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CD Spotlight December 2018: Beethoven: Traditional Christmas Song ‘O Sanctissima’

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Beethoven & Christmas Songs

This is a extra-rare recording
of a traditional Christmas Song
originally arranged by Beethoven.
A Marian Hymn of Seafarers from
Sicily, ‘O Sanctissima’ rapidly became
a beloved Christmas Song,
sung in Latin (Italy), in German
(Austria/German Nations),
in English (England). In origin
this song was called
‘A song for three holidays’:
Christmas, Easter, Pentecost.

1817
Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus

Deutsche Grammophon

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Interview September 2018: 10 Questions with C. Manson

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Catherine Manson: Official Sites
Catherine Manson Site: The London Haydn Quartet Official Site
Catherine Manson: Catherine Manson (Twitter)
London Haydn Quartet: London Haydn Quartet (Twitter)
London Haydn Quartet: London Haydn Quartet (Facebook)
London Haydn Quartet: London Haydn Quartet (Hyperion Records)
Catherine Manson: Catherine Manson (ABO)

Catherine Mason & The London Haydn Quartet: CD Albums
London Haydn Quartet: Haydn: String Quartets Opp. 54 & 55
London Haydn Quartet: Haydn: String Quartets Op. 50
London Haydn Quartet: Mozart: Clarinet Quintet


1. Your CD Series on Haydn Quartets has been widely publicly and critically acclaimed, especially the Vol. 6, featuring Haydn’s Quartets Op. 54 & Op. 55. This Autumn 2018 (2 November 2018) you are going to release the Vol. 7 with Op. 64. Then in October 2018 you’ll record the Vol. 8 (Op. 71 & Op. 74) always for Hyperion. Can you tell us about the origin and the beginning of this special project on Haydn’s Quartets? And then can you present your single CDs from Vol. 1 to Vol. 6 as a musical journey through Haydn’s inventiveness?

Being passionate about Haydn we found it astonishing that so little of his music is known or really appreciated. We were aware that there were dozens of masterpieces among the quartets which were hardly ever programmed so we decided to make it our mission to play all of them and to do what we could to help make these works better known.

There is a popular perception that if one charts a chronological course through Haydn’s quartets from opus 9 to op 77 one will witness a gradual improvement in the skill of the composer. The opus 9 and 17 works are absolutely towering masterpieces and some of my favourite music of all time but they have been neglected partly because of the repetition of this faulty narrative and consequently a lot of utterly magnificent and unique music has been persistently misunderstood and overlooked.

         Quartets Op. 9 & Op. 17
Our recording project started with the six quartets, opus 9. The music from this period (c.1770) is some of the most profound and intensely personal Haydn ever wrote. Sequestered away in the secluded, artistic environment of the Esterhaza court, Haydn immersed himself in writing music which is so special it almost defies description. If anyone really wants to understand Haydn I would advise them to immerse themselves in the music of the 1760s and 70s – the quartets, baryton trios, piano sonatas, symphonies…this is Haydn speaking with people he knows will understand everything about what he’s saying. On the chamber music courses I run (MusicWorks Chamber Music School) we always have Haydn Night when everyone plays Haydn all evening. In this situation it is the op 9s and 17s to which I am most likely to return to try to discover more of their secrets.

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         Quartets Op. 20
The opus 20 quartets represent an astonishing compositional feat. They are written on quite a different scale to any other set – we were not certain that we could even fit all six quartets onto the double CD format! It is not only their length but their expansive vision which sets them apart from the other sets. There is more minor mode music in this set than in any other (op 20 no 3 in G minor and no 5 in F minor) and even the major mode pieces contain such marvels as the first set of variations (ever?) to remain in the minor throughout (Op 20 no 4).

         Quartets Op. 33
A decade separates the op 33s from the op 20s and this is a very different type of music. This new genre is more concise, very colourful and perhaps the first set of the quartets which can easily be appreciated on several different levels. Its vivid storytelling and humorous aspects are captivating even without the knowledge of how the music is constructed. The addition of scherzi in place of the menuets also marks a new episode in the history of the string quartet (… and eventually also of the symphony).

         Quartets Op. 42
We have skipped one masterpiece for the meantime but will come back to the mysteries of the wondrous op 42 at the end of our survey. This miraculous piece deserves a whole article of its own but that’s for another time!

         Quartets Op. 50
The opus 50 set represents a fascinating synthesis of all the aspects so far with a return to slightly lengthier structures, which often seem to set out some kind of puzzle or to respond to an extreme compositional challenge without ever drawing attention to their complexity.

         Quartets Op. 54 & Op. 55
The op 54/55 quartets continue in this direction adding an element of daring in the instrumental writing. These quartets are not to be played by the faint of heart, since they contain some of the most virtuoso writing in every part. As in every set, Haydn reinvents the genre at least six times. The difference between the quartets within a set is at least as extreme as the difference between one set and another.

         Quartets Op. 64
The op 64s are a synthesis in another direction, this time combining the shorter forms more akin to the op 33s, with the virtuosity and outwardly friendly appeal of the last two sets, and the hidden puzzle elements are now integrated almost imperceptibly into the material.
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THE HAYDN QUARTETS SERIES (from Vol. 1 to Vol. 7)
The London Haydn Quartet (Hyperion Records)
__________________________________________________

 • Haydn Vol. 7: String Quartets Op. 64 (release 2 November 2018)

haydnquartetsOp64

• Haydn Vol. 1: String Quartets Op. 9
• Haydn Vol. 2: String Quartets Op. 17

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• Haydn Vol. 3: String Quartets Op. 20
• Haydn Vol. 4: String Quartets Op. 33

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• Haydn Vol. 5: String Quartets Op. 50
• Haydn Vol. 6: String Quartets Op. 54 & Op. 55

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London Haydn Quartet presents: Haydn, Op. 33 (Trailer)

London Haydn Quartet presents: Haydn, Op. 50 (Trailer)

London Haydn Quartet presents: Haydn, Op. 54 & Op. 55 (Trailer)

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2. Haydn is considered the father of Symphony and the father of Quartets: do you agree with this interpretation of his work as composer and as inventor and innovator? To prepare your Series of CDs on Haydn’s Quartets you had also to face and solve various situations you find in Haydn’s scores: what have been the major difficulties? How do the amazing creativity and the genius of Haydn emerge from his very Quartet scores?

Haydn’s inventiveness is absolutely staggering!

If ever any of my students has the impression that they know what kind of music Haydn wrote I take a volume of string quartets and we play a few. It is hard to find two among the complete works that one would even describe as similar!

I have particularly loved getting to know the piano sonatas and baryton trios and trying to guess what the starting point of the next one might be.

One of my ways to entertain myself is to listen to a Haydn piece I don’t know, and during the exposition to try to guess what he will do at the beginning of the development. I haven’t won at that game too many times!

To think that he was also writing symphonies, operas, incidental music for theatre and playing and rehearsing all of this is just mind-bending!

So yes, he was the inventor and innovator in all these fields but I don’t think he had any particular intention of fathering a genre!

As he himself observed, his isolation made him far more inventive than he might have been had he had more distraction from the outside world.

This inventiveness is almost problematic when we record because the music offers so many possibilities that as soon as you have played it in one way you are inspired to try another… And in a recording we have to choose only one!

One thing which is extraordinarily impressive as a quartet player working on Haydn is the care that he took with the part-writing…

… It might seem like an insignificant detail given the whole marvel of Haydn generally, but we have never once had to take action to help the composition…

… with the quartets of other composers one finds places where the tune will not work naturally in a particular register with the accompaniments it has for instance and a balance has to be deliberately adjusted…

… With Haydn I can’t think of a single place where this is the case!

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3. You have, in your repertoire, also the Quartets by Wranitzky, you are presenting during your tours of concerts. Can you tell us about him? He was in friendly relation with Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven: do you think you can actually find elements of Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven/pre-Beethoven in his Quartets?

We live in a very strange era in which for the first time in history the role of composers and performers have been separated.

Even as recently as the 1920s it was very unusual that someone was one and not the other.

In fact I think this has caused a great impoverishment of how we understand music and how we read, think and talk about it.

Of course it was natural that someone like Wranitzky, a violinist/conductor/composer living in Vienna, in the circle of serious musicians, would write string quartets…

In 1780s/1790s his works were regularly performed in concert with those by Mozart, Haydn and Pleyel and, as far as we know, Wranitzky was particularly appreciated by both Haydn and Beethoven, who expressly requested his presence as conductor of their works.

One does observe the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven refracted through the eyes of other composers around them and it is interesting to see which elements of their music interested them to pick up…

… It is usually the recognisable harmonic progressions or melodic contours which appear in other music but…

… but, about Wranitzky, I can say that I haven’t found anyone else yet who was experimenting to the same degree with form or with the process of setting up expectations and then subverting them.

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4. After all, Wranitzky also belonged to the same lodge as Mozart (Zur gekrönten Hoffnung) and, as Wyn Jones pointed out, since the beginning of the 1780s, like his brother Anton, considered himself a pupil of Haydn, and with Haydn’s permission: elève de m. Haydn (probably through some masterclass with Haydn).
                                            ____________

Your quartet The London Haydn Quartet was founded in 2000. How and why did you decide to found it and to dedicate it to Haydn? What attracts you the most about Haydn’s music? What your achievements in 18 years of concerts and recordings? You all also work as teachers, lecturers or give masterclasses: what are your very first pieces of advice and tips to those young musicians who are going to work on the 18th Century Chamber Music and especially on Haydn’s works?

I have loved Haydn all my life!

I first played his quartet opus 64 no 5 when I was 7 years old and was overcome with how beautiful it was!

Soon after that I planned for myself exactly the life I now have – playing string quartets and running a chamber music school. I even wrote a curriculum and timetable for this school which bears a striking resemblance to any given day at MusicWorks courses!

When violist James Boyd and I met at Prussia Cove in our mid-teens we decided to play all the Haydn quartets in the library over a three week period…

… We then met regularly to play Haydn with different people whenever possible…

… Finally in 2000 this developed into an actual quartet and it was obvious to us all that this music would work best with gut strings and classical bows.

Having discovered that many of the most incredible quartets never seemed to be programmed, we realised that the problem was caused by the concept that a concert should start with a short, and preferably cheerful, piece by Haydn and then move onto the more serious music.

… We wanted to let people hear the long, complex, transcendent and scary pieces by Haydn which would never fit into this opening slot of a mixed programme. So we presented concerts with three or four Haydn quartets and I can promise that no one ever complained about lack of variety!

After a while we allowed Mozart to join the party for our collaboration with period clarinettist Eric Hoeprich and Weber quickly seized his opportunity too!
We love programming combinations of works like the op 18 Beethoven quartets with the Haydn op 77s and trying to imagine that these works were being written simultaneously, for the same patron, within a twenty minute walk of each other!
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It seemed obvious that one of the best ways to help this music to be more known was to record them all.

We were so lucky that Hyperion, the dream chamber music label, agreed to embark on this journey with us and this has helped the music to be known to a much wider audience.

I am always so delighted to receive emails from listeners across the world whose lives have been illuminated by Haydn quartets they didn’t know before.
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At MusicWorks courses one of my favourite moments is when a young cellist tells me that Haydn is boring! I immediately find two other people and we go to play some of the most extraordinary Haydn together. The conversion process is quick and entirely painless!

We include a lot of Haydn quartets in the repertoire for the courses and we always approach it by getting the students to figure out how it is constructed, how it works harmonically, how the motifs interact with each other throughout the whole piece…

… On the junior courses I have heard amazing observations about structure from nine year olds – this is music that is intelligible and deeply rewarding for everyone who takes the time to look at it properly. I advise students to get to know as much of it as possible and every piece they know will inform their understanding of every other piece.

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

Impossible question!

I could not live without Mozart opera but I’m not sure I could choose one.

Perhaps Figaro?
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I simply cannot choose one Haydn work…

I need them all for different reasons.

If I was stuck on a desert island alone I think I’d be quite grateful for a score of the Creation…

… But I hope I might have the fortune to be marooned with the rest of the quartet and all the music for all the Haydn quartets!

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

Every time I play something by Hummel I think he is undeservedly neglected.

I have mentioned Wranitzky already but there is also Kraus, whose nickname of the Swedish Mozart is probably the most known thing about him.

HummelWranitzkyKraus

I have recently been playing one of his viola concertos and in the same programme a symphony with the Apollo Ensemble, and I am very inspired to know more of his music.

This is the link to a concert at the Concertgebouw in October with music by Haydn, Mozart and Kraus:
14 October 2018: Catherine Manson plays Kraus, Mozart & Haydn.

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7. Mozart, Wranitzky and Kraus… all born in 1756, the real year of Music…
                                            ____________

Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

I know this question is supposed to be about neglected composers but there are still so many works by Haydn that are neglected because they are generally misunderstood.

I would only like them to be played with more frequency if they had been understood first!

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Catherine Manson plays Haydn with Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra (CD Link)

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

I am so grateful for all the research that Robbins Landon did on every aspect of Haydn’s life and I refer to his books on a very regular basis.

I would also like tomorrow take this opportunity to express my huge appreciation of James Webster and Elaine Sisman‘s writings.

James Webster’s book on the Farewell Symphony is one of my favourites. Using that great and hugely misunderstood masterpiece as his focus he writes fascinatingly about many important things relating to this era of music.
I highly recommend everything they have both written.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

Phil Grabsky did great work with his In search of series (Mozart & BeethovenHaydn) and the one about Haydn’s life was terrific.

I wish we lived in an era when someone could make a documentary about Haydn’s music in similar depth to Alexander Goehr’s BBC series about Schoenberg.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

For me the palaces in Eisenstadt and Fertöd induce a special thrill.

Even despite all the changes in between I feel there is something of the atmosphere that Haydn knew in both places and I love that!

… But Vienna was really the centre of the musical life which gave us all these treasures with which we still spend our lives.

There is no other city where practically every building has quite so much cultural significance in musical history!

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HAYDN, MOZART & BEETHOVEN IN VIENNA
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  • Haydnhaus
Haydn’s final Vienna home, here Creation & Seasons were written.
• Mozarthaus
Mozart’s only surviving Vienna home (1784-1787). Here the Piano Concertos K.466, K.467, K.482, K.488, K.491, the Haydn QuartetsDavidde Penitente & Nozze di Figaro were written.
• Beethoven’s Eroicahaus
Here Eroica was written.
• Beethoven’s Pasqualatihaus
Here 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th & Fidelio were written.
• Beethoven’s Wohnung Heiligenstadt
Here 1802 works (ie. TempestThe HuntEroica VariationsKreutzer) were written.

• St. Stephen’s Cathedral – Wien Official Site
• St. Stephen’s Cathedral – Wien: Concerts
The Musical Activities of the Cathedral
• St. Stephen’s Cathedral – Wien: Radio Klassik Stephansdom
Regularly featuring music by Joseph & Michael Haydn

• Schoenbrunn Official Site

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2018 MozartCircle. All rights reserved. MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

CD Spotlight September 2018: Mozart’s Friends: Hoffmeister & Fiala in Concert

 

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Hoffmeister & Fiala
Hoffmeister and Fiala were both
composers and friends of Mozart.
In particular, we remember Fiala
(a pupil of J.B.Vanhal),
who in 1778/1779 received
his music position in Salzburg
also thanks to Leopold Mozart.
Albrecht Mayer
Kammerakademie Potsdam

Deutsche Grammophon

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Interview June 2018: 10 Questions with B. Goldscheider

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Ben Goldscheider: Official Sites
Ben Goldscheider Site: Ben Goldscheider Official Site
Ben Goldscheider: Ben Goldscheider (Twitter)
Ben Goldscheider: Ben Goldscheider (Facebook)
Ben Goldscheider: Ben Goldscheider (YouTube)

Ben Goldscheider: CD Albums
Ben Goldscheider: Debut (at Amazon)


1. This year you are presenting a very intense series of International Concerts, featuring, among others, works for Horn by J. Haydn, W.A. Mozart, L. van Beethoven and C.M. von Weber, a relative of Mozart and of his wife Constanze and friend of Beethoven. You have just performed Mozart’s Concerto No. 4, then J. Haydn’s Horn Concerto No. 1 at Philharmonie Berlin and you will perform Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 next October-November and then Haydn again… Can you tell us about Mozart’s writing for Horn and that of J. Haydn seen in comparison? And what about the evolution of the treatment of Horn Solo part from Haydn and Mozart to Beethoven and Weber?

Something that is essential to understand the horn writing of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Weber, is to first understand what kind of horn they were writing for.

Unlike the instrument that everyone will be familiar with today, the above mentioned composers were working with what we now call the natural horn; a horn without valves. This meant that the instrument could only play in one key at a time (something that was quite literally determined by the length of tubing that was attached to the horn) and furthermore, only play the tones of the harmonic series.

The harmonic series is a set of pitches that lie in nature, they are the natural vibrating tones of a specific length of any piece of tubing. This means this series is available on any hosepipe, scaffolding tube or toilet roll if vibrated correctly. Obviously, this posed problems for the instrument as it was not possible to play a chromatic scale and so some of the leading horn players of the day started to change the position of their hand inside the bell in order to quite literally change the length of the tube and thus be able to produce the notes that lay in between these pitches of the harmonic series. As you will see from the diagram below, the natural pitches of the harmonic series get closer together as they get higher and thus most of the melodic lines that Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven wrote tend to fall around the middle of the staff and upwards, mainly due to the availability of pitches. So, when looking at the horn writing of these magnificent composers, one also sees a remarkable knowledge and sensitivity to the physical obstacles the players face in regards to the manner in which they write.

The musical intentions of the composers can be seen very clearly when practised in this natural way as the stresses and directions of the phrases are clearly defined by the change in timbre that results from this hand stopping technique.

Between the different composers, you also see a lot of difference in the style they employ the horn. For example, Mozart and Weber make a lot of use of chromatic movement in the form of fast scalic passages whereas Haydn and Beethoven make much more use of the open series, writing many passages of broken chords and arpeggios.

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Ben Goldscheider’s Videos:

Ben Goldscheider in Mozart Horn Concerto No. 4
Goldscheider plays Mozart’s Horn Concerto

Ben Goldscheider in Mozart Horn Quintet
Goldscheider plays Mozart’s Horn Quintet

Ben Goldscheider in J.S.Bach, Nun Komm’ der Heiden Heiland

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2. On 2 February 2018 you have released your critically acclaimed Debut Recording with works for French Horn and Piano. Among the composers you have chosen, there are Schumann and von Krufft, the latter being considered, by a few scholars, as a forerunner of Schubert in chamber music. von Krufft was, in particular, a pupil, in composition, of Albrechtsberger (friend of J. and M. Haydn and of Mozart and composition teacher of Hummel, Beethoven and Reicha). What led you to choose the pieces for you CD Debut? You have in your repertoire also the octet by Schubert: what the difference between Schubert and Schumann?

For me, it was very important to choose a wide range of pieces that represented the whole development of the horn from this natural horn I spoke about previously to the modern horn of today.

In particular, I wanted to convey how as the instrument developed physically/mechanically, the music written for it developed too.

With the pieces I chose for the disc, we begin in the 21st Century with Jörg Widmann’s Air for Solo Horn, a piece written in 2005. This piece, to me, is especially interesting as it plays with the idea of the texture an instrumentalist can create. Normally, a solo instrument has the possibility to play monophonically by itself, homophonically and polyphonically with other instruments. With Widmann’s piece, the soloist plays the entire piece into the open lid of a grand piano having previously secured the sustaining pedal down with a pair of scissors. The result is that the horn player is alone but is able to sustain harmonies on the vibrating strings inside the piano lid.

Next is the Krufft Sonata which is a piece of salon music and is somewhat representative of a the vocal and virtuosic qualities of the natural horn. Whilst there is a lot of chromatic movement in this piece (especially if one compares it with the more famous Beethoven Horn Sonata), it is fairly obvious that the melodic and harmonic writing are simplified to an extent in order to accommodate the difficulties of the natural horn. As was also common at the time, there is little use of the lower register of the horn as here, the harmonic series are much further away from one another and thus writing anything of melodic interest is quite difficult.

Then there is a move to Schumann’s famous Adagio and Allegro, a piece that is considered to be the first major work written for the valved horn. It is very clear in Schumann’s writing that he wanted to explore these new possibilities with the instrument and the result is an extremely virtuosic work that unsurprisingly, has been taken and performed on the cello and violin amongst other instruments. I feel that this piece really encapsulates Schumann’s personality with it providing a lot of extreme contrasts in both harmony, tempi and register; especially in the Allegro Section. When comparing the style of Schumann and Schubert, I think the main difference is that of pushing the music of the time to extremes. If I talk specifically about the chamber music of Schumann and Schubert that includes the horn, Schubert is far more classical if you like with regard to his treatment of form and harmony in comparison with Schumann. There is a constant underlying feeling of restlessness in Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro, with an extremely fiery spirit that I think is not so typical of Schubert. Saying that, I also find a lot of similarities in both composer’s music. They both write incredibly intimately and personally, with perhaps the difference being that Schubert plays more by the rules and Schumann was more willing to lay his soul out on the page.

After Schumann, there is the York Bowen Horn Sonata and Volker David Kirchner’s Tre Poemi for Horn and Piano. These pieces, written just over forty years apart (1937 and 1980 respectively), show how music changed dramatically in the 20th Century. York Bowen was dubbed the English Rachmaninov and this can be seen through his treatment of incredibly dense and romantic harmony, long melodic lines and arguably a direct quotation from Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto in the second movement of the Horn Sonata. Kirchner’s Tre Poemi is another piece that uses the technique of the horn playing into the piano, albeit in a more extreme and aggressive way. These three short movements really explore the horn’s expressive qualities in a modern manner, with the third movement akin to a foggy morning in the mountains.

Lastly, there is Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Concert Etude for solo horn. This is one of my favourite pieces for horn that people during the BBC Young Musician Competition seemed particularly drawn towards. With Salonen being a horn player himself, there is a strong sense of practical knowledge behind the writing that makes it so idiomatic. He fully explores all the extended techniques of the modern horn to their very extremes and still manages to maintain a beautiful homage to his late horn teacher.

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3. You are a student of the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin and of the Royal College of Music and you have followed studies in music also with other important Schools and International Academies. Now how do you see this long path of studies and how do you think it enriched you and your life, as an artist? What are your pieces of advice and tips to those young musicians, who start playing the French Horn both as soloists and as members of an orchestra? 

Without drawing too much on a cliché, I really think that studying and learning is the best possible thing people can do!

Specifically, at the Barenboim-Said Academy, we study music in a very broad sense.

Alongside our musical classes in Theory, Ear Training and Music History, we study the humanities. These, over a four-year period include; Philosophy, Literature, History, History of Art and Global Issues.

What I think this succeeds in doing is giving musicians a context to what they are doing and also teaches us how to think on a deeper level (at least from what I was used to before having had this education) and thus be able to approach music, over time perhaps, in a deeper way.

For example, if we are studying Beethoven in our Music History Classes, the rest of our classes will support this. So, in our Theory and Ear Training classes, we will look at examples of Beethoven’s works, analyse them and perform ear training exercises based on his style. In our Philosophy classes, we will be studying the work of Hegel and seeing how Beethoven’s tremendous musical innovation was in part influenced by the incredible innovation occurring in German philosophy at that time. In a history class, we might study the French Revolution and see how the attitudes since 1789 appealed to his imagination and frustration. At the end of all this, you have a much clearer picture of the life and times of the great composers that we try and make a living from performing.

My advice for other young musicians is that this type of knowledge and understanding is an incredibly interesting aspect to musical education that is somewhat neglected. Personally, I feel it enriches not only your musical but intellectual life and simply gives you another dimension to your studies.

On a more practical note towards younger horn players, PRACTISE.

I don’t believe anybody has made a successful career in music without, at some point in their lives, going through a very intense period of studying and experimenting with their instruments. Finally, and something that is often looked over (specifically by myself) is to enjoy what you are doing and know that in essence, you have to make beautiful music.

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4. You are the Winner of the BBC Young Musician Brass Category 2016 and this Summer 2018 you’ll make also your BBC Proms debut on 15 July and then on 14 August. What are your memories and considerations about your experience at the BBC Young Musician 2016? And what your expectations about your BBC Proms debut, in particular, since you’ll play horn in a very peculiar repertoire from Tchaikovsky to Scriabin to modern contemporary composers: your approach to the horn will be so different from that used for Mozart, Haydn and the Classical and Romantic repertoire?

For me, BBC Young Musician was one of the most exciting chapters of my life. The competition itself is part and parcel of being a young musician in the UK and so during the entire process (which takes 9 months), I just felt incredibly lucky to be part of it. I learnt an extraordinary amount about myself and was able to gain invaluable experience of playing under rather huge pressure at a rather young age. It meant so much to me that still, two years on, I can remember exactly what I was wearing, what I ate and the conversations I had on the days of each round leading up from the very first regional audition to the Grand Final. The exposure and platform it gave have been the groundwork for my career and I am incredibly grateful for everything the competition has done, and is still doing for me.

This summer, I will make my debut as a soloist at the BBC Proms, commissioning a new work by David Bruce for four solo instruments and orchestra. Often, I am asked what my dream concert would be and I have to say, the answer was always that; to commission a new piece at the BBC Proms. To be doing this at 20 years old is quite overwhelming and I am so grateful to the team at the BBC for giving me this opportunity. There are really no words to describe how much I’m looking forward to it!

Then, later on in August, I will play with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim at the Proms. This concert falls right into the middle of our summer tour and I am really looking forward to taking a bit of my life in Germany and sharing this with the wonderful audience at the Proms.

The approach to all these different programmes and scenarios does change slightly the way in which I approach the horn but not as much as you would think. Playing as a soloist for a classical or early romantic work requires an incredibly flexible, free and open condition of the lips whereas to play a Bruckner symphony in the orchestra requires a more physically strong and durable structure.

Because of the variety that a musician these days encounter, I try as much as possible to make sure that these styles are at my disposal on a daily basis and thus I have come up with a daily work-out which covers everything I might need to play!

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

As every musician will tell you, this is an extremely difficult question to answer!

They will also tell you that this answer probably changes on a day to day basis and so as I’m writing this,… my favourite piece by Mozart is his 40th Symphony in G minor.

I think it’s just an incredibly beautiful piece of music that encompasses so many emotions and yet somehow manages to remain fundamentally neutral.
If you listen to this piece when you’re in a good mood, you will describe it as an uplifting, happy piece.

Conversely, if you listen to this piece when you are sad, you will say that is a piece full of sorrow and pain.

This neutrality of music and how we react as a listener and interpret as a performer to it is something I am very interested in and I think this symphony is a good example of how to study this.

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With Haydn, however, I am much more loyal to my own instrument and will say that his first Horn concerto in D major is my favourite piece. Especially the slow movement!

It has a fantastic energy that I think is quite rare to most horn music and I have such fun playing it.

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach!

Although biologically impossible, I think if his father hadn’t been around he would be held in a significantly higher regard in the history of music and performed MUCH more!

His music is extremely interesting and, in places, so quirky that you really cannot believe he is writing pre-Mozart/Beethoven.

In my opinion, his music foresaw the Sturm und Drang (Storm and drive/stress) movement that developed towards the end of his life in the 1760’s.

Often so turbulent and expressive, he really epitomises the transition between the Baroque and Classical period by experimenting heavily with the idea of newness in his music.

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

The Sextet for two Horns and String Quartet, Op. 81b by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Written in 1795, this is a fantastic piece for two horns and string quartet that I have never played or heard in a concert so it definitely gets my vote.

Much like the Mozart Horn Quintet for Horn and strings, this piece is almost concerto like in terms of its treatment of the two solo horns and is a wonderful gem of a piece that should certainly be in the repertoire of more horn players.

The first movement is rather strong in its character and somewhat reminiscent of Beethoven’s relentless energy we see in the symphonies yet somehow stays rather sad and sombre at the same time.

The second movement is a slow lullaby with one of my favourite moments of dissonance in the whole of music!

The last movement is similar to the first, albeit takes on more of a hunting and heroic style than a sombre one.

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

Unfortunately I haven’t come across a book that has given me significant insight to be able to write about it at length, although I can highly recommend visiting Vienna and seeing where the First Viennese school worked and lived as this somehow gives you an insight to the character of their personalities and lives.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

I guess that answer about books stands also for the movies…

10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

I think Leipzig is a fascinating place to visit in terms of music!

It has a quite remarkable crop of composers that stretches more into the 19th Century but Bach, Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck all lived there for a period of time and one can also see the strong influence of Edward Grieg and Franz Liszt, two musicians who spent a lot of time there in their careers.

There is also the wonderful Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra which was founded in 1743!

I personally cannot think of another city which can boast such a rich heritage and it is a city that is rightly rather proud of this!

In a day, one can visit the St Thomas Church where Bach was working, visit the homes of Grieg and Mendelssohn and learn about all the composers lives at the museum.

With Bach arguably setting the precedent in terms of music composition, one could quite easily say that Leipzig was crucial in nurturing important aspects of a long lasting musical tradition.

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2018 MozartCircle. All rights reserved. MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

CD Review June 2018: Perkins – Abbate, Mozart’s Piano Duets Vol. 1 & Vol. 2

re16aahdForget, for a moment, modern life.

Switch off the lights, light some candles and the laser light which will perform your music… Choose your most comfortable and favourite sofa, help yourself to some true 18th century punch (each house had its own recipe for their guests at their music soirées) and enjoy your perfect 18th century soirée… with the music by Mozart, his friend and mentor J.C. Bach, his beloved rival M. Clementi and two highly skilled and sensitive performers leading us through this charming journey on very beautiful historical instruments: Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate.

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Julian Perkins & Emma Abbate

CD1: Mozart: Piano Duets Vol. 1 (Resonus Classics)

CD2: Mozart: Piano Duets Vol. 2 (Resonus Classics)

Julian Perkins (Official Site)
Founder Director of Sounds Baroque.
Artistic Director
of Cambridge Handel Opera.
Emma Abbate (Official Site)
Professor at
Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Staff coach at
Royal Opera House (Covent Garden).

CONTENTS
1. All the charm of brilliant and beautiful cantabiles…

    2. Mozart and a special demanding repertoire for the 18th
century soirées spent with his friends…

    3. Mozart: Piano Duets Vol. 1.
Dedicated to Nannerl and Franziska von Jacquin.

    4. Mozart: Piano Duets Vol. 2.
A masterpiece, again Nannerl and possibly Pichler’s (?)
fragments with a World Premiere Recording.

    5. J.C. Bach – M. Clementi: A wise and correct habit.
    6. Mozart & Clementi again… a curiosity from Spring 1786.

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1. All the charm of brilliant and beautiful cantabiles…
As you can see from the special story behind these works for piano 4-hands (and especially those by Mozart), all the pieces (apart from K19d and, in part, K381) can be considered, in general, difficult or rather demanding pieces, even though at different levels, with K381 (for Mozart) probably an easier work and K521 and K497 the most difficult ones, also in consideration of the very careful interpretation needed here.

The first impression you’ll have by listening to this marvellous series of CD Albums by Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate is the absolute charming beauty of their cantabiles and the authentic brilliant and lively Mozartian verve and spirit which breathes from every note. Their singing and almost operatic style of playing these works 4-hands is finely endowed with a joyous sprezzatura, which this kind of music always always requires, to be correctly performed.

Moreover you will really enjoy the fine and delicious variations created by the two pianists at any ritornello. An art this even more appreciated, since, even though the two performers correctly never go too far, it gives a fine and vivid hint of what probably was the actual lively and a bit free performance practice, during the music gatherings of Mozart and his friends.

The interpretation of these pieces reaches a splendid fusion of intents, which, thanks also to the accurate choice of proper historical instruments rich in a marvellously warm sound (especially those used for Mozart’s piano duets), creates a much enjoyable 18th century atmosphere and is well co-ordinated between the two players.
The accurate work in rendering a beautiful, brilliant and refined fraseggio makes a few tracks of these CDs particularly remarkable for their interpretation. You’ll certainly enjoy, in particular, the sonatas K381, K521,  J.C. Bach’s and Clementi’s Sonatas and the magnificent monumental K497, with its 1st movement cantabiles and dynamics, the delicious fraseggio of its 3rd movement and, above all, both the Adagio and the Andante rendered with such a magical timbre and a series of soft nuances of expression which well paints the subtle musical texture of this piece… and all this under the masterly hands of the duo Perkins-Abbate, a duo that demonstrates too well how the music by Mozart, Clementi and J.C. Bach must really sing.

Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate perfectly master all the technical and mechanical characteristics of the historical pianos used for these recordings, so that they are capable of achiving those peculiar suggestive tones and that peculiar warmth and softness and delicacy of sound… id est all those interpretative subtleties which are especially demanded by the very nature of the pieces themselves, and, in particular, those Mozart’s passages in K497 piano and pianissimo will resound in all their fascinating velvety beauty.

The Mozartian interpretation given by the duo Perkins-Abbate can well be seen within that glorious tradition of a few great Mozart interpreters such as Edwin Fischer and Alicia de Larrocha.

This beautiful Series of CD Albums will make you appreciate, one more time, some beautiful masterpieces by Mozart, J.C. Bach and Clementi, from their very special convivial or Geselligkeit repertoire, and probably, thanks to the two brilliant interpreters and their fine choices… in the most authentic soirée atmosphere possible.

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2. Mozart and a special demanding repertoire for the 18th century soirées spent with his friends…
The very interesting choice made by Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate offers the possibility of exploring a special repertoire for piano (and a particularly difficult one, since it was usually thought, in origin, for an elite category of extra-skilled interpreters) and to cast some light, through the music itself and Perkins-Abbate’s interpretation, onto the tradition of social music gatherings in the 18th century and on the forms of musical practice and performance.

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Quartets, quintets, trios, duos, duets, etc. i.e. chamber music in general played an important role in the social habits of the 18th century society. Music soirées (either soirées organized at some very notable stylish salon or simple gatherings of friends for playing some music among dinners, good food, spicy drinks, some dancing, much talking, music listening and music playing: according to the Irish tenor Michael Kelly, one of the first performers of Le Nozze di Figaro in 1786, a good punch, at these soirées, was the favourite drink of Mozart himself: «He was remarkably fond of punch»; and from other accounts we know also that Mozart adored dancing) were a fundamental part of the social life in the second half of the 18th century and the public demand for new music (to be consumed at the soirées with one’s friends, both amateur players and professional musicians doesn’t matter) was really abundant and important.
A few composers even managed to transform all this into a profitable business, like Kozeluch and his own publishing firm, the Musikalisches Magazin, founded in 1785.
Also Mozart had his part, and a considerable one, in this peculiar context of social habits. Apart from his quartets, the piano sonatas, the violin and piano sonatas, etc. production, he and his sister, when travelling across Europe (literally as child prodigies of Nature), managed to make a particular form of work for keyboard rather popular: the pieces for keyboard 4-hands, an interesting form of performance, which could well highlight the incredible capabilities of the two performers.
In June 1784 an English author, whose identity is still unknown, could assert about the origin of this genre of composition in England:
«The first instance of two persons performing on one instrument in this kingdom was exhibited in the year 1765 by little Mozart and his sister».
After this first period of marvellous public performances by the Wunderkind himself, this kind of repertoire remained a sort of firm label for Mozart and his sister throughout the 1770s and those people who wanted to meet Mozart, his sister and his father personally, and privately, could reach the house of the Mozarts at Salzburg and have the possibility of listening to Mozart and his sister playing piano duets.
Even the famous large family portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce, painted in 1780-1781, has Mozart and his sister playing piano duets together at the keyboard…

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When Mozart left Salzburg to reach Vienna, many things changed drastically in the life of Mozart.
Nonetheless, as far as we know, the Viennese social gatherings gave the occasion to Wolfgang to approach the genre of the works for keyboard 4-hands (and that for 2 pianos) on a completely new basis: no more his sister at his side, but the composer, singer and pianist Marianne von Martinez and then Caroline Pichler and Franziska von Jacquin, the sister of his close friends, the von Jacquins, who usually organized Geselligkeit evenings (i.e. conviviality evenings) on Wednesday evenings are among the names we know associated to the piano 4-hands production and performance by Mozart. So these women, who, after 1781, usually played piano 4-hands works with Mozart in well known social contexts, were skilled performers belonging to notable families who regularly promoted music soirées in Vienna.
As for other music genres cultivated by Mozart, the great master never thought to simplify his art, his music to meet the trivial necessities of common music amateur players (as other composers of his era did) and even when he writes music for the principianti his art remains sublime and untouched in its masterly construction.

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That’s the reason, in any case, why Mozart’s music was not a particular best seller in score in that period, being de facto too sophisticated or even difficult for the average amateur player of the music soirées… (see, just an example among others, the problems with his Dissonance Quartet) and why Kozeluch became richer than Mozart in this peculiar branch of music mass production of the 18th century.
Nonetheless, as far as we know from various accounts on Mozart at the soirées (see Michael Kelly, Da Ponte, Caroline Pichler and others), when there was a soirée and Mozart was there with his friends, Mozart’s music was often in the programme of the music soirée (written music or improvised one were both common) and often with highly distinguished listeners (i.e. the great Neapolitan composer Paisiello) and highly distinguished performers (i.e. Haydn, Maximilian Stadler, Dittersdorf, Vanhal and others).
And we have also a curious anecdote on Mozart, playing piano duets during these conviviality evenings: at Caroline Pichler’s own salon, the highly talented lady pianist Pichler was playing some music at piano and suddenly Mozart sat at her side and stopped her playing and then started improvising a piano duet together (it seems he was reworking some music from his Figaro) and when they completed their improvisational duet piano performance, Mozart «began leaping and somersaulting about the room while meowing like a cat». Was Mozart happy with Pichler’s ability in improvisation 4-hands?… Being a piano duet improvisation a difficult art of its own not for the average common amateur music performer, such episode highlights the great talent of Caroline Pichler as pianist, that very Pichler who was considered «one of Vienna’s foremost lady pianists with a masterly touch, strong in execution, and undaunted by the greatest difficulties».
Those, who well know the complicated story behind most of Mozart’s music fragments apparently left unfinished, will discover, in this anecdote, the great master’s habit of jotting down some ideas derived from his own soirées musical improvisations of the kind described by Caroline Pichler. And therefore the famous fragments of Mozart’s piano 4-hands works still surviving belong to this very peculiar category of compositions: works, in reality, fully performed as improvisation during some music gathering, then written down on some music paper by Mozart as a pro memoria of some good ideas and then left without completion, even for years: the Clarinet Concerto K622 is a great example of this way of working.

But let’s see, in details, the Contents of the two CD Albums by Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate…

3. Mozart: Piano Duets Vol. 1. Dedicated to Nannerl and Franziska von Jacquin.
With their particular choice, Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate wanted to dedicate the first volume of the piano duets to two important figures in Mozart’s life: his sister and companion of professional concerts tours Nannerl Mozart and to Franziska von Jacquin (or in Mozartianese own language Sigra. Dinimininimi), that talented pianist pupil of Mozart (and sister of one of his closest friends Gottfried von Jacquin, in Mozartianese language HinkitiHonky), who often became the official and/or unofficial dedicatee of various difficult piano masterpieces by Mozart during his stay in Vienna in the 1780s.

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In fact, Mozart’s pieces presented by the duo Perkins-Abbate in this first volume belong exactly to those two different periods of Mozart’s piano 4-hands music production: the Salzburg 1770s years with his sister Nannerl kept as a reference performer and the Vienna 1780s years mainly with his friend and pupil Franziska von Jacquin as reference performer…
… and, under a certain point of view, the story of piano 4-hands music production is really also the story of a few of the most famous lady pianists in history, from Nannerl Mozart to Caroline Pichler.

a. Nannerl (Salzburg) and Marianne von Martinez (Vienna)
The two duet sonatas K381 and K358 were written in 1772 and in 1773/1774 respectively. They were intended to be performed with Nannerl at Salzburg during various occasions, and, in particular, when someone wanted to meet the Mozarts in person at their home. The manuscripts of the two works remained in possession of Nannerl after his brother’s leaving for Vienna in 1781. However, Mozart kept copies of these works as a fundamental vademecum for his teaching activity and, when in Mannheim (1777-1778), he used these particular duets to be played only with the best students there. When in Vienna, Mozart managed to have these two pieces published by Artaria in 1783 among his first printed works and this is sufficient to understand the importance of such compositions for Mozart. Probably these works were among those performed 4-hands with Marianne von Martinez at her own very famous Viennese salon.

b. Franziska von Jacquin (Vienna)
As we have seen previously, Mozart’s relationship with important and skilled Viennese lady pianists led to piano duets performances during the so called conviviality evenings. Mozart’s connection to the family von Jacquin was profound and long lasting and his talented pupil Franziska became the ideal skilled performer of a few works by him. In particular, the Sonata 4-hands K521 (29 May 1787) must have had Franziska as a reference performer, since we still have Mozart’s own covering letter for this rather demanding composition:
«Give this sonata to your sister [i.e. Franziska] with my compliments and tell her to start working on it at once as it is rather difficult».
The suggestion of start working must imply that Mozart wanted to play this work with Franziska at some soirée…
However, the final published version appeared in 1788 as dedicated to another pupil of Mozart, Babette de Natorp, and to her sister Nanette. And again Mozart’s choice makes us understand that Mozart saw this kind of difficult works for piano 4-hands as a sort of official recognition of the particular technical command of the piano technique attained by his pupils: is it a reminiscence of his own musical path as a Wunderkind?

4. Mozart: Piano Duets Vol. 2. A masterpiece, again Nannerl and possibly Pichler’s (?) fragments with a World Premiere Recording.
With their second volume of piano duets, Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate decided to shift their interest onto the masterpiece of this collection of piano works 4-hands (K497) and onto a very interesting series of fragments (K357 in a new modern completion in a world premiere recording) and onto a fundamental doubtful work (the K19d), the two latter ones both important compositions to comprehend the technique, method of work and the most intimate world of sounds of the great master.

a. Sonata 4-hands K497 an extra-demanding masterpiece 
Both K521 and K497 belong to a professionally marvellous period for Mozart: that extremely prolific series of two years between Le Nozze di Figaro (1786) and Don Giovanni (1787). This K497 4-hands is universally recognized as one of the highest point of Mozart’s art, along with the most famous series of his Haydn Quartets and has been always scholarly praised for his excellent musical texture by such scholars as Alfred Einstein and Donald Francis Tovey. What is demanding here is not only the musical piece itself, but its very interpretation and once more we realize how Mozart considered such works for piano 4-hands not a mere trivial occasion of playing music with his friends, but rather, and without any compromise, a sort of artistic summa of piano technique. And that’s why, as Alfred Eistein pointed out, we find here the elements typical of Mozart’s orchestral works and of piano concertos with even pre-Beethovenian nuances and atmospheres.

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b. Sonata K19d a fundamental influential work  
The Sonata K19d belongs to the London period (1765) and probably it was the piece used by Nannerl and little Wolfgang during their astonishing series of concerts as natural music prodigies. This Sonata is at the very centre of a scholarly dispute, since its paternity is not certain (we are not sure that child prodigy Mozart wrote this work in 1760s) and hence it has been recently moved among the works of doubtful authenticity. Nonetheless this very Sonata must have had a great influence on Mozart, because a clear and distinct echo of its brilliant finale movement Rondeau: Allegretto can be heard in the finale of the Gran Partita K361 (1781) and both in the finale of the piano sonatas per principianti K545 and K547a (both 1788). The fact that Mozart re-worked the finale of K19d (a piece which belonged to his youth and to the London year 1765) for his famous piano sonata per principianti must be surely somehow meaningful.

c. World Premiere Recording K357 completed by Robert D. Levin  
The two music fragments re-united and completed in the 19th century as K357 belong to that amazing huge corpus of music fragments and snippets left by Mozart. The art of completing such fragments left by Mozart unfinished (at least on paper, since probably he performed them in a full form during his concerts… or during the conviviality soirées, thanks to his incredible improvisational talent) has an old and long tradition which dates back to Mozart’s friends such as Maximilian Stadler and Süssmayr and to his wife Constanze.
The origin of these fragments can be easily found in that aforementioned anecdote by the excellent pianist Caroline Pichler on her duet with Mozart and in Mozart’s habit of improvising even works for piano 4-hands during the conviviality evenings…
The 19th century completion left by Andrè (1853) is characterized by a few philological problems. So, being Mozart’s original fragments (which belong to two different periods, 1787 and 1791) sufficiently rather long, the modern accurate work carried on by Levin restores the fragments of Mozart in a new completed form, this time respectful of the original compass of Mozart-era pianos and of Mozart’s own technique of composition.
Perkins and Abbate present here the world premiere recording of this completion by Levin and we hope that this completion will find its way towards popularity among international pianists.

5. J.C. Bach – M. Clementi: A wise and correct habit.
The inclusion of piano 4-hands works by J.C. Bach and by M. Clementi is a very wise choice by Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate.
And it must be said that fortunately it is an increasingly wise and correct habit from the modern generation of 18th century music performers, i.e. to have, for example, Kraus’s symphonies in the same CD Album with Haydn’s symphonies etc.
If in the era of Mozart there were many Kleinmeister of scarce quality, on the contrary, there were many great masters of that era, whose work for various and even bizarre reasons did not receive the right attention it deserved. Unfortunately what many people usually fail to correctly comprehend is that such composers like J.C. Bach, Vanhal, Dittersdorf, etc. developed their own personal Classical Era style already in the 1760s, when Mozart was only 5 years old and that child prodigy Mozart grew up studying and practicing in the style of these composers… even though the bad long habit of considering the music of the 18th century as a whole undifferentiated organism might lead to erroneously think the contrary!

So, thanks to the duo Perkins-Abbate, the two works by J.C. Bach and M. Clementi will be a nice discovery in this set of CD Albums and a motive of true enjoyment, being their sonatas 4-hands really delightful!

Even though written only in 1778 the Sonata in A major by J.C. Bach features many characteristics of his own style (in particular its Allegretto), that finely singing style that the young child prodigy Mozart, in 1765, had the possibility of studying with the composer in person in London and then, during the following years, through J.C. Bach’s scores. After 1765, J.C. Bach and Mozart remained always on friendly terms and in 1770 Mozart even officially became the pupil of the same famous teacher as J.C. Bach, that Padre Martini of Bologna, Italy (an authentic father of many great music composers), whose golden rule in composition was that «the beauty in music reveals itself naturally as a natural expression of masterly constructed parts», as Jommelli, another famous pupil of Padre Martini, put it more or less.

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6. Mozart & Clementi again… a curiosity from Spring 1786.
The story of Mozart borrowing from Clementi’s piano works to create his famous overture for The Magic Flute in 1791 is well known and it is also well known how, according to Clementi, all this originated from Mozart’s reminiscences of their famous duel occurred ten years earlier in Vienna in 1781.
Now this may seem pure impression and fortuitous coincidence but Clementi’s Sonata Op. 14 No. 3 features in his Rondo: Allegro a well marked bar, which works as the conclusive seal of the whole piece and which curiously sounds like the extra-famous rhythmic motive of the Farfallone Amoroso from Le Nozze di Figaro.
The similarity here must be purely coincidental… A direct influence here may be probably very difficult and, above all, should be strictly historically and properly documented, but since this Sonata 4-hands by Clementi was first published in March 1786 and Mozart’s Figaro premiered in May 1786… well… what a striking coincidence!
Moreover this work by Clementi (performed on an ancient original square piano by Clementi & Co. London) is certainly among his best and liveliest products ever and the Adagio and the Rondo: Allegro are really two magnificent and very enjoyable masterpieces in their own right!

MozartCircle
S. & L.M. Jennarelli

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Copyright © 2018 MozartCircle. All rights reserved. MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

Interview May 2018: 10 Questions with L. Bosch

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Leon Bosch: Official Sites
Leon Bosch Site: Leon Bosch Official Site
Leon Bosch Site: Leon Bosch – I Musicanti (Official Site)
Leon Bosch: Leon Bosch (Twitter)
Leon Bosch: Leon Bosch (LinkedIn)
Leon Bosch: Leon Bosch (Facebook)
Leon Bosch: I Musicanti Publishing
Leon Bosch: Leon Bosch (Meridian Records)

Leon Bosch: CD Albums
Leon Bosch: Dittersdorf: Virtuoso Works for Double Bass
Leon Bosch: Bottesini: Virtuoso Double Bass Vol. 2
Leon Bosch: Bottesini: Virtuoso Double Bass Vol. 1


1. You have released a marvellous CD Album with the Complete Works for Solo Double Bass by Dittersdorf, teacher of Vanhal and among the friends of Haydn and Mozart. Can you tell us about these special rather demanding and magnificent works left by Dittersdorf, the story behind them and their fortune among the contrabassists, also today? What led you to produce this special CD Album with the music by Dittersdorf for the Solo Double Bass? What attracts you most about Dittersdorf’s music, with that for double bass especially written between 1766 and 1767?

The Classical era was a golden period for the double bass, and it is believed that around 250 concertos were written for the instrument during that musical epoch.

Without Johannes Matthias Sperger (1750 – 1812) however, Dittersdorf’s concertos for double bass, the concerto by Vanhal, and many other solo works for the instrument would now be lost forever. Sperger was not only double bassist in Haydn’s orchestra at Esterházy, but a virtuoso solo performer in his own right, and a prolific composer too; he is credited with at least eighteen solo concertos, a handful of sonatas, many beautiful pieces of chamber music with double bass, as well as orchestral music, much of which is only just coming to public attention.

Dittersdorf’s autographs of his works for double bass have not survived, but it was Sperger’s set of parts, in the hand of a careless Viennese copyist, that provided the sole basis for the survival of both concertos, the sinfonia concertante for viola, double bass and orchestra, as well as the duetto for viola and double bass.

They were composed for the brave Pischelberger whom Dittersdorf himself met in Vienna in 1760s and then employed as one of the soloists in his orchestra at Court in Grosswardein (now Oradea, Romania), and Rodney Slatford’s Yorke Edition first published these in 1978, decades in advance of the Urtext movement.

Georg Hörtnagel’s LP recording of Dittersdorf’s second concerto, on the Turnabout label (along with the Sinfonia Concertante) ensured its popularity with bassists, and it retains its utility as an audition piece for many orchestras around the world.

My own relationship with Dittersdorf’s second concerto began in 1980, when I performed the Schott/Tischer-Zeit version with University of Cape Town’s Symphony Orchestra conducted by Allan Stephenson; I still possess a cassette tape of the recording we made a few days after that performance, and it reminds me of the ground I have covered since then.

The performance of music from the classical era has undergone a revolution of sorts during my time as a professional musician, and so too has my own understanding, that is now informed by innumerable interrelated factors, not least the experience I have accumulated over more than thirty years as a soloist, chamber orchestra principal, chamber musician and pedagogue.

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It was my own curiosity that initially drove me to learn all of Dittersdorf’s music for double bass, before I moved on to the concertos by Vanhal, Zimmerman and Hoffmeister, whom I subsequently discovered to have composed three concertos and four solo quartets for the instrument. I also began to explore the slightly earlier concertos by Capuzzi, Pichl, Cimador and Kohaut, and although I already have two of his sonatas in my repertoire, my exploration of Sperger’s concertos has only just begun.

The available literature on the subject of historically informed performance of the music of the classical era is now more extensive than ever, and so too reliable editions.

Participating in the London Mozart Players’ Contemporaries of Mozart recording project as principal double bass under the baton of Matthias Bamert, introduced me to unfamiliar composers and many new works, whilst the Academy of St Martin in the Fields’ unique manner of working allowed me the opportunity to explore the iconic standard classical repertoire much more deeply.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields has enjoyed a special affinity and acclaimed relationship with the music of the classical period (see the extensive recordings of the symphonies, concertos amongst others, by Mozart, on the Philips label) and proved to be the perfect partner for my project to record this CD of all Dittersdorf’s solo works for double bass; it will remain a durable testament to a supremely rewarding chapter in my musical life.

For this recording I decided to perform the Yorke Edition version, along with Sperger’s own cadenzas, and my friend the conductor and musicologist David Murphy prepared the orchestral material from Sperger’s set of parts.

Classical concertos are invariably in D major, on account of Viennese tuning (A-D-F#-A). This tuning produces a unique resonance, whilst also enabling unique figurations in passagework.

Performing classical solo repertoire on a modern double bass tuned in fourths (E-A-D-G) presents many challenges therefore, not least recreating the kind of resonance associated with Viennese tuning, and negotiating the complex passagework, that becomes even more fiendish on fourths tuning. In his edition of the second concerto for Schott, Tischer-Zeit eliminated many of these awkward passages for that very reason.

Preparing for my CD recording with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields presented me with a valuable opportunity to re-valuate everything I thought I knew about Dittersdorf and the performance of music of the classical era in general, and working as soloist with my erstwhile colleagues, directed by Kenneth Sillito, proved to be especially invigorating.

Kenneth Sillito possesses the rare ability to dramatically affect the sound of an entire orchestra, and his instinctive understanding of musical structure, and the uniquely collaborative nature of the classical concerto, along with his ability to recognise and respond to even the subtlest of nuances, and enable principled and rewarding interplay, made for an experience that I shall cherish forever.

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The more keenly attuned listeners will know that I perform both of Dittersdorf’s Concertos in E-major, and I justify this on the grounds of the semitone scordatura employed in the second concerto; Sperger’s orchestral parts are in the key of E-flat major. The use of a whole tone scordatura in solo repertoire is still employed today, since it enables more effective projection, something that can be a challenge for this unwieldy instrument.

My Dittersdorf masterclass for The Strad magazine can be found here (at The Strad site):
https://www.thestrad.com/masterclass/masterclass-leon-bosch-on-dittersdorfs-double-bass-concerto-no2-first-movement/7822.article.

My enduring but as yet unfulfilled dream, is for the discovery of Haydn’s Concerto for double bass (ca. 1763), which is presumed to have been lost in the fire at the Esterházy Court and given the quality of the double bass solos in his symphonies No. 6, 7, 8, 31, 45 and 72, it will be a magnificent composition.

According to certain sources, a few contrabassists (among them perhaps Karr) probably became the owners of some possible fragments (which would be even in Haydn’s own handwriting) of this long lost Concerto for double bass by Haydn…

Leon Bosch presents von Dittersdorf’s Double Bass works

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2. During his second London Tour, Haydn met the great double bass virtuoso Dragonetti and the two became friends, then Dragonetti reached Vienna in 1799 and 1813 and befriended also Beethoven and in 1813 Dragonetti was leading the double basses, during the premiere of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. You yourself have also prepared a The Strad Masterclass on Dragonetti’s Famous Solo for double bass. Can you tell us about this incredible artist, his life, his works and his technical work on the double bass, a man, whose legendary big hands were the origin of that special term man mostro (i.e. monster hand).

Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) ought really to occupy a far more prominent position in the affections of double bassists, musicians in general, and also the listening public; he was the first significant double bass virtuoso in history, and a pivotal figure in the musical life of the United Kingdom, his adopted homeland.

Dragonetti was a larger than life character in many respects; he kept company with nobility, as well as rubbing shoulders with the foremost composers of his generation. He was also an expert negotiator, often receiving fees that exceeding those of the leaders of orchestras. He traded in fine musical instruments, as well fine art, and pursued a hobby collecting marionette puppets. He amassed his collections in some of the most extravagantly expensive property in central London, incontrovertible proof of his financial acumen.

His compositions provide ample testimony to his prowess as a virtuoso instrumentalist, and the revolution he ignited in the development of instrumental technique. His legacy as influencer of composers is equally exceptional, and many iconic passages in the orchestral repertoire would not otherwise exist.

Domenico Dragonetti’s Andante and Rondo was the first solo piece that I performed in public and preparing for that performance transformed my relationship with Dragonetti into a life-long passion.

As a young student at the University of Cape Town I enjoyed the luxury of time to examine Dragonetti’s music in microscopic detail, and by the end of a six-month period preparing for my first appearance as double bass soloist, I was confident that I had developed an informed understanding of the unique demands and indeed essence of Dragonetti’s music.

I was utterly convinced that I had worked out exactly how Dragonetti would have played his own compositions; the tempi, the fingerings, the bow distribution, the sound, nuances specific to his intellectual and psychological make-up, and so forth, but it wasn’t until many years later, when I first used an authentic Dragonetti Bow (identical to the one that occupies pride of place alongside his Gaspar da Salò double bass at St. Mark’s in Venice)… that my suspicions were finally confirmed!

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All my students at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance are obliged to learn at least one composition by Dragonetti, and without exception, they struggle to master the complex technical and idiomatic demands of the music, but hopefully this provides them with the kind of sobering experience necessary for real progress.

Dragonetti’s output for the double bass is vast and varied, and although much of it remains unpublished, in collections at the British Museum in London, and the Boston Public Library, selected highlights are beginning to appear online, and hopefully this heralds a long overdue rehabilitation.

His twelve waltzes for unaccompanied double bass represent an iconic contribution to the repertoire and should form the basis of every aspiring double bassist’s education. It is my contention that anyone who can play these more than just perfunctorily well, will be well on their way to earning a living as an instrumentalist.

Rossini was commissioned to compose his vivacious Duetto for cello and double bass for Sir David Salomons (1797-1873) one of the founders of London and Westminster Bank who was also a keen amateur cellist, to perform with Dragonetti. I am in the habit of performing this along with Dragonetti’s own Duo for cello and double bass, an equally charming and challenging composition.

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Fiona Palmer’s book about Dragonetti is not only an interesting read, it provides some useful insights into Dragonetti’s many strengths and idiosyncrasies.

After forty years studying, performing and teaching Dragonetti’s music I have yet to record any of it, but hopefully my CD The Dragonetti Phenomenon, should materialise before too long.

I have in the meantime however felt emboldened enough by my love for, and understanding of Dragonetti’s music, to write a Masterclass article for the Strad about one of his own favourites, The Solo in E minor:
https://www.thestrad.com/the-strad-masterclass-leon-bosch-on-dragonettis-famous-solo-for-double-bass/5517.article

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3. The works for Solo Double Bass represent such a peculiar and charming repertoire, since the double bass is not generally associated with beautiful and magnificent cantabile, while it, in reality, has wonderful possibilities. How do you see this special repertoire for Solo Double Bass from Dittersdorf and Dragonetti to the 21st century contemporary music and what are the perspectives for the future, in your opinion?

The repertoire for solo double bass is more extensive and diverse than even double bassists realise, and the instrument’s expressive capabilities are often also grossly underestimated.

The repertoire for the instrument is punctuated by the compositions of the great virtuosi; Dragonetti, Bottesini and Koussevitzky, and in common with most other musical activity nowadays, there is the regrettable propensity to repeat a mere handful of popular compositions, much to the detriment of the instrument itself, and music in general.

In a culture that elevates heroism and self-indulgence above principle, responsibility and self-actualisation, music is not immune from these pressures, and in the words of a good friend of mine, double bassists are likewise firing at the wrong target.

I am not opposed to transcriptions in principle but following the exploits of the Soviet bassist Rodion Azarkhin who in his eponymous manner recorded his own transcriptions of works like Bach’s Chaconne and Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen on the double bass, there appears to be an unhealthy obsession with performing transcriptions of anything from Bach’s suites for solo cello, to Mozart’s violin concertos and Elgar and Dvorak’s cello concertos.

Whether this represents a worthwhile musical endeavour, or the equivalent of Dr. Johnson’s dog walking on its hind legs, merits some discussion, at the very least.

There were throughout history many equally worthy virtuosi, pedagogues and champions of the instrument who composed music that is nowadays unjustly neglected, amongst whom Franz Simandl, Gustav Laska, Eduard Madenski, Adolf Misek, Josef Hrabe, Lajos Montag, František Èerný, Pedro Valls, Anton Torello and Josep Cervera-Bret; names that ought to be familiar to bassists.

My own curiosity for researching repertoire was first ignited whilst I was a student at the University of Cape Town; the process of discovering and reviving lost works became an inextinguishable passion, and some of my colleagues now refer to me as the Sherlock Holmes of the double bass, a badge I am happy to wear, for it reminds me of my responsibility to continue along this path.

It was whilst researching the music of Pedro Valls for the CD recording devoted to his works:
http://www.leonbosch.co.uk/music_84604.php

that I came to learn more about his students Anton Torello and Josep Cervera:
A) Anton Torello composed a handful of charming works for the instrument but made his name as principal bassist of the Philadelphia Orchestra;
B) Josep Cervera on the other hand never left his native Catalonia, and was much more prolific, composing in excess of 60 compositions for the instrument; it is thanks to his grandson Carles Cervera that I have had access to all the manuscripts and recorded a CD Album devoted to this very beautiful music.

Leon Bosch presents Josep Cervera’s works for Double Bass

The second half of the twentieth century, immediately post-world war two, saw a dramatic revival in the fortunes of the double bass as a solo instrument, and virtuoso instrumentalists like Gary Karr, Ludwig Streicher and Franco Petracchi, and other distinguished players around the world inspired mainstream composers like Robert Fuchs, Reinhold Glière, Paul Hindemith, Berthold Hummel, Norbert Sprongl, Karl Rankl, Jean Francaix, Hans Werner Henze, Gian Carlo Menotti, Nikos Skalkottas and Eduard Tubin to write for the instrument.

In the United Kingdom composers including Lennox Berkeley, Alan Bush, Gordon Jacob, David Ellis, whose Sonata Op.42 for unaccompanied double bass achieved worldwide recognition, John McCabe and Richard Rodney Bennett, with some encouragement by Rodney Slatford (he was incidently the first British bassist to make a solo recording) felt emboldened to write for the double bass. Benjamin Britten, inspired by the bassist Adrian Beers, wrote some fabulous double bass parts in his orchestral works, but it is a matter of regret that he, like Malcolm Arnold, another illustrious British composer, never wrote a solo piece for the double bass.

The relationship between composer and performer has always been critical to the development of music, and in the twenty-first century instrumentalists bear no less a responsibility.

Commissioning new music for the instrument is something that I began to do almost by accident during my student days at The Royal Northern College of Music, when I asked fellow student and composer Ian Morgan-Williams to compose Sglein and Disglair for Double Bass and piano.

Then in 1986, part of the prize I’d won in a competition enabled me to commission Pueblo for solo double bass from John McCabe.

I have since then commissioned or been the dedicatee of a few dozen compositions by composers including Malcolm Lipkin, Roxanna Panufnik, Robin Walker, David Ellis, Hendrik Hofmeyr, Peter Klatzow, Paul Hanmer, Allan Stephenson, John Woolrich, David Earl, Paul Patterson, Robin Walker, Michael Viljoen, Michael Blake, Anton Pietersen, Grant McLachlan, Paul Kimber, Ivor Hodgson and Simon Parkin, with many more compositions in the pipeline.

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4. This year you are among the judges of BBC Music Young Musician 2018with Jennifer Pike, you yourself are a teacher and you regularly give masterclasses. What was your experience like, in your role as a judge and as an educator? What leads you towards teaching? What are your pieces of advice and tips to the young performers who are approaching the works for Double Bass soloist for the first time? What are your projects for the future?

Although I have always taught, given masterclasses, served on competition juries internationally and also on conservatoire examinational panels, it was only after leaving The Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 2014 that my commitment to teaching was transformed into something much more structured, methodical, and meaningful.

It is my privilege to be Professor of Double Bass at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

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My teaching of the double bass is underpinned by a fundamental aesthetic that encompasses a uniquely identifiable concept of sound, virtuosic instrumental command, and an intellectual foundation rooted in eternal curiosity.

Imparting the knowledge I have been fortunate enough to acquire over the course of a lifetime is not only a privilege, but my responsibility. My advice to aspirant young virtuosi? Respect yourself, respect the music you’re entrusted with, respect the instrument you play, and resist the temptation to see life as a zero-sum game. Culture, creativity and artistic fulfilment ought never to be degraded into a competitive sport, but if there exists an element of competition in music, that competition has to be a personal one; how to become the best human being and artist one can possibly be?

Because all music is ultimately judged at the emotional level, successfully judging competitions requires a framework of objectivity, and I have to that end defined four basic criteria that guide me when my judgement or opinion is required, as was the case recently with the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2018:
1. Technical
2. Musical
3. Intellectual
4. Aesthetic.
It is only once all these factors have been meaningfully integrated, and added to the unique life experiences of each individual, that creativity can flourish.

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The teaching method I have developed originated in my realisation that success as a teacher would require me to learn to explain complex concepts in the simplest manner possible, in order to enable a quicker route to mastery for my students. My system, which I believe to be absolutely fool-proof utilises a simple 4-point plan about which I am currently in the process of writing a book, and an article for the Strad magazine.

My projects for the future come in various categories:

1. Conductor and Soloist/Director
The double bass and I continue to pursue a passionate relationship, but thanks to Sir Neville Marriner’s encouragement, I am now forging a career as a conductor, and also directing my own concerto performances from the double bass; a rewarding and inspiring challenge.

2. Recordings
I have ten solo recordings on the Meridian Records label, and am after a short hiatus, ready to resume my recording project; near the top of an ever increasing to do list will be:
(a) The Twenty First Century British Double Bass
(b) The South African Double Bass
(c) Josep Cervera: The Catalan Virtuoso volume 2
(d) The Dragonetti Phenomenon
(e) Gian Carlo Menotti’s Concerto for double bass
(f) Franz Josef Keyper – The complete concertos for double bass and orchestra.

Franz Josef Keyper (1756-1815) the Danish double bass virtuoso composed seven concertos for double bass, none of which has received any exposure since he himself performed them.

Unlike other virtuosi at that time, who employed the use of Viennese tuning, Keyper played on an instrument tuned in fourths.

I have to date performed Concerto No. 2 and Concerto No.5, and it is my intention to perform, record and publish all his concertos for double bass.

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3. Soloist and Chamber Musician
Relieved of the intensive schedule of orchestral tours I pursued over the last 30 years, I am now devoting myself much more energetically to the interests of the double bass as a solo instrument.

It is an honour to be the recipient of so much wonderful new music, and I will over the next three months be performing the world premiere performances of the Concerto for Double Bass by Paul PattersonThe Song of Bone on Stone for solo double bass by Robin Walker, and Isipho for double bass and piano by the South African composer Peter Klatzow. I will also visit India for the first time and direct a performance of Franz Keyper’s Concerto No.2 in G Major with the Bombay Chamber Orchestra.

My chamber ensemble «I Musicanti embodies the universally cherished ideal of total artistic freedom and unrestrained self-expression, and it aims to provide a home to creative and imaginative artists who share the ambition of realising this dream».

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It now lies at the heart of my activities as a chamber musician, although I do of course appear as guest artist with many other distinguished artists and ensembles worldwide.

This year has been particularly busy one for Schubert’s Trout Quintet, and a performance that I am particularly looking forward to is with Benjamin Grosvenorat the SouthBank Centre on 29th May 2018.

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   4. Author/Writer and Publisher
Inspired by the example of Japanese author Haruki Murakami, whose books What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa made such a deep impression on me, I am now beginning to write about everything that I am passionate about: Music, the double bass, politics, running, and life in general. My publishing company I Musicanti Publishing is dedicated to making available all the compositions I have unearthed over the years, all my own transcriptions for double bass, some of the new music composed for me, and chamber music with double bass currently not in print

5. Running
I have been running marathons and ultra-marathons for the last few years and have set myself the goal of completing a 100-mile race before the end of 2018. If everything goes according to plan, I should become a Centurion in October when I am scheduled to run the Autumn 100.

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

I actually have two favourite works by Haydn; his Symphonies No. 1 in D and No. 104 in D London.

Both continue to feature significantly in my consciousness and affections, primarily because of the power of my first encounter with each.

Haydn’s London Symphony was the very first symphony I ever played, at the age of 16, with the University of Cape Town’s Symphony Orchestra conducted by the British cellist, composer and conductor Allan Stephenson. The rather regal first movement opening Adagio made as profound impression on me as did the jaunty Finale, but it was the musicologist Professor Günther Pulvermacher who made me aware of Haydn’s unique contribution to the development of the symphony, and his particular talent for turning mere fragments into a coherent whole.

From that auspicious beginning in 1978, Haydn’s 104th symphony would feature more regularly in my professional career than any other symphony, but I had to wait until the end of my orchestral career and the start of my journey as a conductor, to encounter Haydn’s Symphony No.1 for the first time.

In May 2017 I performed a concert with The Liverpool Mozart Orchestra in which I conducted Haydn’s Symphonies No.1 and No. 104, and also directed two concertos from the double bass: Franz Keyper’s Concerto No.2 in G major and Allan Stephenson’s Concerto for double bass (2005).

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The quality and maturity of Haydn’s first symphony belies the youth of its composer, and it has become a firm favourite of mine.

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When it comes to Mozart I find this question rather more difficult to answer, but I have to admit that first discovering his concert aria Per Questa Bella Mano K.612 for bass voice with obbligato double bass (written again for Pischelberger, who, once left Dittersdorf and reached Vienna, was now working with Schikaneder, the producer of The Magic Flute, at that time) was a particular joyful moment for me. To have a work for double bass by a composer of this stature is of course a privilege, the fiendish technical demands notwithstanding. The opening Adagio is exceptional poignant and tender, and the Allegro requires virtuosity and exuberance in equal measure, from both soloists.

Performances of Per questa bella mano K.612 remain relatively rare, but it is one of the required audition pieces for the position of principal double bass in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778 – 1837).

Hummel is probably best remembered as Konzertmeister to Prince Esterhazy at Eisenstadt, and for succeeding Haydn as Kapellmeister.

He was predominantly concert pianist though, and was taught by Mozart, Clementi, Albrechstberger, Haydn and Salieri at various junctures in his development. His influence on the compositions of Chopin and Schumann is undoubted, and the slow movement of his Quintet in E-flat minor Op.87 illuminates this connection especially well.

Hummel first came to my attention when I performed this very Quintet for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass, that proved to be the inspiration for Schubert’s Trout Quintet. A composer who employed the double bass in his chamber music was naturally going to find favour with me, and I have over the years performed this Quintet and his Septets with piano and double bass on a fairly regularly basis.

Other than for his trumpet concerto in E-flat, none of his other compositions ever presented themselves throughout my career as an orchestral player, until The London Mozart Players recorded a number of his piano concertos and the concerto for violin and piano with Howard Shelley, as well as one of the solo violin concertos and the Potpourri for viola with James Ehnes.

Hummel’s output as a composer is vast, including 8 piano concertos, 10 piano sonatas, a piano quartet, 8 piano trios, concertos for mandolin, bassoon and trumpet, sacred music, ballet music, sets of variations and potpourris for various solo instruments, as well as compositions for guitar, an instrument for which he enjoyed a special passion, also thanks to his friendship with M. Giuliani.

He curiously never composed a symphony however, but did make particularly elegant arrangements of Beethoven’s symphonies, for piano, flute violin and cello, and these are on the agenda for performance and recording with my ensemble, I Musicanti.

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

Leopold Anton Koželuh (1747 – 1818) – Sinfonia Concertante for trumpet, piano, mandolin and double bass.

Koželuh’s outstanding reputation and success as a pianist, composer and teacher enabled him to decline the Archbishop of Salzburg’s offer to succeed Mozart as court organist and although his output is naturally dominated by the piano, this beautiful and elegant sinfonia concertante is significant for a number of reasons:
1. The combination of soloists must surely be unique in the history of music.
2. Koželuh’s challenging, idiomatic and sensitive writing for each of the soloists, as well as his skilful orchestral accompaniment, demonstrates a highly informed understanding of the capabilities and potential of each of the solo instruments.
3. It is characteristic of the sinfonia concertante form of the time, and unashamedly celebrates and fully utilises the skill of instrumentalists.
4. Pischelberger, for whom the double bass part was written features yet again, a testament to his stature as a soloist.

In his book About Conducting, Sir Henry Wood, founder of the BBC Proms, identifies a number of challenges that characterise the adverse working environment experienced by British orchestral musicians, especially rank and file string players, and the detrimental effect it can have upon their well-being.

But, he does go on to propose some solutions, not least the responsibility the conductor bears for unleashing the frustrated soloist within each of these demoralised, disaffected and alienated artists.

Musicians in the classical era, despite their subordination to the interests of the aristocracy, appear in my view to have enjoyed more favourable conditions for self-expression, and for fulfilling their artistic potential; I like to think that the popularity of the sinfonia concertante as a musical vehicle during this epoch supports my theory.

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf’s autobiography ought in my view to be compulsory reading.

[The three major versions of von Dittersdorf’s autobiographies are available through the MozartCircle OnLine Library (the original German one with an introduction by Karl Spazier and the most famous translations in English and in French:
MozartCircle Online Library
at von Dittersdorf WebPage, where you can find also a complete edition of theDittersdorfiana.
On MozartCircle you find also von Dittersdorf: His Life in Discs]

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It was whilst I was preparing for my recording of Dittersdorf’s compositions with The Academy of St Martin in the Fields that an ex-student of mine, Carl Hinde, alerted me to the existence of Dittersdorf’s autobiography.

Dittersdorf was not only an esteemed virtuoso who played string quartets with Haydn, Mozart and Vanhal, he was considered a pre-eminent musical authority and this colourful memoir was dictated to his son from his deathbed.

In it he provides us with an unparalleled insight into the artist’s relationship to the aristocratic society at that time. It also describes in some detail his own education and development as an artist and illuminates his personal journey as the servant to the Archbishop of Grosswardein and then in Johannesberg with the Prince-Bishop of Breslau, Philipp Gotthard von Schaffgotsch, both as Hofkomponist and then also as Amtshauptmann (Governor) of Freiwaldau (1773), officialy becoming also a Baron in that period, offices that let him, from time to time, reach Vienna and attend its soirées, salons, concerts and theatres and meet there with Mozart, Haydn, Paisiello and the others.

Most intriguingly, he regales us with tales of his own musical exploits, his relationship with innumerable eminent musicians and composers of significance at that time, and it is this aspect that I personally found most illuminating.

Dittersdorf was of course a virtuoso violinist (and violist) first and foremost, and in addition to 18 concertos for the violin, 5 for the viola and 3 concertos for two violins, his vast output includes the first mature cello concerto of the classical era, the only concerto for oboe d’Amore that I know of in the classical period, over a hundred symphonies, concertos for string quartet, piano, harpsichord, oboe and flute, sacred music, opera, oratorios and cantatas.

Dittersdorf was prolific by any standard, and with his compositions being so typical and representative of the classical era, these can surely teach us something. He speaks most fondly however of his Grand Concerto for eleven solo instruments (written in 1766 and including double bass) and what a pity that this manuscript should be lost. (see Dittersdorfiana p. 89: «… working at a Grand Concerto for eleven instruments, in the first allegro of which each soloist began with a passage for himself alone. Gradually three, five, seven, and finally nine parts were brought in. In the last solo all eleven took part… The twelfth alternativo was played by all eleven solo instruments, and, after a cadenza and a changeful capriccio, closed with a shake in sixths played by nine instruments…».)

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

I have thought about this exhaustively and have come to the conclusion that there is no single movie or documentary that I can endorse, without reservation.

There are of course many enjoyable, but flawed films and documentaries, and perhaps this represents a gap in the market, yet to be filled by an enterprising creative artist?

10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

Vienna, without a shadow of a doubt!

Vienna, the city of dreams remains one of the most vibrant cultural hotspots in the world. It boasts an illustrious musical lineage, and was during the classical era home to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, who helped transform music into a respected cultural art form of greater social significance.

During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s whilst I was a still a student in South Africa, I established contact with Doblinger music shop (established in 1817) in Vienna, on account of their healthy catalogue of sheet music for the double bass, and spent all the money I earned from my party-time job selling refreshments in a cinema kiosk, buying as much music for double bass from them as possible.

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Large brown envelopes of music arrived at my home in the township from Vienna on a regular basis and playing the music of these European composers enabled me to travel to Vienna and most of the rest of Europe, without having to leave my practice room.

When I did finally visit Vienna for the first time, Doblinger Music shop was naturally at the top of my itinerary, and walking into this quaint shop on Dorotheergasse, from which my collection of music originated, was like a dream come true.

Its dusty shelves and glass-fronted wooden music cabinets gave one the impression of stepping back in time. Even the shop assistants were dressed in a rather historic manner and handled the music and treated their customer with a degree of reverence that I imagine Beethoven and Schubert might have commanded.

I left the shop with yet more music and wandered through the streets of Vienna visiting places where the great composers had either lived, or had their music performed. I was surprised to come across plaques commemorating the lives of so many other composers, who have since been relegated to obscurity. Amongst these was Rodolphe Kreutzer to whom Beethoven dedicated his Violin Sonata No. 9 Op. 47, and who most violinists know of, because of his etudes for the violin.

My tour of Vienna also took in the Hochschule für Musik, other music conservatoires, and concert venues in the city. It was particularly impressive to see the density of musicians per head of population, and the swagger with which they went about their business, knowing that their work as artists is valued by the society of which they form an integral part.

Performing in the Musikverein over the last 25 years has been a particular joy, and I retain many happy memories of concerts there with Sir Neville Marriner and The Academy of St Martin in the Fields.

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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CD Spotlight May 2018: N. Porpora World Premiere Recording of Germanico

ReviewTitle

Nicola Porpora

Just few know that Nicola Porpora,
beside being the mentor
of the most famous Farinelli, whom
Mozart met in Bologna,
was also a great composer and
the teacher, in composition, of
Joseph Haydn. Enjoy this
World-Premiere Recording
with a stellar cast!Max Emanuel Cencic
Capella Cracoviensis

Decca Classics

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