Susanna Yoko Henkel's ‘Mozart: Violin Concertos 3 & 5' sees the young violinist present Mozart in a completely new light: gripping, passionate, fresh and contemporary.
With this new album of Mozart concerti, the freshly-announced winner of the ECHO Klassik Award, realised a long-held dream to perform her own interpretations of these popular works.
For the first time, Susanna performed not only as a soloist, but also as the leader of the excellent Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra. In keeping with the musical practice of the era Yoko Henkel also brings back to life an almost forgotten art that used to be completely normal in Mozart‘s time: the young violinist plays her own cadenzas, as free improvisations to the Mozart concertos. Experience the magnificence of Yoko Henkel's playing in Studio Master today.
Recorded January 30th - 1st February 2011 at the National Philharmonic Hall in Vilnius, Lithuania
Mix Engineer / Editing: Dalio Despot
Was Mozart happy? This question I keep asking myself, while reading the
numerous letters which vividly convey a picture of his life - the letters which
his father wrote while travelling abroad with his wunderkind Wolfgang, and
later, the letters which Mozart received from his father and which he wrote to his
family. What a huge pressure to succeed since his very early childhood. Surely, his
father Leopold Mozart had dedicated himself completely to serving his so talented
children Nannerl and Wolfgang and did everything in his power to help his son - and
the whole family - gain recognition, glory and prosperity.
The father's efforts yielded results: Little Mozart was already as a child of age six
the talk of the town; extensive travels through Germany, France, Belgium, Holland,
England and Italy followed.
Mozart was mainly admired as a pianist and composer/improviser. He rarely
appeared as a violinist, although he must have possessed extraordinary abilities on
this instrument as well.
There are just a few references about his violin playing; one of the first reports
originates from his sister Nannerl's memories
(from: "Life of Mozart", based on Schlichtegroll's
biography published in Stendhal's Life of Haydn, Mozart, and Metastasio)
"On his return from Vienna to Salzburg with his parents, he brought with him a small violin,
which had been given him during his residence at the capital, and amused himself with it. A
short time afterwards, Wenzl, a skilful violin player, who had then just begun to compose, came
to Mozart, the father, to request his observations on six trios, which he had written during the
journey of the former to Vienna. Schachtner, the archbishop's trumpeter, to whom Mozart was
particularly attached, happened to be at the house, and we give the following anecdote in his
words: "The father," said Schachtner, "played the bass, Wenzl the first violin, and I was to play
the second. Mozart requested permission to take this last part; but his father reproved him for
this childish demand, observing, that as he had never received any regular lessons on the violin,
he could not possibly play it properly. The son replied, that it did not appear to him necessary
to receive lessons in order to play the second violin. His father, half angry at this reply, told him
to go away, and not interrupt us. Wolfgang was so hurt at this, that he began to cry bitterly. As
he was going away with his little violin, I begged that he might be permitted to play with me,
and the father, with a good deal of difficulty, consented. ‘Well,' said he to Wolfgang, ‘you may
play with M. Schachtner, on condition that you play very softly, and do not let yourself be heard;
otherwise, I shall send you out directly.' We began the trio, little Mozart playing with me, but it
was not long before I perceived, with the greatest astonishment, that I was perfectly useless.
Without saying any thing, I laid down my violin, and looked at the father, who shed tears of
affection at the sight. The child played all the six trios in the same manner. The commendations
we gave him made him pretend that he could play the first violin. To humor him, we let him try,
and could not forbear laughing on hearing him execute this part, very imperfectly, it is true, but
still so as never to be set fast."
This might be the first report about Mozart's violinistic skills - at that time he was
about six years old - which I found very touching. His father Leopold Mozart had
given him only instructions on the piano so far, although he was considered as one
of the leading violin pedagogues of his time. In 1756 he had published
"An Essey on
teaching the Violin with Accuracy"
which was a "must" for every violinist and still is,
concerning the proper execution of suspensions, trills and other musical ornaments
at Mozart's time.
However, the piano remained Mozart's favored instrument and there are just a few
reports about his appearances as a violinist:
"You wish to know if Wolfgang does still sing and play the violin. He does play, but not in public.
He sings, but only on demand. He has grown a bit..."
(From Leopold Mozart's letter to his wife, dated
May 2nd 1770; at that time Mozart stayed in Rome with his father.)
During this journey through Italy, 14-year-old Mozart met a young English violinist
of his age, Thomas Linley, in Florence. Linley was considered to be a wunderkind
himself; the two of them shared a deep understanding and were playing music
together for many hours.
and supporter. Mozart returned from Italy to Salzburg under the huge impression of
the leading violin virtuosos of his time.
Only little is known about the emergence of his violin concertos. Due to the fact that
they were all composed in his hometown Salzburg, a correspondence with his family,
explaining their history of origins, does not exist. Most likely, Mozart composed them
in 1775 and finished his 5th violin concerto (K. 219) shortly before his 20th birthday.
Since 1772 he had been appointed as first concert master to the court orchestra of
the Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo and probably composed the five violin
concertos (K. 207, 211, 216, 218 & 219) for himself; it is confirmed that Mozart has
played them himself. At request of the violinist Antonio Brunetti, his successor at the
Salzburg court orchestra, Mozart wrote an alternative 2nd movement for his violin
concerto in A Major (K. 219) - the Adagio in E Major (K. 261).
In the following years Mozart turned away more and more from the violin, not to the
delight of his father:
"... I suppose you didn't practice the violin while you were in Munich? I would be very sorry
about it. Brunetti now praises you to the skies.."
The Rondo in C Major (K. 373) was premiered in Vienna on April 4th, 1871 by Antonio
Brunetti. On this, Mozart referred to his father:
"... Today - I'm writing this at 11 o'clock at night - we had a concert. 3 of my pieces were played
- new ones, of course; - a concerto rondeau for Brunetti - a sonata with violin accompaniment
for me - I wrote it yesterday evening between 11 and 12 - but, in order to finish it, I wrote out
only the accompanying part for Brunetti and retained my own part in my head - and then a
rondeau for Ceccarelli - which he had to repeat."
At that time Mozart already found his employment under Prince-Archbishop
Hieronymus Colloredo, who treated Mozart as a minion and demanded his service
exclusively for himself, unbearable. Mozart considered this situation to be repressive
towards his development and wrote to his father on April 4th, 1781:
"As I have already written to you, the Archbishop is a huge obstacle to me... Imagine now,
with the audience already knowing me, how much I could earn in a public concert? But our
Archbishop does not allow it - he does not want his people to gain benefit but damage."
Mozart requested to be released from his duties from Archbishop Colloredo in May
1781, against his father's will. His duties ended in an unpleasant way with the famous
"kick in the ass" by Count Karl Arco, the archbishop's chamberlain. Before that,
Count Arco had urged Mozart for weeks not to resign from his position and had
refused to accept his petition for release. Mozart referred in a letter to his father:
"... instead of Count Arco accepting my petition or obtaining an audience for me or advising me
to send it in later or persuading me to let the matter rest and think it over, enfin, whatever he
wanted - no, he throws me out of the room and gives me a kick up the backside."
Now, a new and foremost happier stage of Mozart's life began - for the first time, he
was independent and settled down in Vienna as a freelanced musician.
The original autographs of Mozart's violin concertos and of the Adagio in E Major
(K. 261) are preserved; they can be found in the Jagellonian library in Krakow
(K. 207, 211, 216, 218, 261a), in the Library of Congress, Washington (K. 219) and in
Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin (K. 261). Studying the original
manuscripts is an invaluable help in the effort of understanding Mozart's work and
answering open questions. In the "Allegretto" - part of the G Major concerto's 3rd
movement (K. 216) I decided to play Mozart's original alternative suggestion - three
different variations of the accompanying figures, sparkling with
joie de vivre, instead
of the usually three times equally played phrase.
Sadly, the autograph of the Rondo in C Major (K. 373) has been lost; Mozart's
widow had sold it to the music publisher Johann Anton André, together with the
other original manuscripts that were in her possession. The publishing house André,
based in Offenbach/Germany, became the world's major publishing house with
that very purchase of more than 270 original Mozart autographs. 79 first editions of
Mozart's compositions were published, all characterized as highly precise towards
Mozart's original handwriting. Due to the fact that meanwhile many of Mozart's
manuscripts are missing, these first Mozart editions of the André publishing house
are serving today as an important source to the musicological research.
The André family sold their collection of Mozart manuscripts, which happened to be
the largest part of Mozart's autographs, to the (at that time) Prussian State Library
For my interpretation of the Rondo in C Major (K. 373), I have therefore oriented to
the first Mozart edition of Johann André, where different ornaments are notated than
in the later editions.
Concerning the orchestra, I was looking for a transparent, chamber-music-like
sound. As it was common at Mozart's time, we added a bassoon to the
group. Just how important Mozart considered a well-balanced sound, he expresses
in his letters, e.g. to his father (from Mannheim, November 4th, 1777):
"... The orchestra is both large and very good. On each side there are 10 or 11 violins, 4
violas, 2 oboes, 2 flutes and 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 4 cellos, 4 bassoons, 4 double basses and
trumpets and timpani. They can perform wonderful music, but I wouldn't care to have one of my
masses played here. Why?... because you can't imagine anything worse than the voices here. 6
sopranos, 6 altos, 6 tenors and 6 basses against 20 violins and 12 basses is in the exact ratio
of 0 to 1."
I found the fact very interesting that at that time, more double basses than cellos
were used (Leopold Mozart mentioned this also in his letter from December 15th,
1770, about the orchestra setting of Mozart's opera "Mitridate, re di Ponto": The
group contained 6 double basses, 2 cellos and 2 bassoons).
At that time, the predominance of double basses in relation to cellos was common
musical practice. Even though this is not usual anymore in our days, in my opinion it
means to focus especially on a precise
"basso" group, which should build a strong,
rhythmical-springy fundament. Thereby I consciously did not wish the
to blend in with the upper voices, but to pulse independently - in jazz music this is
In some parts, like in the "Rondeau" - theme of the violin concerto in A major (K.
219), I am accompanied only by the first stands of the orchestra, which creates a
specially intimate, chamber-music-like atmosphere and stands in contrast to the
fully orchestrated "tutti"-passages.
At Mozart's time, cadenzas were freely improvised on stage in the majority of cases -
an art form which, regrettably, almost happened to vanish in our days. Mozart wrote
down some cadenzas for his later piano - and wind concertos and preserved them
for the future - by doing so, he wanted to protect his works from being deformed by
overly ambitious or ignorant soloists.
However, Mozart did not write down cadenzas for his violin concertos, possibly
because he wrote them for himself and also performed them. That is why, today,
every violinist has to make his own choice to pick appropriate cadenzas. I have
decided to write and play my own cadenzas for this recording - my very own
"fantasies" under the impression of the genius Mozart.
Susanna Yoko Henkel, violin