clue whether this love remained platonic or became intimate, but Brahms well remembered the feelings he had in 1855 when he told his publisher his idea for a cover page for the printed score of the piano quartet:
On the cover you must have a picture, namely a head with a pistol to it. Now you can form some conception of the music! I’ll send you my photograph for the purpose.
 Brahms remained somewhat dissatisfied with the work as it didn't have its premiere until 1875, a year after it was published. It is in 4 movements:

I. Allegro non troppo - Brahms was labeled as a musical conservative by the followers of the 'New Music' of Liszt and Wagner for a number of reasons, not least of all for his keeping with tradition by writing in the traditional forms of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. The writing of chamber music especially was considered old fashioned. But Brahms was did not slavishly keep to an academic model of these forms. He utilized sonata form in the broadest sense of the term, and was innovative in ways to use it. It is never an easy task to technically make your way through a major work of Brahms. The relationships of themes are often blurred as themes appear different that are actually closely related. And his use of modulation between keys is far from conservative. The first movement of this quartet is a good example of how he used all of these elements within a traditional form to suit his musical expression. This movement was one of the original two movement he wrote in 1855 for the quartet. It begins with octaves by the piano which are answered by a sighing figure. The piano again plays bare octaves, and is answered with a slight variant of the sighing theme. A short development leads to a downward figure that brings in the first theme. The second theme is first heard in the solo piano, after which there are 4 variations, each eight measures long like the theme. A variant of the first theme brings the exposition to a close. After a short section based on previous material, what appears to be a new theme in B major is loudly stated:
This theme is stated again in a different key and leads to the working out of the second theme which goes through a short series of variations once again. The sighing motives from the beginning of the work return signalling the recapitulation, this time the opening theme is heard in the key of E minor. The second theme is now heard in the key of G major and goes through a small number of variations for the third time. The first theme is then developed until it ends in C major. A short coda repeats the figures with slight variations that opened the movement, and the music ends quietly.

II. Scherzo: Allegro - This movement was perhaps composed in the 1860's, between the initial composition of the work and the final version. It is in C minor, the same key as the first movement. The music is terse and coarse as the scherzo plays through until a quasi-trio section begins with a new theme but continues in the same mood. The scherzo returns and is slightly shortened. A short coda brings the movement to a close with a Picardy Third, a term for the closing of a work in a minor mode with a major chord:
III. Andante - This movement along with the first movement is part of the music of the draft written in 1855. It is in E major, a key of four sharps that is somewhat far removed from the home key of C minor with 3 flats. It is the only movement of the quartet not in C minor. It begins with a long, sweet melody for the cello (an instrument that Brahms studied briefly in his youth) with piano accompaniment:
The piano's role in this movement is one of gentle support as the strings sing a song of tender calm, a possible love song for Clara Schumann.

IV. Finale: Allegro comodo - The final movement returns to C minor and the piano plays a restless theme under the theme played by the violin:
The second theme is derived from the piano accompaniment of the opening theme of the movement and is played by violin and viola. The exposition is repeated. After the development works through themes and relationships of fragments, the recapitulation replays the violin theme of the beginning in all three stringed instruments with broken octaves in the piano. Themes are expanded until a coda is heralded by the piano playing thick chords in an outline of the second theme. The piano resumes its initial figure in a hushed tone along with the strings until two loud C major chords end the work.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Schubert - String Quartet No. 14 In D Minor 'Death and The Maiden'


Franz Schubert (1797 -1828) was an Austrian composer who died when he was 31 years of age. He was a musical prodigy and played the violin, viola, piano, guitar and had a fine singing voice. Despite his early death, Schubert composed a large amount of music, some 600 lieder, 9 symphonies, operas, much
chamber music and many pieces for piano.

Schubert's 14th Quartet got its name 'Death and The Maiden'  from the fact that he had composed a song to a poem of the same name in 1817 and he based the second movement variations on the piano accompaniment to the song.  The quartet was written in 1824 while Schubert was trying to recover from a serious illness that ended up being the later stages of syphilis, the disease that finally killed him.   It was first performed in a private home in 1826 , but wasn't published until after Schubert's death.

The gloom of death haunts all four movements of the quartet, from the driving pace and frantic dynamics of the first movement, to the haunting variations of the second movement based on the song 'Death and The Maiden', to the short and ominous Scherzo of the 3rd movement and finally to the dizzying tarantella, a dance of death, that closes the work.

The song 'Death And The Maiden' was set to words from a poem by the German poet Matthias Claudius.  A few lines of the poem translated to English: 

The Maiden:
Pass me by! Oh, pass me by!
Go, fierce man of bones!
I am still young! Go, rather,
And do not touch me.
And do not touch me.

Death:
Give me your hand, you beautiful and tender form!
I am a friend, and come not to punish.
Be of good cheer! I am not fierce,
Softly shall you sleep in my arms!

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Schubert - Piano Sonata No. 21 In B-flat Major, D. 960

The last three piano sonatas of Franz Schubert were written during the last months of his life. Schubert had been suffering from the effects of syphilis for some time, but he coped with the symptoms and even put on a concert of his own works in March of 1828 that was a success with the public and critics. Music publishers were beginning to show more interest in his works, and for a very short time Schubert was free from financial worries.

Despite his illness, Schubert continued to compose one work after the other. Starting in the spring of 1828 he composed many works, among them a Mass, various piano pieces, many songs that were printed posthumously in a collection titled Schwanengesang, as well as the three final piano sonatas.  In September of 1828 his health took a turn for the worse and his doctor advised him move out of the city, so he moved into his brother Ferdinand's house which was in the suburbs of Vienna.  Up until the very last weeks of his life Schubert continued to compose until he no longer was able.  Schubert finished his last piano sonata on September 26, 1828. He died November 19, 1828. He was but 31 years old.

The last three piano sonatas were not published until ten years after Schubert's death. Schubert's piano sonatas were neglected during most of the 19th century. His other music came to be revered, but the common opinion about his piano sonatas were that they were inferior to his other works. Even Robert Schumann, to whom the publisher of the last sonatas dedicated the works, was of this opinion:
Whether they were written from his sickbed or not, I have been unable to determine. The music would suggest that they were. And yet it is possible that one imagines things when the portentous designation, ‘last works,’ crowds one’s fantasy with thoughts of impending death. Be that as may, these sonatas strike me as differing conspicuously from his others, particularly in a much greater simplicity of invention, in a voluntary renunciation of brilliant novelty—an area in which he otherwise made heavy demands upon himself—and in the spinning out of certain general musical ideas instead of adding new threads to them from phrase to phrase, as was otherwise his custom. It is as though there could be no ending, nor any embarrassment about what should come next. Even musically and melodically it ripples along from page to page, interrupted here and there by single more abrupt impulses—which quickly subside.
An exception to this 19th century opinion was Brahms, who was fond of the sonatas and studied them intensely. The sonatas continued to be neglected until early in the 20th century when a handful of pianists like Artur Schnabel championed the works and played them in recitals. The last piano sonata is in 4 movements:

I. Molto moderato -  No doubt one of the reasons for the negative attitudes about this piano sonata is the inordinate length of the first movement. This first movement averages about twenty minutes if the exposition repeat is taken, which is as long as many complete sonatas.  Because of the length of this movement some pianists do not take the exposition repeat, thus shortening the work. The exposition repeat became somewhat of an option with later composers, but with Schubert it is essential.  There are many things that differentiate the later sonatas from the earlier ones, one of which is the long, lyrical themes that take time to unfold, which contribute to the length of movements.  The first theme of this movement begins with a theme that is calm and lyrical. This theme is interrupted by a trill on G-flat, a most unusual interruption that sounds foreign harmonically, almost sinister. The theme resumes after this intrusion and is then slightly developed by means of a key change to G-flat. Schubert modulates back to the tonal center of B-flat for the rest of the theme. Schubert then introduces what amounts to a long transition to the second main theme of the movement. He begins this transition material in the key of F-sharp minor, moves the home key and then the second theme makes its appearance in the key of F major. More transition material appears before the music of the first ending of the exposition appears, music that is unique and not heard again in the movement. The exposition is repeated verbatim, except for new transition material that leads to the development section. The development section is extensive and modulates quite often to many different keys. The development section comes to an end with the repeat of the mysterious trill on G-flat. The recapitulation repeats the exposition material with the obligatory changes in key to the home key of B-flat major. A short coda brings back the first theme along with the trill on G-flat and the movement ends in B-flat major.

II. Andante sustenuto -  Schubert has more harmonic surprises in the second movement. It begins in C-sharp minor, a key that played a role in the development section of the previous movement. The theme is a sad one that is intensified by the accompaniment that covers the bottom, middle and top of the keyboard. A contrasting middle section begins in A major and does its share of harmonic roaming. The first theme returns with some slight alterations. The mood is still sad, but the alterations in the accompaniment have given it an added tension. The theme modulates and finally comes to rest in C-sharp major and the movement ends quietly.

III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace con delicatezza - The scherzo is in B-flat major and lightens up the mood of two preceding brooding movements. The trio section is in B-flat minor and Schubert creates rhythmic instability by tying notes over the bar line and accenting notes in the left hand, sometimes on the beat, sometimes off the beat. The scherzo is repeated and with a very short coda it comes to a close.

IV. Allegro ma non troppo – Presto -  A movement in sonata form with three main themes. The first is in B-flat major and begins with an octave on G. This is repeated each time the first subject is played. The second theme is more mobile and  in F major. The third theme begins with a sharp double forte outburst in F minor. After the third theme is played through, material from the first theme leads directly to the development as the exposition is not repeated. The development section deals with the first theme only. The three themes are repeated in the recapitulation, and the work ends with a coda that is marked presto.  

Monday, January 29, 2024

Berlioz - Grande Messe Des Morts (Requiem) Opus 5

The political climate in the second decade of the 19th century in France was precarious at best. Napoleon had been exiled to Elba in 1814 after his abdication as Emperor, and the house of Bourbon was restored to power with King Louis XVIII, younger brother of King Louis XVI (who had been executed during the French Revolution of 1789-1799).

But with Napoleon's escape from Elba and return to France in February of 1815, the new King had to go into hiding. Napoleon ruled for a period called The Hundred Days before he was defeated for good. King XVIII came out of hiding and ruled until 1824 when he died. Yet another Bourbon brother then came into power, Charles X. He was to rule until 1830 when the July Revolution forced him to abdicate.  Yet another monarch was brought into power, this time a cousin of the Bourbon family, Louis Philippe I.  His reign was known as the July Monarchy and lasted until 1848, when he also became another member of French royalty that was forced to abdicate on France's long and convoluted evolution to a more democratic form of government.

It was in 1837 during the reign of Louis Philippe I when the Minister Of The Interior Adrien de Gasparin approached Hector Berlioz with a request to compose a Requiem Mass in honor of  those who died in the 1830 Revolution, but after Berlioz had composed the work and hired copyists, an official informed him that the ceremony was to be held without music (possibly at the instigation of one of Berlioz's enemies).  For the next few months Berlioz pestered and complained to the authorities until the news came that the Battle Of Constantine in Algiers had been won by the French, but that General Damrémont had been killed in the battle. Plans were then changed once again, and the Requiem was to be performed at a memorial concert in the church of Les Invalides for the General and soldiers that died in the battle.

Dome of  Les Invalides
Berlioz's Requiem reflects the contemporary improvements of intonation and mechanics of the woodwind and brass. Older versions of these instruments could be notoriously difficult to keep in tune and play. Berlioz uses a huge complement of instruments and makes great demands of the entire ensemble.  Berlioz had already shown his proclivity for using large forces in his Symphonie Fantastique of 1830, but he went even further with the orchestration of his Requiem. In the score he called for over 100 stringed instruments alone. All the other sections of the orchestra show the same use of large forces, especially the brass. Twenty brass instruments are called for, plus another 38 brass instruments divided into 4 brass choirs, with one placed on the four corners of the stage. In the premiere of the work, over 400 singers and instrumentalists participated, but Berlioz encouraged the use of even more performers if they could be utilized and suggested that all parts should be adjusted accordingly.  Berlioz made two revisions to the work over the years, the final one in 1867.

The church of Les Invalides, where the premiere was given is part of a complex of buildings relating to the military history of France. The acoustics of the large dome of the church had an influence on the Requiem. Berlioz was always concerned with orchestral color and his imagination would run the range of delicate and soft to incredibly robust and loud. The dome of the church was to be Berlioz's soundboard for his musical forces. The premiere of the work was met with success, but for most of Berlioz's career he remained on the periphery of French musical life, although his works were more appreciated in other countries.

The Requiem is in ten sections:

1) Requiem et Kyrie
Berlioz was not a particularly religious man, so his Requiem is not what could be called pious, but it certainly is dramatic.  He begins with a stark theme played in unison. The choir enters with a short fugal section, and then the key turns to major for a brief respite. The fugal texture resumes with interludes of differing moods. The music changes mood and grows quiet, until the Kyrie enters in a hush. The subdued dynamics are maintained until a crescendo brings the music to a climax. After a dissonance, the choir ends their singing and the orchestra ends the movement in quiet poignancy.

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine on them
You, O God, are praised in Zion
and unto You shall the vow be
performed in Jerusalem. Hear my
prayer, unto You shall all flesh come.
Hear my prayer,
all flesh comes to you.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

2) Dies Irae - Tuba Mirum
The ancient dies irae is sung in counterpoint by the choir and is interrupted twice by the orchestra as it plays an upward sweeping chromatic scale. After each orchestral interruption. the choir becomes more dramatic, until another orchestra interruption brings on the tuba mirum.

All four of the brass choirs, joining in one by one, blare out in a tremendous wall of sound that must have shook the church of Les Invalides, but then Berlioz summons the choir as well as 16 timpani, 4 tam-tams, and two bass drums in a section that no recording can do justice to. After this tremendous barrage of sound, the choir continues the text that is set to eerie, otherworldly themes. The fanfares of the beginning of the section return as well as the massed percussion as the choir roars out the remaining text. The music grows quiet as the choir continues in muffled tones. The movement ends as the first movement did, quietly.

In his Memoirs, Berlioz described the playing of the tuba mirum section at the premiere, and the steps Berlioz himself took to ensure that it came off properly:
François Habeneck
"Because of my habitual suspicion, I had posted myself behind [conductor François] Habeneck. With my back to his, I was watching the group of timpani players, which he could not see, as the moment approached when they were to take part in the general mêlée. There are perhaps a thousand bars in my Requiem. At precisely the point I have been speaking of, when the tempo broadens and the brass instruments launch their awesome fanfare, in the one bar where the role of the conductor is absolutely indispensable, Habeneck lowered his baton, quietly pulled out his snuff box and started to take a pinch of snuff. I was still looking in his direction. Immediately I pivoted on my heels, rushed in front of him, stretched out my arms and indicated the four main beats of the new tempo. The orchestras followed me, everything went off as planned, I continued to conduct to the end of the piece, and the effect I had dreamed of was achieved. When at the last words of the chorus Habeneck saw that the Tuba mirum was saved: "What a cold sweat I had, "he said, "without you we were lost!"  Yes, I know very well," I replied, looking straight at him. I did not add a word … Did he do it on purpose?… "
Day of wrath, that day
the earth will dissolve in ashes,
as witness David and the Sibyl.
What dread there will be,
when the Judge shall come
to strictly judge all things.
A trumpet, spreading a wondrous sound
Through the graves of all lands,
Will drive mankind before the throne.
Death and Nature shall be astonished
When all creation rises again
To answer to the Judge.
A book that is written in will be brought forth
In which is contained everything that is,
Out of which the world shall be judged.
When the judge takes his seat
Whatever is hidden will reveal itself.
Nothing will remain unavenged.

3) Quid Sum Miser
A short movement that conjures up the after effects of Judgement Day by including fragments of the dies irae that sound in the orchestra as the choir sings the text.

What then shall I say, wretch that I am,
What advocate will entreat to speak for me,
When even the righteous may hardly be secure?
Remember, blessed Jesu,
That I am the cause of Your pilgrimage.
Do not forsake me on that day.
I pray in supplication on my knees.
My heart contrite as the dust,
Take care of my end.

4) Rex Tremendae
The music begins by sounding majestic, and then changes to pleading. This alternation of moods runs throughout the movement. The movement ends with one last plea for saving from the abyss.

King of awful majesty.
Who freely saves the redeemed,
Save me, O fount of goodness.
Remember, blessed Jesu,
That I am the cause of Your pilgrimage.
Do not forsake me on that day.
When the accursed have been confounded (Jesu)
And given over to the bitter flames.
Call me...
And from the bottomless pit.
Deliver me from the lion's mouth.
Lest I fall into darkness
And the black abyss swallow me up.

5) Quaerens Me
This movement is performed by the choir without orchestra.  A middle section is in multiple part counterpoint. The music ends gently.

Seeking me You did sit down weary
You did redeem me, suffering death on the cross.
Let no such toil be in vain.
Just and avenging Judge.
Grant remission
Before the day of reckoning.
I groan like a guilty man.
Spare a suppliant, O God.
My prayers are not worthy,
But You in Your merciful goodness grant
That I burn not in everlasting fire.
You who did absolve Mary Magdalen
And hearken to the thief,
To me also has given hope.
Place me among Your sheep
And separate me from the goats.
Setting me on your right hand.

6) Lacrymosa
A restless rhythmic pulse begins the movement, and the texture of the music grows in density, passion and volume until the 4 brass choirs join in (for the last time in the work) near the end of the movement for a climax that fades to silence to end the movement.

Mournful that day
When from the dust shall rise
Guilty man to be judged
Merciful Jesu, Lord
Grant them eternal rest.

7) Domine Jesu Christe
The chorus sings a three-note motive throughout the movement that consists of but two different notes- A, B-flat, A. Berlioz added a subtitle to this movement in the second edition of the Requiem  -Choeur des âmes du purgatoire (chorus of the souls in purgatory) which was removed from the third edition.  The orchestra plays various themes in counterpoint over the chorus' mournful chanting. This movement struck many of Berlioz's contemporaries with its form and the effect of the chorus' incessant chant.  The movement winds down with the mood of the music changing as the choir finally changes their chant to a different theme. The three-note motive returns, except this time the notes are A, B natural, A, and are sung to an amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
deliver the souls of all the
faithful departed from the pains
of hell and from the bottomless pit.
And let St. Michael Your standard
bearer lead them into the holy
light which once You did promise
to Abraham and his seed,
Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

8) Hostias
An example of Berlioz's feel for orchestral color is in the scoring of this short movement for male voices, flutes, trombones and strings. The ending of this movement has some of the most unique sounds heard in the orchestra as the trombones play very low notes that alternate with the high notes of the flute.

We offer unto You
this sacrifice of prayer and praise.
Receive it for those souls
whom today we commemorate.

9) Sanctus
This movement features a solo tenor that begins the movement and is answered by the female voices of the choir until the choir sings a fugue on Hosanna. The tenor returns along with the women's choir.  The Hosanna fugue returns and ends the movement.

Holy, holy, holy, God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full
of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

10) Angus Dei
Woodwind chords that are repeated by the violas begin this movement. Berlioz brings back themes and orchestral effects heard in the other movements, with an extended repeat (with some variations) of much of the first movement. The movement ends with a series of peaceful amens from the choir and gentle taps from the timpani.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins
of the world, grant them eternal rest.
You, O God, are praised in Zion
and unto You shall the vow be
performed in Jerusalem. Hear my
prayer, unto You shall all flesh come.
Grant the dead eternal rest,
O Lord, and may perpetual light shine
on them, with Your saints for ever,
Lord, because You are merciful.
Amen. 

Friday, January 12, 2024

Mozart - Rondo For Piano In A Minor K. 511

As if Mozart's documented abilities as a musician were not enough, there have been all manner of astounding attributes and feats concocted about him through the years. For example, there has been much made of Mozart's methods of composing, that he made no sketches but composed works in his head and when he put pen to paper wrote them out complete. Modern research has discovered that Mozart indeed make sketches of works in progress. There is also evidence that he composed with the assistance of a keyboard, contrary to what has been written for years.

But as myths continue to be perpetuated by some, the pendulum seldom stays exclusively on one side. Some now err on the opposite side by saying that Mozart was nothing but a slight musical talent, a hack that stole music from his contemporaries. There is enough existing proof to debunk such nonsense, but the opinion persists, specifically with an author that has written an article titled Exploding The Myth Of Mozart. I offer no link, nor do I deem it necessary to include the author's name. A quick Internet search will bring up the article, if anyone wants to see it for themselves. Evidently the same author has promised a book on the subject for quite a few years, but there is no sign it will ever be published.  Extreme views, whether on the side of turning Mozart into a God or a dunce, do nothing but create confusion, lies and nonsense.

And in the end, does it matter? Whether he used a keyboard to compose or not, whether he worked out his compositions on paper or not doesn't matter.  It is the legacy of his music that matters, and over 200 years after his death, Mozart's music is still being played and enjoyed.

Musicologists suggest that Mozart was most famous during his life as an improviser. The art of improvisation in Mozart's time was used as a measurement of the abilities of a musician. Many of the composers of the 18th and 19th centuries were also masters of improvising at the keyboard.  With Mozart's documented abilities in improvisation at the keyboard, it is no wonder that many of his compositions were for solo keyboard or included the keyboard in the ensemble. He was evidently a composer that thought musically through his fingers.

The Rondo In A Minor was the third and last Mozart wrote for solo piano. It was written in 1787, apparently not as a commissioned work.  Mozart wrote many short stand alone pieces for keyboard throughout his life, but this rondo is rather long (about ten minutes) compared to others he wrote. Mozart made more instruction to the performer in the way of dynamic and phrasing marks than usual, so perhaps this piece was written for a student. The rondo is in a melancholy mood that is lightened by the major mode in the episode sections, and Mozart varies the rondo theme slightly each time it returns.  It resembles the slower rondos of C.P.E. Bach in its ornamentation and style, and Mozart does not resolve minor key to major key in the ending, but ends the piece in the hushed home key of A minor. Mozart