Program Notes: Celebrating Harry: Orchestral Favorites Honoring the Late Harry Ellis Dickson
Featuring BCO soloists, Richard Given & Greg Whitaker, trumpets; Sandra Stecher Kott, violin & Kenneth Stalberg, viola
November 21 and 23, 2003
Handel: “Trumpet Suite” from Water Music
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Mozart: Andante from Sinfonia Concertante
Haydn: March for the Royal Society of Musicians
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5
On March 29, 2003, Boston lost one of its dearest musicians and public figures: Harry Ellis Dickson died at the age of 94. Born in Cambridge to Ukrainian parents, he studied at the New England Conservatory and in Berlin, where he met his wife of 43 years, Jane K. Williams, who died in 1977. Harry auditioned for Serge Koussevitzky in 1938 and played in the first violin section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from that year until his retirement nearly half a century later. He studied conducting with Pierre Monteux and became closely associated with the Boston Pops, which he first conducted in 1955, never officially retiring from his post as assistant, then associate, conductor; he founded the BSO’s Youth Concerts in 1959. In 1983 he became music director of the orchestra about to play before you, serving in that capacity until 1999 and as music director laureate until his death.
Handel: “Trumpet Suite” (Suite No. 2, D major) from Water Music
We begin our tribute to Harry Ellis Dickson with a suite from Handel’s Water Music, written at the request of King George I for a party on barges in the Thames in 1717. Harry conducted this music frequently, both in Pops programs and for Youth Concerts. Though it is frequently heard complete, the Water Music is actually made up of three separate suites, of which the second, in D major, is often called the “Trumpet Suite,” because it is the only one of the three that calls for that instrument (actually, a pair) in its scoring. The first movement Prelude has the further distinction of being well known throughout the 18th century as “Mr. Handel’s Water Piece”. The trumpets sound brilliantly after the very first chord, their material being echoed by the horns. After a brief transitional passage, this pattern is followed in the succeeding Hornpipe. The final three movements comprise a sequence of brief dances: Minuet, Lentement, and Bourrée.
Barber: Adagio for Strings
This beautiful and famous score originated as the slow movement of Barber’s String Quartet of 1936, but in the following year Barber arranged it for string orchestra. The great Arturo Toscanini had heard Barber’s First Symphony at the Salzburg Festival in July, 1937, and was impressed enough to request a new work from the 26-year-old composer. In the end, Barber provided two works, his First Essay and this Adagio, both of which Toscanini presented with his recently formed NBC Symphony Orchestra in November of 1938. Over the years it has come to be regularly performed on occasions of public mourning. It was heard during the commemorative service for FDR in 1945, for example, as well as during the memorial service for the composer himself in 1981. It has also been used as “mood music” in a number of films, most notably, Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” and David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man”.
Mozart: Andante from Sinfonia Concertante
This movement from one of Mozart’s greatest scores is surely one of the most beautiful things ever written. Harry once asked to have it played in his memory. It derives from one of Mozart’s finest masterpieces, the Sinfonia Concertante in Eb, K.364, written in the summer of 1779. The complete work was offered by the BCO just a couple of seasons ago. Apart from being a master keyboard performer, Mozart was also an accomplished violinist, though he preferred the viola and played that instrument in string quartet sessions with his fellow composers Haydn, Dittersdorf, and Vanhal. It’s possible that Mozart wrote this work for the Salzburg violinist Antonio Brunetti (violin) and himself (viola) to play, but it could just as easily have been written for someone else. The primary inspiration seems to have been Mozart’s encounter with the Sinfonia Concertante form during his journey to Mannheim and Paris in the preceding year, 1778. This entity, an extended concerto for (usually) more than one soloist, intrigued Mozart’s imagination-he wrote one for winds, started one for string trio, abandoned it, and concluded by giving the world this, the greatest Sinfonia Concertante of them all. (He came, he heard, he conquered.)
Haydn: March for the Royal Society of Musicians
This tuneful march began life as a work for wind instruments — specifically, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, and a now obsolete woodwind called a serpent — and timpani. Its original title was March for the Prince of Wales. Haydn later arranged the music for full orchestra, and that version has been retitled March for the Royal Society of Musicians. The story of Haydn’s successes in England is one of the most heartwarming in the often sad history of the final years of the lives of composers. After a lifetime of service at court, mostly in the employ of the Esterházy family near Vienna, Haydn succumbed to an invitation from the impresario Johann Peter Salomon to visit England in 1792. Ironically, Mozart implored him not to go, having had a sort of premonition that they would never see each other again. He was right. But Haydn’s reception must have gone a long way toward easing his heartache at the news of Mozart’s death. Showered with applause at every turn, Haydn was invited back for another successful tour a few years later. He wrote a great deal of splendid music for his British audiences, including most famously his last dozen masterful symphonies (six for each tour); but there were also many smaller pieces such as this winning march.
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5
It is surely impossible, after two hundred years of scholarship and analysis, to come up with something fresh to say about Beethoven’s Fifth, one of the central and seminal masterpieces in musical history. But I have not often seen it remarked upon that Beethoven, the great innovator, here shifted the balance of the symphony so that the greater weight, for the first time, is found, not in the first movement, as had been the case in virtually every earlier symphony, but in the last. Certainly the first movement carries plenty of punch — that concise power is, perhaps, its essence. But in previous symphonies the first movement was almost always a “bigger” statement than the last. The breadth, force, and grandeur of this finale must have struck contemporary listeners as yet another surprise in the long list of Beethoven’s revolutionary ideas. And it is by no means the only innovation in this towering score. The extraordinary linking passage between the scherzo and finale and then the reappearance of the scherzo theme in the middle of the finale are two of the more notable examples.
That opening bar is so inescapably famous that its extraordinary power and freshness have been dimmed for many. Even the opening of the Eroica, startling as it must have been, was less arresting than this. It is easy for us today to forget that nothing like this had ever been heard before. But that four-note motif was much more than just an eye-opening call to attention: it is a rhythmic pattern (dit-dit-dit-dot*) that makes its appearance in each of the other three movements and thus contributes to the overall unity of the symphony. This figure can be heard at several points in the middle of the Andante con moto as a rhythmic punctuation in the strings. It is central to the scherzo, where it first appears commandingly in the horns after the dark opening in the lower strings; the aforementioned linking passage between the scherzo and finale is ushered in with the motif in soft drum taps heard over an eerie pedal point. There are numerous places in the finale where the motto can be heard, but perhaps one of the easiest to pick out comes in the quiet passage following a rest, the point at which the scherzo is quoted softly before we are launched back into the tumult. Listen for it cropping up at other points in the double basses and even in the piccolo, an instrument, by the way, which, along with the contrabassoon and three trombones, had probably never been used in a symphony before — another fact that can be added to the amazing list of Beethoven’s innovations. Indeed with the additional instruments required for this work the BCO fields its largest orchestra ever in memory of Harry Ellis Dickson, who conducted the first movement of this symphony on his first BSO Youth Concert in 1959.
*dit-dit-dit-dot = the letter V in Morse code, which is why the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth was used by the Allies during World War II to represent “V for Victory”.
Heavenly Harp, Charming Tchaikovsky
Featuring Barbara Poeschl-Edrich
January 16 and 18, 2004
Rossini: Sonata No. 5
Handel: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra
Debussy: Danses sacr&3233;e et profane
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings
Rossini: Sonata No. 5 in Eb
Rossini is said to have composed his six sonatas for strings at the age of twelve in 1804. The fifth of the set opens with a movement marked Allegro vivace, but the gentle, lyrical theme with which it begins seems to belie its tempo indication. Only later does a busy passage for the violins (heard in the introduction and reprised in the recapitulation) really live up to the designation “vivace”. That opening statement, by the way, looks forward to Rossini’s operas in that it sounds as if it might serve as the introduction to an aria or ensemble. Quite early on in the Allegro a figure is heard in the double bass, which reminds us that these sonatas were written for the bass player Agostino Triossi. The remaining movements are a serene Andantino and a genial, ambulating Allegretto.
Handel: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra in Bb, Op.4 No. 6
As a further means of enticing audiences to hear his operas and oratorios, Handel would insert into the evening’s entertainment a concerto or two for which he himself would perform the solo part. As Peter Eliot Stone wrote, “Handel thereby became one of the first in a long line of great composers to write concertos that would demonstrate his abilities as a performer. The organ concerto, a secular virtuoso piece, was his personal innovation.” These concerti would then be collected together for separate publication, and Handel’s Opus 4, a set of six concerti for the organ, is one such collection. Number 6, however, was also specifically designed for the harp, probably intended for the Welsh harpist William Powell. The first performance of this particular concerto occurred during Act I of Handel’s ode Alexander’s Feast on February 19, 1736. Two other concerti were also performed on that occasion, a concerto grosso (known ever since as the “Alexander’s Feast” Concerto) and another organ concerto, which was published along with this one in 1738 as Op.4 No. 1. The scoring for No. 6 is calculated to avoid overwhelming the harp soloist: it calls for only two flutes and strings (which play pizzicato in the first movement).
Debussy: Danses sacreé et profane
In 1897 the house of Pleyel, piano and harp manufacturers, developed a new type of harp (they called it a “chromatic” harp) that had one string for each semitone as opposed to the older Erard harp, which produces sharps and flats by means of pedals (and remains the standard harp used today). In order to improve sales, Pleyel commissioned a new work from Debussy in 1904. (Erard, not to be outdone, responded by commissioning a work from Ravel, which turned out to be that composer’s Introduction & Allegro. Thus two great masterpieces resulted from a bit of healthy capitalist rivalry.) Debussy’s work addresses the needs of Pleyel by its use of parallel chromatic chord sequences, which are easier to play on the Pleyel harp. He met the commission with a pair of dances that he styled Sacred and Secular (“profane”). Always fascinated with the Iberian peninsula, as was Ravel, Debussy based the first, “sacred” dance on a keyboard piece by his friend the Portuguese composer Francisco de Lacerda (1869-1934), while the second theme of the “secular” dance is a Spanish melody that Debussy also used in two of his Preludes for solo piano: Sérénade interrompue (1910) and La Puerta del vino (1913). Hard as it is to understand today, the composer Gabriel Fauré found the music “frankly unpleasant” (harmonically); but the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla approved of the manner in which Debussy adapted Spanish modes in a fresh and individual way. Other influences make themselves felt as well: the Danse sacrée also evokes the ancient harp, and the Danse profane is essentially a French waltz.
Tchaikovsky: Serenade in C, Op.48
Tchaikovsky wrote his Serenade in the fall of 1880 at the same time as the ubiquitous “1812 Overture” and himself thought it much the finer score. Compare this work for strings with the earlier Rossini, and at once it becomes clear that its scope and gestures are broader, and it possesses a greater density of sound, as is evident from the very opening measures. We have here a slow introduction to the main body of the first movement, a device that is more at home in a symphony than in a serenade. (Mozart’s serenades frequently begin with such slow introductions, but 19th-century serenades almost never do. In fact, Tchaikovsky expressly stated that this movement was a tribute to and imitation of Mozart.) After this Andante non troppo introduction, the Allegro moderato is ushered in with a sweeping figure that, again, might have come from a symphony, or might be reminiscent of the grand gestures of the ballet, for that style also infuses this work to a considerable extent. The second subject is a scurrying idea whose industrious mood dominates the remainder of the movement, although at the end the material of the slow introduction recurs.
In the second movement, Tchaikovsky makes use of his beloved waltz form, a dance type that so often inspired the composer to his most felicitous invention. With this movement the connection to the ballet is most overt. This waltz is so popular that it is commonly played as a stand-alone piece. The third movement begins with an elegiac passage (in fact, Tchaikovsky specifically titles the whole movement “ëlëgie”) that sounds to this listener like a harbinger of the resplendent music for strings that has been so important a trend in British music in the 20th century (beginning with Vaughan Williams and his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis). When the main melody begins, we find ourselves again in the world of ballet. This section is marked by a loving tenderness and grace less elegiac than sweetly romantic. Later the “English” material comes back and leads into a passage marked by abrupt chords that sounds much like operatic recitative, and then we come to a beautiful segment that is quintessential Tchaikovsky, expressive of deep tragedy and stamped with his individual and inimitable hand print. A quiet restatement of the opening theme concludes the elegy. Moving directly from this music to the buoyancy of the finale might have been too jarring, so Tchaikovsky circumvents any possibility of unsettling change by preceding the cheerful finale with a quiet, dulcet introduction. The final descending chords of this Andante section, repeated slowly, are a foretaste of the quick theme of the Allegro con spirito, which combines the spirit of a children’s song with the flavor of a Russian folk song-perhaps it is both. Certainly the sound of massed Russian balalaikas is evoked in the pizzicatos that follow. The second subject is more broadly lyrical, but it isn’t long before the Russian children come skipping back, and their chatter pervades the rest of the movement up to the point where the dramatic statement from the very beginning of the Serenade makes another appearance; but even that very grown-up music is caught up in the children’s revelry, and it is they who have the last word.
The Battle of the Comic Operas
Featuring singers from Opera at Longy (Donna Roll, artistic director)
March 12 and 14, 2004
Salieri: Prima la Musica, Poi le Parole (First the Music, Then the Words)
Mozart: Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario), K.486 Komödie mit Musik in one act
The play and movie Amadeus, delightful and moving as they are, took many liberties with history. But one thing they accurately portrayed was the musical rivalry between Italian and German: the composers, the performers, and the languages themselves. This rivalry was light-heartedly put to the test at the whim of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II when he asked Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart each to write a short opera in their respective languages as an after-dinner entertainment for the visiting Governor-General of the Netherlands. The state reception was to be given on February 7, 1786. The two pieces were performed at opposite ends of the Orangerie of the Imperial palace at Schönbrunn, Mozart’s preceding Salieri’s.
It was not, by the way, as if Mozart had not already had an opportunity to demonstrate the merit of German as an operatic language — his masterpiece The Abduction of the Seraglio had been produced in Vienna in 1782. After that, however, he returned to Italian libretti, beginning and then abandoning two comedies, L’Oca del Cairo (The Goose of Cairo) and Lo sposo deluso (The Deluded Spouse), before arriving at his magnificent Marriage of Figaro. It was while he was working on that great score that the occasion arose for The Impresario. The emperor conceived the program and even chose the subject of the German opera himself. The libretto for it was written by Gottlieb Stephanie, who had also been the author of Abduction from the Seraglio. Salieri’s libretto was composed by Gian Battista Casti. (Opera at Longy will perform both works in English translation.)
Both are operas about opera and opera singers. Salieri’s is actually styled a Divertimento teatrale (theatrical divertimento), while Mozart’s is a Singspiel or “play with music.” The subject of Salieri’s offering can be summarized in the title, Prima la musica e poi le parole (First the Music, then the Words). (Richard Strauss was to deal with this same question more than a century-and-a-half later in his opera Capriccio.) Art consciously imitates life here, as the fictional Count has commissioned an opera to be performed at a banquet. In an unexpected twist, though, the composer (maestro di cappella) is not advocating his own music, but rather an anonymous score he has found among some old manuscripts. The court poet takes umbrage at the thought that he must now write words to match the already existing music. The two also argue about the choice of which soprano will take the prima donna rôle. The poet argues for a singing actress, the composer for an acting singer. In the end, a compromise is reached, as the ladies agree to share the part, one taking the comic scenes, the other the tragic.
In The Impresario, the title character (who, perhaps appropriately, has a speaking rôle only) is auditioning two potential leading ladies. Madame Herz (Mrs. Heart) sings a pathetic arietta about parting lovers, and Mlle Silberklang (Miss Silversound) essays a happy rondo about joining lovers. There follows a heated altercation between the two women, each of whom proclaims herself the “first singer” (prima donna), while the tenor, M. Vogelsang (Mr. Birdsong) tries to mediate. The concluding quartet has the characters subduing their egos, at least ostensibly, in deference to Art, except that the last to appear, M. Buff (Mr. Buffoon), having failed to get the message, announces himself as the principal comic baritone, “as everyone can plainly see.”
Stepner & Lipsitt Play Mozart’s Fifths
Featuring Daniel Stepner (first violinist, Lydian String Quartet; concertmaster, Handel & Haydn)
April 23 and 25, 2004
Mozart: Symphony No. 5
Warlock: Capriol Suite for Strings
Haydn: Symphony No. 5
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 (“Turkish”)
Mozart: Symphony No. 5 in Bb, K.22
Mozart was a month or two away from his tenth birthday when he wrote this little symphony during a visit to The Hague in December, 1765. Mozart’s father Leopold was taking him and his talented sister Nannerl on a tour through Europe, causing quite a stir wherever they went. They had spent more than a year in England, mostly in London, and were on their way to Paris when they were waylaid in Canterbury by the Dutch ambassador, who begged them to make a detour to Holland. The Princess of Weilburg, sister of the Prince of Orange, having heard reports of the astonishing accomplishments of the young prodigies, was keen to see them. Leopold was persuaded, and the family gave a concert soon after their arrival at The Hague in September, 1765. This was so well received that another was planned for January, and this new symphony was written for that occasion. The Mozarts remained in Holland until April of 1766. This little three-movement symphony shows the influences Wolfgang would have picked up from the Mannheim school of composition as well as from the “London” Bach, Johann Christian (the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach), whom Wolfgang had met while in England. The two got on famously together. Perhaps the most interesting element in this work is its unexpected g-minor andante, which, in Neal Zaslaw’s words, “exhibits surprising intensity of musical gesture.” Some commentators have even seen in it a harbinger of the slow movement of the great g-minor symphony (No. 40, K.550) Mozart was to write twenty-three years later. Also, lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro may recognize in the opening bars of the finale essentially the same music as that introducing Figaro’s “Signori, di fuori” in the opera’s second act.
Warlock: Capriol Suite for Strings
Peter Warlock was the pseudonym adopted by the English composer, music editor, and writer Philip Heseltine, who was born in 1894. He came to a sad end, taking his own life in 1930. He was a tireless editor of early music, making some 600 transcriptions. His original compositions include about 150 songs and other vocal pieces, but only half a dozen instrumental works. This suite was originally composed for piano duet in October 1926 and arranged for strings shortly thereafter; Warlock also made an arrangement for full orchestra, but the one for strings is the version most commonly heard nowadays. The suite, reflecting Warlock’s interest in early music, is based on dances found in a 16th-century collection called Orché;sographie by Thoinot Arbeau. The name Capriol comes from one of the two characters represented in the dialogue in Arbeau’s treatise. There are six movements, of which the last, Mattachins, is a sword dance.
Haydn: Symphony No. 5 in A
It is difficult if not impossible to date many of Haydn’s earliest works accurately. Of this symphony we can say only that it was written for Haydn’s first noble employer, the Count Morzin, and dates from sometime in the years 1757-60. This was well before Haydn — the “Father of the Symphony” — had regulated the form as being in four movements, fast – slow – minuet – fast. Here he begins with a slow movement in the Sonata da chiesa style, that is, like many Baroque chamber sonatas, with the movement scheme slow – fast – slow – fast, except that here Haydn replaces the second slow movement with a minuet.
The opening Adagio ma non troppo, after a trilled galant start, incorporates some very difficult horn writing, while the oboe parts remain undemanding. The Allegro movement that follows is rather more characteristic of Haydn, showing his gift for melody and invention. The Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon has written, “Haydn’s early style is more at home in fast movements, and, therefore, his allegros are much more successful than the adagios of this period.” The Menuetto brings the horns forward again, both in the main section and in the trio, where they have a dialogue with one of the oboes. In the concluding Presto the horns and oboes do little more than add color to the busy string melody.
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, K.219 (“Turkish”)
Besides being a master keyboard artist from an early age, Mozart was also a more than capable violinist. He wrote four concerti for the instrument in 1775 at the age of 19. The “Turkish” Concerto, like the boyhood symphony heard earlier, was written in the month of December, so Mozart was only a month away from his twentieth birthday. At that time Mozart was concertmaster of the Salzburg court orchestra, so he may well have written these concerti for himself to play, although another possibility is Antonio Brunetti, a Salzburg court violinist who was to succeed Mozart as concertmaster. The present concerto in particular may have been intended for Brunetti, for we know that Mozart wrote an alternate slow movement for it (K.261) at Brunetti’s request.
The A-major Concerto is the last, longest, most fully-developed, and most accomplished of the set. It also contains a striking innovation with the entry of the soloist: instead of repeating the themes presented in the orchestral introduction, the violin goes off on a seven-bar adagio soliloquy over a barcarolle-like backdrop in the orchestral violins. Then when the orchestra returns with the first theme, the solo violin superimposes a quite new idea over it. The tempo indication, too, is unique in Mozart’s output: Allegro aperto (“aperto” = open, broad), which seems to apply to the free, upward flight of the new theme. The expansive second movement, is, like the replacement Mozart provided for Brunetti, an Adagio in the unusual key of E major, a key signature he was to use only once again, in a piano trio (K.542) of 1788. A quite extended orchestral statement gives us a wealth of lovely material for the soloist to take up. The title of the work, “Turkish,” is derived from the finale, one of many examples of the late eighteenth-century musical fascination with the Ottoman Empire. This trend is exemplified in Gluck’s opera The Pilgrimage to Mecca and would be taken up by Mozart again in his operas Abduction from the Seraglio and the unfinished Zaide (as well as in the rondo finale of his Piano Sonata No. 11). In the concerto, Mozart seems to emphasize the meeting of East and West by opposing the first idea, a quintessentially European minuet (actually a rondo in form, in the tempo of a minuet), with the vigorous central section, a kind of march of the Janissaries, complete with the simulation of clashing, “Turkish” percussion: Mozart directs the ‘cello and bass players to slap the strings with the wood of their bows. This A-minor episode, which really smacks more of Hungarian than of Turkish influences, is one of the rare instances in Mozart of self-borrowing, having been drawn from the ballet music he wrote for another seraglio scene, this one in his opera Lucio Silla of 1772.
It Takes Two to Tango (or, a Good Wind Blows No Ill)
Featuring husband-and-wife duos from the BSO performing Baroque & Classical concertos
February 13, 2004
Linda Toote (flute) & Mark McEwen (oboe) play Salieri’s Concerto for Flute and Oboe
Laura Ahlbeck (oboe) & Richard Ranti (bassoon) play Vivaldi’s Concerto for Oboe & Bassoon
Catherine Hudgins & William Hudgins (clarinets) play Stamitz’s Concerto for Two Clarinets
Jane Sebring & Richard Sebring play Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Horns
American Love Songs
I Only Have Eyes for You (Warren/Dubin)
My Romance (Rodgers/Hart)
Embraceable You (Gershwin)
All of Me (Simons & Marks)
My Funny Valentine (Rodgers/Hart)
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off (Gershwin)
Irresistible (Luiz Logatti)
La Cumparsita (G.H. Matos Rodriguez)
Celebrate Valentine’s Day with husband-and-wife duos from the Boston Symphony joining the BCO for wind duet-concertos by Vivaldi, Stamitz, and Haydn. Tangos from Argentina and love-songs from Gershwin’s America complete the program. BSO members from the oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn sections bring their musical spouses along for this unusual evening of music and love.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) composed about 450 concerti with string orchestra and continuo; about half are for solo violin. The cello, oboe, bassoon, and flute are all well represented with solo concerti, and beyond that Vivaldi seemed to delight in exploring the sonorities of various combinations of soloists. Encouraging and no doubt in many instances inspiring this inventiveness were the talents of Vivaldi’s charges, the young foundling musicians (all female) of the Ospedale della Pietô in Venice, where Vivaldi was employed from 1703 to 1740 (though, like Mozart in later decades, he was able to take the occasional leave of absence). The Concerto in G for oboe and bassoon, RV 545, was likely written for the girls of the Ospedale and is quintessential Vivaldi, with catchy phrases and a vigorous finale that has the feel of a peasant dance about it.
Carl Stamitz was perhaps the most gifted member of a family of Bohemian composers that included his father Johann and his brother Anton. Johann is generally credited with being one of the founders of the so-called Mannheim School, a movement that pretty much established the musical language of the mid-eighteenth century that infused the works of Mozart and early Beethoven. He is also credited with having written the first concerto for the clarinet (putting aside those written for its predecessor the chalumeau). Johann’s son Carl (1745-1801) was keenly interested in the clarinet, writing about a dozen concerti for the instrument as well is this one for two of them!
It seems there were no horn players at the Venice Ospedale, and Vivaldi’s output reflects, if not confirming, that supposition-he wrote no concerti at all for the solo horn, but did compose two for pairs of horns (besides any number of other concerti calling for horns among a larger group of soloists). Michael Talbot suggests that Vivaldi may have written these two works, both in the key of F, for soloists of the orchestra of Mantua, where he was music director during the years 1718-1720. Post-chaise horn calls open the concerto right from the start, something of a departure from the norm, in which the string orchestra typically introduces the themes before the entry of the soloists. The horns are mostly tacit during the restful slow movement. This gives them a breather before they must launch into the demanding acrobatics of the roistering finale.
Throughout the nineteenth century it was commonly believed that Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) poisoned Mozart. Rimsky-Korsakov even wrote a short opera on the subject, and Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus perpetuates the canard. Though the accusation makes for great drama, it has no basis in fact. In order to reverse the popular conception that Salieri was not only a murderer but also a lousy composer (bad person = bad artist, the example of Wagner notwithstanding), some apologists have tried to rescue Salieri’s artistic reputation, but few if any have dared to go beyond saying he was anything better than a “good” composer; and there are, in this writer’s opinion, plenty of recorded examples supporting the old position that he was, indeed, fairly lousy. Obviously, as court composer to the Austrian emperor, he could hardly have been incompetent, and his music was very popular throughout Europe in his day. But then, even today, with hindsight, a great many more people are interested in Survivor than in Mozart. Salieri, it may safely be said, definitely produced better efforts than Survivor. Witness the present offering.
The Concerto in C for flute and oboe dates from 1774, the year in which Salieri, just 24 at the time, was appointed court composer in Vienna. (This was some seven years before Mozart took up permanent residence in the capital.) There are three movements, all graceful and pleasing: an Allegro spiritoso in which the forte chords that open the work are echoed much more gently by trills by the soloists when they enter following the quite brief orchestral introduction; a sweet Largo reminiscent of Haydn; and a Rondo marked Allegretto, wherein a very simple theme announced by the two soloists is met by a vigorous orchestral reply; then, in the standard pattern of a rondo, this figure recurs throughout the movement, alternating with varying passages. The concerto possesses a number of lovely ideas that Mozart himself surely would not have scorned.