Mozart in Mannheim

 Saturday, April 24, 8:00 pm • Faneuil Hall, Boston
Sunday, April 25, 3:00 pm • First Parish, Sudbury

Quartet in G Major for flute and strings, op. 10, no. 4     Johann Baptist Wendling (1723-1797)
  Allegro • Andante • Finale—Allegro   

Quartet in G Major for flute and strings, K. 285a      W. A. Mozart (1756-1791)
  Andante • Tempo di Menuetto   

Concertante Quartet in G Major, op. 14, no. 2     Carl Stamitz (1745-1801)
  Allegro con spirito • Andante gracioso • Presto   
 

Intermission

Flute Concerto in D Major      Christian Cannabich (1731-1798)
  Allegro moderato • Adagio • Non molto allegro, ma brilliante   
 

Quartet in D Major for flute and strings, K. 285      Mozart
  Allegro • Adagio • Rondeau (Allegretto)
 

Suzanne Stumpf, flute; Julia McKenzie and Lisa Brooke, violins
Marcia Cassidy, viola; Daniel Ryan, cello


Program Notes

During the Age of Enlightenment, the court at Mannheim was one of the glories of Germany. Its magnificent palace, built during the reign of Elector Carl Philipp (reigned 1716-42) was the largest in the country. The elector had a strong interest in the arts. This interest was carried on by his successor Carl Theodor who enthusiastically supported the sciences, fine arts, philosophy, and literature in addition to his chief interest, music. Carl Theodor assembled a retinue of the most skilled instrumentalists and singers who performed in the concerts, operas, church music, and incidental and ceremonial music that comprised the court’s daily entertainments. Music pervaded nearly all of Mannheim’s highly ritualized court life. When Mozart and his mother arrived at Mannheim in October, 1777, they witnessed the lavishness of the musical establishment of the Elector’s court.

What made perhaps the most lasting impression on Mozart as a composer was the repertoire and performances of the Mannheim court orchestra. This large ensemble was justly famous in its day. The English chronicler Charles Burney, who visited Mannheim in 1772, described it as “an army of generals,” stating that there were more good solo players and composers in this orchestra then perhaps any other in Europe. Their playing thrilled audiences because of the distinctive style of their repertoire and musical execution. This “Mannheim Style” was developed under Johann Stamitz, the orchestra’s concertmaster beginning in 1746, and was continued under his successor in 1774, Christian Cannabich. Its traits included the use of the crescendo and diminuendo, at that time a powerful, novel effect that actually originated in Italian opera overtures. Another important feature of the “Mannheim Style” was the prominent use of winds in the orchestra, including the participation of clarinets. These and other features had a profound influence on Mozart, who immediately began incorporating them into his own compositional style.

An important purpose for Mozart’s visit to the court was to obtain an appointment. While there, he participated formally and informally in the court’s musical life. Mozart made this visit with his mother only—it was his first time traveling without his father. The correspondence between father Leopold and son reveal Leopold’s growing worry and exasperation about his son’s flippancy and lack of zeal in making contacts to gain employment. Wolfgang did not receive word that there was no vacancy at the court until over a month after his arrival. He did, however, receive a commission to write some flute quartets and concertos for a doctor and amateur flutist named Dejean. He also fell in love with Aloysia Weber, the sister of his future wife. This infatuation was reflected in frivolous and evasive statements in his letters to his father. Mozart dragged his feet on the commission, giving his father the excuse, “You know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument I cannot endure.” Because Mozart is known to have greatly admired the playing of the Mannheim flutist Johann Baptiste Wendling who was also a close friend, this remark is of questionable credibility and must be seen as one of many excuses offered to appease his distressed father.

Mozart’s D Major flute quartet was the first of two quartets completed for the Dejean commission. As in his other chamber works for one wind instrument and strings, Mozart tends to preserve the homogeneity of the strings while treating the flute somewhat more soloistically. This is especially the case in the plaintive Adagio movement where the aria-like flute solo is accompanied by pizzicato strings. The outer movements exhibit a lively, conversational interplay between flute and strings quite in keeping with the intimate, domestic quartet genre. The G Major quartet is in a two-movement form that was quite common in this genre. The amicable and conversational intentions in the work are made quite clear by Mozart’s rather detailed indications of dynamics.

Christian Cannabich and his family were the first to greet the Mozarts on their arrival and were gracious hosts to them during their stay at the court. Mozart had great respect for Cannabich’s leadership of the orchestra, calling him the best conductor he had ever seen. Cannabich was particularly well-known in his day as a composer of ballet music, and Mozart saw fit to arrange some of his ballet suites. Cannabich’s instrumental works are numerous, comprising symphonies, concertos, and chamber works. The flute concerto is a work in which the solo part is well integrated into the ensemble texture and in which expressivity in the solo part is emphasized over sheer virtuosity.

Carl Stamitz was the son of Johann Stamitz, leader of the Mannheim orchestra until 1757. The younger Stamitz was trained by his father and other members of the orchestra and was an orchestra member from 1762 to 1770. Having been reared in the Mannheim style, his music embodies all of its major traits and shows many similarities to his father’s works. The quartet presented on this program is exemplary. It is orchestrally conceived, and its headstrong, exuberant fast movements are replete with bold contrasts and the frequent passing of thematic material from instrument to instrument.

Johann Baptist Wendling was the court’s virtuoso flutist who became a steady companion to Mozart during his Mannheim stay. It was Wendling who arranged for the Dejean commission as well as a commission for a flute concerto. Wendling was among the most well traveled of the Mannheim instrumentalists, having preformed in Paris at the Concert Spirituels and in London in collaboration with J. C. Bach. His playing was influential to the composers who heard him and wrote for him. Wendling composed exclusively works that included his instrument, writing many concertos and chamber works. Mozart collaborated with him in orchestrating one of his concertos. The quartet chosen for this program reveals Wendling’s highly original compositional style. This first movement begins enigmatically and includes many unusual modulations and phrase structures to engage the listener. These techniques are also prevalent in its sweetly yearning Andante and energetically-paced closing Allegro.