Mozart on the Fringe

Friday, March 13, 2015, First Parish in Wayland
Saturday, March 14, 2015, Old South Church, Boston

The Wayland performance is dedicated to the memory of John M. Kucharski,
friend and supporter of Musicians of the Old Post Road.

Overture to Don Giovanni    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756­–1791)

Sonata in Bb Major for fortepiano and violin        Josef Antonín Štepán (1726–1797) 

    Allegro vivace    
    Andantino
    Tempo di Menuetto

 Intermission

 

Piano Trio in E Minor, op. 40, no. 3    Leopold Koželuch (1747-1818)
    Allegro 
    Poco Adagio
    Rondo (Allegro)

Trio in Bb Major for violin, viola, and cello, op 17, no. 1    Paul Wranitzky (1756–1808)
    Allegro molto   
    Menuetto
    Andante
    Finale (non troppo presto)

 

Sarah Darling, violin; Marcia Cassidy, viola
Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, fortepiano

The Wayland performance is co-presented by the Wayland Historical Society
and is sponsored, in part, by the Wayland Cultural Council.
We thank Whole Foods, Wayland, for contributions to the post-concert reception.


Program Notes

“It is not easy to convey an adequate conception of the enthusiasm of the Bohemians for [Mozart’s] music. The pieces which were admired least of all in other countries were regarded by those people as things divine; and, more wonderful still, the great beauties which other nations discovered in the music of that rare genius only after many, many performances, were perfectly appreciated by the Bohemians on the very first evening.”
This eloquent description of the appreciation the audiences of Prague had for Mozart’s music comes from Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, a work that was premiered in Prague. Mozart is reported to have said “My Praguers understand me.” The admiration between Mozart and the Bohemians was mutual. Mozart admired the Bohemian musicians who staffed portions of the orchestras for which he wrote and who were making important contributions to musical culture in Vienna and across Europe. This program focuses on some of the musicians who were in the circle of Bohemian composers and performers who influenced or were influenced by the great son of Salzburg.

Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni was premiered during Mozart’s second visit to Prague in 1787. The work was very well received, with the Prager Oberpostamtzeitung reporting, “Connoisseurs and musicians say that Prague has never heard the like,” and “the opera ... is extremely difficult to perform.” The work’s dramatic overture was popular on its own, and there survive many arrangements of it for chamber ensemble, including the one for piano trio heard in this performance, published by the Hummel firm in Berlin.

Josef Antonín Štepán was born in the Bohemian town of Kopidlno. In 1741, fleeing advancing Prussian armies, he immigrated to Vienna where he became a student of Georg Christoph Wagenseil (a composer who influenced the young Mozart). Known as a superb harpsichordist and a fine composer, Štepán wrote his most important works for keyboard, including sonatas, concertos, and chamber concertinos. His style was imaginative and somewhat idiosyncratic; many of his keyboard works foreshadowed compositional techniques of later composers. Despite his failing eyesight after 1775, he continued to compose vocal and instrumental works in a variety of genres. His sonata for piano and violin is a late work that displays his distinctive style. It is a wide-ranging piece with thematic material that unfolds organically. This is especially the case in the work’s first movement which, rather than being organized in the more common binary form of the period, is through-composed and explores its expansive primary and secondary themes through dialogue between instruments, modulation, and sequence. The haunting Andantino movement possesses a yearning quality, while the Tempo di Menuetto begins with a sprightly theme, but takes a surprising stormy turn in its middle section.

Another Vienna-based Bohemian composer who contributed to the evolution of keyboard composing and performing was Leopold Koželuch. Born in Velvaray, Bohemia, he received his early music education there, then studied in Prague with Jan Ladislav Dussek. In 1778 he settled in Vienna where he developed a reputation as a virtuoso pianist, teacher, and composer. In fact, he was so well established that in 1781 he could afford to refuse an offer to succeed Mozart as court organist to the Archbishop of Salzburg. His works were widely disseminated across Europe, partly through the music publishing house he founded in 1782. His expressive writing for the piano is thought to have influenced Beethoven and Schubert. His Piano Trio in E Minor is a turbulent work that, in contrast with the Štepán sonata, is tightly organized with a stark primary theme in the first movement contrasted by a more lyrical secondary theme.

Paul Wranitzky was a composer from the Moravian region of what is now the Czech Republic. Another product of the excellent musical education common in the Bohemian and Moravian lands, he went to Vienna at age 20 to study with J. M. Kraus and possibly with Haydn. Wranitzky played an important role in Viennese musical life. He was a noted conductor, and both Haydn and Beethoven preferred him as the conductor for their works. Mozart very likely knew Wranitzky since they were both members of the same freemasons’ lodge. After Mozart’s death, Wranitzky mediated on behalf of his widow in negotiations with the music publisher André. Wranitzky’s compositions were well-regarded by his contemporaries. He was a prolific composer of chamber music, much of it in a virtuosic style, including the String Trio in B-flat Major, which features brilliant solo passages for each of the instruments and lively dialogue among them.

—Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf