Mozart’s Last Year

Mozart’s last year was the title of a presentation to the Society by group member Peter Curbishley.  There probably isn’t another composer about whom there are so many myths particularly surrounding his death in December 1791, almost exactly 225 years ago.  The film Amadeus by Peter Shaffer did not help.  Although entertaining, it gave credence to wild rumours about poisoning which are now known to be untrue.
Pic: Anthem Arts

Peter played extracts from most of the works he wrote in the final months of his life.  This included of course the Requiem, but also from the operas The Magic Flute and La clemenza di Tito.  The Magic Flute was a huge success and is the fourth most performed opera ever written.  La Clemenza di Tito by contrast was a failure and languished unperformed until the 1950s.  This was in part due to a part written for a castrato, a practice which, mercifully, died out soon after the opera was written.

Members also heard extracts from the Clarinet Concerto written two months before his death, a string quintet and the last Horn Concerto.  Despite the huge body of brilliant music Mozart had composed before he died, he was Peter explained, only just beginning.  Part of the last piano concerto, finished in the early part of that year.  Had he lived into the nineteenth century who knows what he might have produced.  His death – from a streptococcal throat infection not poison – was a tragic loss to the world of music.
This was the last meeting of the first part of the programme and the next meeting is in February.  Seasons greetings to all our readers.
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The Golden Years

During the years 1781 – 1791 the residents of Vienna enjoyed a golden age.  There was freedom of speech, the establishment of an open and tolerant society and even an end to the death penalty in the Hapsburg empire.  Indeed, the enlightenment had truly arrived.

Image result for haydn
Haydn

And the music: both Haydn and Mozart were alive producing between them, masterpieces at the rate of one every other month.  1791 saw the untimely death of Mozart of course (and Mozart’s last year will be the subject of a future presentation on 28th of November) and by now political events were beginning to have their effects in Austria.

Tim Rowe took us through some of these masterpieces with some carefully selected excerpts from the great works.  He started with the Gran Partita by Mozart which is a serenade for 13 mostly wind instruments.  Wind ensembles of various kinds were very popular at this time and the K361 is certainly the most popular.

Casals Quartet

This was followed by a Haydn string quartet, opus 33/1 played by the Casals Quartet (pictured).  Haydn is considered the ‘father’ of the string quartet and the form had a profound influence on Mozart.  Even though there are only 4 instruments, the form is extremely difficult to master and although Mozart could compose at great speed, modern paper studies show that he struggled to complete several of his own quartets.

Opera was hugely popular at this time and we heard extracts from several of Mozart’s pieces.  These included the overture from The Marriage of Figaro, arias from Don Giovani and finally three arias from Cosi fan Tutti.  For many, this is his finest opera, but strangely it was condemned by both Beethoven and Wagner.

Other pieces included part of the Mass in C minor and the piano sonata Alla Turca played on a forte piano.

A most interesting evening of a momentous period in musical history.

Apology

We must apologise to members for the problems we had with the keys to our normal venue.  Unfortunately, we were given the wrong set of keys so we had to repair to Ed and Sue Tinline’s house to hold the meeting.

The next meeting is a member’s evening and is on 14 November at the usual place – assuming that is we can get in!