The young Mozart, part one

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Concert Hour 08 februar #944 schwetzingen 01

Do you recall what you were doing at age ten? By that time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a number of symphonies to his credit. We'll hear one of them this hour.

To see what happens when a "modern" orchestra intensively explores historic performance practice, Roger Norrington founded the Orchestral Academy at the Schwetzingen Festival over twenty years ago. Following in his footsteps were the conductors Ton Koopmann, Jos van Immerseel and Masaki Suzuki.

Our performance is led by Nicholas McGegan. And how does he describe the symphony we're about to hear, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he was all of nine years old?

"Of course it's in the Italian style," says McGegan, "but you can really hear Mozart in it, the young Mozart. It couldn't have been by a different composer. It's witty here and there and of course it's elegant: Mozart learned a lot from Johann Christian Bach. But if Bach is a bit over-elegant, Mozart sounds a bit ruder, a little more daring." 

By the time Wolfgang Amadeus was thirteen and playing first violin in the Salzburg court orchestra, he already had a career as a traveling child prodigy behind him. The boy essentially spent his childhood in a horse-drawn carriage traveling all over Europe — also to Schwetzingen. 

When he was seven, in June of 1763, Leopold Mozart, the father, wrote to a friend in Salzburg: "Yesterday they scheduled an academy on our account. It lasted from five in the afternoon until nine o'clock in the evening … the orchestra is without a doubt the best in Germany. My children set all of Schwetzingen into motion. The royalty enjoyed it enormously, and everyone was astonished." Mozart was to return to Schwetzingen twice.

Between ages seventeen and nineteen, Mozart wrote five violin concertos. He'd met the finest violinists of the day, and their idioms found their way into his violin music. According to Nicholas McGegan, the concertos are additionally informed by a different genre.

"In the violin concertos I think you can hear that he had already written his first operas," he said. "The melodies sound like singing. There are instrumental effects of course, but flourishes that recall vocal music too. The violins in the symphony orchestra and the solo violin sing everywhere!"

Conductor Nicholas McGegan

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

  • Symphony No. 4 in D Major, K. 19 (1765)
  • Violin concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219  (1775)    

performed by:
Gil Shaham, violin
Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor

Recorded by Southwest German Radio in the Rococo Theater of Schwetzingen Palace on May 12, 2018

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
Horn concerto No. 3 in E-flat Major, K. 447 (excerpt) 

performed by:
Lowell Greer, horn
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (San Francisco)
Nicholas McGegan, conductor 

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