Julia Fischer, violin
Gordan Nikolic´, concert master
Pieter-Jan Belder, harpsichord (K.207 & K.211)
Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Yakov Kreizberg, conductor
From the booklet notes...
Throughout the history of music, Mozart's Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, K.207 and K.211, have generally been described as the "minor" concertos. Indeed, both as compositions and as far as the treatment of the violin is concerned, they do clearly stand out against the "major" Concertos K.216, K.218 and K.219: however, this is not necessarily mirrored in the length of these two works. Rather, one notices in both earlier concertos the distinctive influence of Italian violin virtuosos
of the Baroque. In the violin part there are virtuoso semiquaver and even demisemiquaver passages, which are nowhere to be seen in the later concertos. In both cases, the tempo indication of the first movement also includes a "Moderato", apart from the usual "Allegro", which gives the basic tempo a rather Baroque-like character. Both the viola and the cello parts are less independent than in the later concertos. After all, the independence of both these instrumental groups in the orchestra is a result of the development in composition techniques during the Classical period, which is expressed in the three later concertos. All these characteristics motivated us to record the Concertos K.207 and K.211 with the accompaniment of a harpsichord.
Julia Fischer and Yakov Kreizberg
English translation: Fiona J. Stroker-Gale
Violin Concertos by Mozart
On August 21, 1772, the 16-yearold Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was appointed by the Salzburg Archbishop Colloredo as leader in his orchestra, with an annual salary of 150 florins. During the next few years, Mozart wrote the majority of his concertante works for violin and orchestra, starting with the Violin Concerto in B flat, K.207 (1773) and the Concertone for 2 Violins, Oboe, Cello and Orchestra, K.190 (1774). This was followed in 1775 by the four other violin concertos (in D, K.211; in G, K.216; in D, K.218 and in A, K.219). Somewhat later, in the summer or autumn of 1779, he composed the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, K.364. Finally, there are three more short concertante movements, which also more or less date from this period: an Adagio in E, K.261 (1776), a Rondo in B flat, K.269 (1775-1777) and a Rondo in C (1781). Although at that moment the violin was clearly his instrument, it is not clear whether Mozart was in fact writing the concertos as a personal performance vehicle. One of the few surviving letters, in which the composer mentions a violin concerto, was written in Augsburg in 1777. During this journey, Mozart was celebrated as a violinist. Among other works, he performed a violin concerto by his colleague Johann Baptist Vanhall: "I conducted a Sinfonia and played Vanhall's Concerto in B flat on the violin to general
acclaim." But one of his own violin concertos, the so-called Strassburg Concerto, was also on the programme: "That night at supper I played the Strassburg Concerto; it went like clockwork; everyone praised my beautiful, clean tone." But that is about all Mozart ever wrote about his own performance as a violinist. The fact that he wrote alternative movements for two concertos demonstrates that his violin concertos were also performed by others than himself (such as his Salzburg colleague Antonio Brunetti).
The Violin Concerto in B flat, K.207, is dated April 14, 1773, making it the earliest solo concerto to appear in the catalogue of Mozart's works. After all, he did not write his first Piano Concerto, K.175, until the December of that year, and his Serenade K.185 (which contains concertante movements with violin solo) dates from the previous August. This date of composition means that Mozart wrote the concert a month after he returned from his concert travels to Italy. Undoubtedly, the impressions he received of the style of Italian violin virtuosos such as Pietro Nardini and Gaetano Pugnani were at the root of his desire to write his own violin concerto. Thus, both outer movements of this concert give the soloist the opportunity to carry out virtuoso acrobatics, whereas the middle movement is written in the so-called ‘empfindsamer Stil' (= sensitive style) and is characterised by a simple cantabile line-play, which was the ultimate for a violinist, according to Leopold Mozart. Leopold wrote the following of a violinist in the Mannheim orchestra: "Er spielt schwer, aber man kennt nicht, dass es schwer ist... und das ist das Wahre", (= he plays with difficulty, but people do not realize that it is difficult.. and that is the truth of it). After this, the Violin Concerto in D, K.211, which is dated June 14, 1775, seems almost like a step backwards. The work radiates an atmosphere of elegant court music, just as we encounter in the serenades. On the whole, the solo violin is accompanied by the high strings, and weaves elegant figures around the themes presented by the orchestra. As is fitting with this style, the development
of the first movement concentrates mainly on the harmony, and in general Mozart leaves the themes alone. The slow movement is again a cantabile, which could easily have "escaped" from an opera. A graceful Rondeau with two episodes ends this concerto.
The three violin concertos composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart between October 12 and December 20, 1775, were probably planned as (part of) a cycle. This is demonstrated not just by the fact that the composition dates of these works follow each other so closely, but also by the systematic planning of the keys - G major, D major and A major; or, in other words, the open strings of the violin. Furthermore, the last movement of each of the three concertos is a French Rondeau. Strangely enough, it appears that Mozart lost all interest in this genre after writing his Concerto in A. The following year, he was also to write a type of violin concerto in his Haffner Serenade K.250, but that was it: Mozart then hung up his violin. From that moment onwards, the piano was his preferred instrument. By the way, this caused his father, Leopold, great displeasure. He often admonished his son with phrases such as: "Du weisst selbst nicht, wie gut Du Violin spielst..." (= you have no idea how well you play the violin). Although on the whole Mozart's letters provide an excellent insight into his life and thoughts, it is completely unclear why he suddenly lost interest in the violin. Was it perhaps a case of adolescent rebellion against an authoritarian father? Or did Mozart associate the violin too closely with the oppressive Salzburg court or with Archbishop Colloredo, who all of a sudden fired the young composer in August 1777? Perhaps the reason for this was far simpler, and the young composer simply fell under the spell of a new toy: the fortepiano. The letters that Mozart sent home from Augsburg in November 1777 point in the latter direction. Whereas he still writes about his violin playing in the letter quoted above, the other letters he sent from Augsburg provide passionate reports on the new pianofortes, built by Johann Andreas Stein, from which Mozart was able to coax an unprecedented range of expressions. For Mozart, the instrumental solo concerto was closely related to the opera, and this is also the case in these three violin concertos. The Violin Concerto in A, K.219, dates from December 20, 1775. The work begins with an orchestral introduction, which acts as a kind of operatic overture, after which the curtain rises and the soloist presents himself with a dreamy adagio passage with new thematic material.
The slow movement, Adagio, is written in E major - a key not so often encountered in Mozart's oeuvre - and achieves an unprecedented profundity in dialogue between the soloist and orchestra. As mentioned, the last movement is once again a Rondeau in minuet tempo. The middle section is a so-called alla turca, in which the low strings imitate col legno (= with the wood of the bow) the rod-beaten drum used in the Ottoman Janissary bands. This kind of music was incredibly popular in Austria, and Mozart took advantage of this popularity in a large number of works. He derived the musical material of this passage from the ballet Le gelosie del serraglio, which was situated in a Turkish harem (K.A109) and written for a performance of his opera Lucio Silla. It is doubtful whether Mozart himself was the composer of this ballet music, as the ballet music in an opera was often written by other composers. Only two-and-a-half years lie between Mozart's two early violin concertos and this last one, but the development in style of composition is remarkable. The concertos in B-flat minor and D major share the galante style of the Salzburg serenades. Some of these serenades contain a miniature violin concerto. And we know that at least on one occasion one of Mozart's violin concertos was performed in combination with a serenade. Leopold Mozart writes that the violinist Andrä Kolb performed a socalled Finalmusik (one of the longer serenades) by Mozart, as well as one of his violin concertos, in the Mayr family garden on the evening of July 9, 1778. In contrast, the Violin Concerto in A is a ‘mature' solo concerto, in which the dialogue between soloist and orchestra is far more detailed. From here it was just a small step to the first ‘major' piano concerto: the Jeunehomme Concerto dating from January 1777, which was revolutionary in many respects.
English translation: Fiona J. Stroker-Gale
Recording venue: Doopsgezinde Kerk (Mennonite Church), Haarlem, The Netherlands, (3/2006).
Executive Producer: Job Maarse
Recording Producer: Job Maarse
Balance Engineer: Jean-Marie Geijsen
Recording Engineer: Sebastian Stein
Editing: Sebastian Stein