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Impossible Interviews September 2017: Mozart’s Patron van Swieten

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Who is Gottfried van Swieten?

Usually a rather blurred figure in Mozart’s biographies, in reality, Baron Gottfried van Swieten exerted an enormous influence on the development of Mozart’s interests in music composition and then also on Haydn and on the young Beethoven. Furthermore, van Swieten (a freemason himself, like Mozart), with the Abbé Stadler, had a crucial role in the promotion of Mozart’s works carried on by Constanze, after December 1791.

The son of the Vampirism scholar Gerard van Swieten
The father of Baron van Swieten, Gerard van Swieten, was an important Dutch-Austrian physician, who in 1745 became the personal physician of the Austria Imperial family and, in particular, of the Empress Maria Theresa.
From 1718 to 1732, suddenly, a previously unknown brutal myth on vampirism reached also Austria from Serbia and received a wide sudden diffusion throughout Europe and many scholars were called by the local authorities to directly investigate the phenomenon and to eradicate it.
Maria Theresa asked Gerard van Swieten to investigate and was sent to Moravia in 1755, to study the case. In 1768 Gerard van Swieten published his Essay against vampirism Discourse on the Existence of Ghosts, which led Maria Theresa to ban all traditional defences to vampires, as the product of  vain fear and of superstitious credulity.
In 1774 and in 1789 (2nd edition) the Dissertazione sopra i Vampiri by Giuseppe Davanzati, Bishop of Trani, appeared, to support the Essay by Gerard van Swieten and Maria Theresa’s laws. Unfortunately the superstition was difficult to eradicate and, thus, in the end, the authorities tried to transform vampirism in an art genre, to defeat it, by using also opera and comic opera (among the first works, the comic opera I vampiri by Silvestro Palma, 1812, which promotes the rationalist theories of Giuseppe Davanzati).

van Swieten and the von Jacquins friends of Mozart
The fact that Mozart and his wife Constanze were close friends of Gottfried von Jacquin and his sister Franziska, is well known. What probably many still fail to consider is that both Gottfried and Franziska von Jacquin belonged to the circle of van Swieten’s close friends. In fact the father of Gottfried and Franziska was Nikolaus von Jacquin, a famous and important scholar and a personal pupil of van Swieten’s father, Gerard van Swieten. Even more, Nikolaus von Jacquin named a genus of mahogany after his mentor and friend Gerard van Swieten, the Swietenia. So Mozart and his wife, by regularly attending the von Jacquins, just remained within the group of close friends of van Swieten.

Mozart and the van Swieten’s Sunday Music program
Thanks to Mozart’s letters and Weigl’s autobiography and some reminiscences of Salieri, we are rather well informed on the van Swieten’s Sunday Music program held at his apartments from the Spring 1782 to some years later.
At 12 every Sunday, Mozart, Starzer, Teyber, van Swieten and, probably only on a few occasions, also Salieri met at van Swieten’s apartments to study and perform works by Handel, Graun, J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach. F. Bach, with Mozart accompanying at the fortepiano, van Swieten singing discant, Mozart also singing alto, Starzer tenor, Teyber bass. According to Weigl, when Salieri was there, he also sang some part.
Thanks to this sort of private academies, Mozart developed his peculiar taste for Handel’s and Bach’s works, now made known and available through the rare and difficult to find scores of van Swieten, and their art of counterpoint, a taste that well emerges in his major works from 1782 to 1791 (Mass in C Minor, Haydn Quartets, The Magic Flute, Requiem etc.).
Mozart tried to promote, instead, during such occasions, the knowledge of the sacred music works by Michael Haydn and Eberlin, even though, as far as we know, he decided not to promote Eberlin’s keyboard art of fugue, because he found it on a lower level in comparison to Bach and Handel.
The presence of Salieri at these private academies at van Swieten’s are much disputed, because his pupil Weigl tells this story and because Salieri’s own reminiscences of these academies are certainly heavily manipulated and distorted: i.e. Salieri was the leader of these academies and Mozart used to call him papa all the time (difficult to believe, because Salieri was not much older than Mozart and could not be a papa to Mozart).

van Swieten’s political roles & his influence on Mozart’s works
From 1780 to 1782 van Swieten reached a high position at Court with Joseph II, earning an annual salary of ca. 20.000 florins (ca. 140.000 modern US dollars).
He became Councillor of State, Director of the State Education Commission (1781) and Director of a new Censorship Commission (1782). van Swieten, in his official role, supported and carried on the program of reforms of Joseph II. If Mozart’s works, like Le Nozze di Figaro, and certain parts of Don Giovanni (regularly censored and cut in 1800s) and, on a certain level also The Magic Flute, were freely performed in Austria in 1780s, that was also the result of the activity of van Swieten within the Censorship Commission, which increased certain forms of freedom.
As is well known, the death of Joseph II (and the French Revolution) created troubles to all the people who worked for Joseph II. And van Swieten, already considered the person responsible for too much revolutionary freedom and for other disasters of the Imperial administration, was discharged from his commission post by Leopold II on 5 December 1791, the same day as the death of Mozart, while Imperial informers were building an act of accusation against Mozart’s The Magic Flute, considered a satire against Louis XVI of France and the Austria Emperor’s sister Marie Antoinette and an obscure promotion of the French Revolution.

Mozart, van Swieten and the Handel controversy
The strong interest of van Swieten in the music by Handel, if, on the one hand, it led to the birth of great masterpieces like Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Haydn’s Oratorios and Beethoven’s various works, on the other hand, unfortunately reached also levels of a sort of fanaticism hard to be comprehended.
In 1786 van Swieten organized the Gesellschaft der Associierten (Society of Associated Cavaliers), to organize the performance of great orchestral works in Vienna. In 1788 van Swieten chose Mozart as official conductor of the Society and from 1788 to 1790 commissioned Mozart to write a revised and updated (mainly in the orchestration) edition of four major works by Handel: Acis and Galatea (1788), The Messiah (1789), Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (1790), Alexander’s Feast (1790).
Despite Mozart’s intense activity on Handel, van Swieten kept a certain pressure on Mozart, because he wanted Mozart to write a purer Handelian work (possibly an oratorio?), to prove he was a real great composer (!?). From this, also the long lasting debate on Mozart’s borrowing from Handel in building his famous Requiem, considered already in 1790s also a collection of reminiscences of Handelian themes firstly heard by Mozart in his famous Tour in England when a child prodigy.
Moreover a letter of van Swieten written in 1798 ignited the Handel controversy among Mozart supporters, since van Swieten clearly declares himself unsatisfied with the work carried on by Mozart, but not with that carried on by Haydn, who really managed to prove himself a great composer on the same level as Handel. Mozart simply failed to prove this, due to his sudden death.
Here the infamous words from van Swieten’s letter (December 1798):
«Undoubtedly it [i.e. the level of Handel and of the two Bachs] would have been reached by Mozart, had he not been snatched from us prematurely. Joseph Haydn, conversely, truly stands there [i.e. with Handel the two Bachs]».
The harsh judgment of van Swieten simply means that Haydn, in the end, managed to deliver a great Oratorio, The Creation, in the high style of Handel, while Mozart miserably failed in doing this, due to his sudden death (!?).

van Swieten helps Constanze
After the death of Mozart, van Swieten actively helped Constanze Mozart and her children both financially and socially. Apart from his famous intervention for the funeral of Mozart, he promoted benefit concerts in favour of Constanze’s family and took care of the education of the young Karl Mozart. His role proved particularly crucial, in Prague, in April 1794, to save the young Karl Mozart, the 9 year old child of Wolfgang, from a trap organized by the supporters of Salieri in Prague: Karl Mozart had to publicly appear on stage during the performance of Salieri’s opera Axur «as the boy who is offered up for sacrifice». The immediate intervention of van Swieten and of his mother Constanze saved the boy from this orchestrated form of public humiliation against the child of Mozart by the supporters of Salieri.

van Swieten as composer, librarian, copyright promoter
van Swieten, who had studied music in his youth with a pupil of J.S. Bach and had become a member of the musical circle of the princess Anna Amalia, was also a composer and not only a simple patron of the musical arts.
While as patron van Swieten had already patronized the son of J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach (6 Symphonies H. 657–662, 1773; Sonaten für Kenner und Liebhaber, 1781) before reaching Vienna, through the years van Swieten developed his own musical compositions.
Today the critics are largely divided on the quality of his music. Even though The Grove Dictionary is particularly harsh in his judgment on van Swieten’s musical works, other scholars give more cautious opinions on his music works, especially because a few of them were considered for long time and printed and published as works by Haydn (3 of van Swieten’s Symphonies were printed and re-printed as Haydn’s Op. 29 for many years). Curiously enough, instead, Haydn considered most of van Swieten symphonies in the old fashioned 3 movements style, «as stiff as the man himself». Nonetheless, we know that Mozart conducted at least one of van Swieten’s symphonies in Vienna in 1782.
Probably also van Swieten’s surviving opéras comiques may deserve a better study and approach by both scholars and musicians, since his Les talents à la Mode has certain important affinities with Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne and features important, beautiful and very difficult coloratura arias and Colas toujours Colas, mostly in the pastoral style, has passages with strong affinities with Haydn’s The Seasons (in particular, the hunt scene).
As librarian and copyright promoter, van Swieten not only expanded the official Imperial library with books on science, but kept promoting music, by collecting rare scores and trying to convince the Emperor Joseph II, in 1784, to adopt the new copyright and royalties law in favour of the authors of works of art. In the end, Joseph II rejected the proposal by van Swieten and the system of copyright and royalties, so, was not available for those living under the Austrian Empire. Such law would have certainly changed the life of Mozart in better, by making it a bit easier.
The importance of van Swieten as Imperial Court librarian is due also to the fact that he is considered the first librarian in Europe to use the first form of library catalog, entirely based on a easily searchable system of cards, instead of the usual old bound volumes.

van Swieten, Haydn and the young Beethoven
The great interest of van Swieten in Handel’s music was also a distinctive trait of his patronage relationship with Haydn and the young Beethoven.
It is well known how, thanks to van Swieten and his intense activity of patron, music promoter, librettist and public concerts organizer in Vienna, Haydn managed to carry out his three great oratorio projects of the 1790s: The Seven Last Words of Christ (1795/96), The Creation (1796/98) and The Seasons (1799/1801). Nonetheless the personal relationship between the two men was not always easy, as it happened with the famous quarrel between Haydn and van Swieten on the French-style passages Haydn disliked for The Seasons, the Frenchified trash.
Instead, a lesser known episode of van Swieten’s life is his fundamental role, in 1790s, in the development of young Beethoven‘s interest in Handel’s and Bach’s music, as he had done with Mozart many years earlier. This time, he accomplished his music educational program through a long series of soirées at his home, usually starting at 8.30 pm, with Beethoven who was expected to play many pieces of music and especially many fugues by Bach for various hours in the night and then to sleep at home of van Swieten.
So, when Beethoven’s pupil Ferdinand Ries wrote: «Of all composers, Beethoven valued Mozart and Handel most highly, then S. Bach.», we know that Beethoven was, in this, highly influenced by van Swieten’s program of music education, based principally on the fact that, still in 1790s, van Swieten was one of the few owners of many scores by these authors, scores which were, in certain cases, still particularly rare to find on the 18th century market of music.
In 1801 Beethoven dedicated his 1st Symphony Op. 21 to van Swieten: Erste Symphonie von L. van Beethoven Dem Baron van Swieten gewidmet.

van Swieten & Vermeer
The father of van Swieten was the owner of one of the greatest masterpieces in the History of Art, painted by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, The Art of Painting, between 1665 and 1675. Then the painting became property of his son, Baron Gottfried van Swieten. They both probably ignored the name of the real author of the painting, since, until 1860, the painting was considered a work by Pieter de Hooch.
Ten years after the death of van Swieten, in 1813, the painting was sold to the family of the Bohemian-Austrian Counts Czernin.

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WO
RKS BY VAN SWIETEN
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A) Compositions by van Swieten:

• Ariette for La Rosière de Salency (1769)
• Opéra comique: Les talents à la Mode
• Opéra comique: Colas toujours Colas
• Opéra comique: La chercheuse d’esprit (lost)
• 10 Symphonies (7 surviving), 3 of them for long time considered works by F. J. Haydn as Op. 29 (according to some sources the symphonies were at least 12)

At imslp.org the score of van Swieten’s opera Colas toujours Colas is now available: Colas toujours Colas.

Copyright © 2017 MozartCircle. All rights reserved. MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

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Review July 2017: Nancy Storace, muse de Mozart et de Haydn

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bkekcup Author: Emmanuelle Pesqué
Title: Nancy Storace, muse de Mozart et de Haydn
Publisher: Amazon
Year: 2017
Price: € 19.00
ISBN: 978-2-9560410-0-9
Link: www.amazon.fr
Official Site of the Book:
annselinanancystorace.blogspot.com
with additional online resources for this book
The Author: E. Pesqué works for the French Ministère de la Culture and for opera online Magazine ODB-opera.com.

This book Nancy Storace, muse de Mozart et de Haydn is the first product of a long and not easy documentary and archival research, lasted various years. The author of the book is entirely dedicated (and with great passion) to the world of opera (with important periods of activity for the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Emmanuelle Pesqué works for the French Ministère de la Culture and is one of the editors of the Internet Opera Magazine ODB-opera.com, and this since 2003) and has developed a major interest in the professional and human journey of the famous 18th century opera singer Nancy Storace, whose life vicissitudes are still, here and there, rather obscure and whose relationships with the great men and women of the 18th century London and Vienna have been, in the past, obfuscated by unsubstantiated speculations of various origin (even by the most revered and venerable Alfred Einstein) and by legends which can’t find any serious support in the primary sources nor in the archival material.

      The intent of this book and of its author is to cast a new light on this important opera singer (whose professional activity was behind and enlightened the work of the major composers of that Era, Mozart, Haydn, Salieri, Sarti and Martín y Soler), to add the results of the modern and the most recent musicological research in this field to the building of a new more accurate biography (see Link, Lorenz et alii) and to correct (where and when necessary) previous biographical attempts, like Anna… Susanna. Anna Storace, Mozart’s first Susanna: Her Life, Times and Family by G. Brace (London 1991).

CONTENTS
    A radical chronological approach.
    With Mozart in Vienna…
    … and with Haydn in London.
    The multitudes of the unknown minor composers.
    A generation of opera singers, who were also composers.
    From Fisher to Braham: the unpredictable trails of destiny.
    Which perspectives for the Historically Informed musical practice? Something to ponder.
    A reference book and the Internet on-line resources.

A radical chronological approach.
The perspective of matter treatment chosen by Pesqué for her book is that of a radical chronological approach, so that the stories and vicissitudes of Anna Selina Nancy Storace and of her brother Stephen and of the other characters around them can be perceived and evaluated in a diachronic context, where one can watch their lives unfold along their existence paths, while they are shaped by their artistic and professional decisions and choices and by the fundamental and intriguing encounters with various figures, many of them, in the end, emerging from the pages of the book as somehow real pivotal sidekick characters across the years, like the singers Rauzzini, Marchesi or Michael Kelly.
A long and laborious research through the pages of the many newspapers of that period (1765-1817) has enabled Pesqué to enrich her work and many valuable passages with the first-hand comments and descriptions of the facts of the world of Opera as they appeared in their original papers, when the events actually occurred: thus many extracts from La Gazzetta Universale, from The Times, from The British Press, from The Monthly Mirror, from The Literary Panorama and from many other newspapers make their appearance and illuminate various actions, concerts, soirées and fragments of life of Nancy Storace, that otherwise would be lost to the darkness of oblivion.
This chronological approach to the subject offers the reader many other advantages, first of all the curious and rather rare possibility of considering the evolution of a person’s life (Nancy Storace) as the gradual evolution of an individual within a systemic environment which lives and changes with that person. So the evolution of Nancy Storace as a person and as a professional singer makes its way across history, also through the many political upheavals of the nations (from the France of the Ancien Régime to the French Revolution and the Bonaparte family, being the brother of Napoleon, Jérôme, a personal friend of Braham, with Storace now trying to work in Paris with Marie Antoinette in 1787, then singing in England the lament on her assassination in 1793 and finally, firstly, singing for the Revolution in Paris in 1797 and then again in England commemorating the death of Nelson, the defeater of Napoleon, in November 1805), through the development of the public institutions (the history of the Vienna and London main Opera Theatres and the wars over the control of theatre productions and over the singers’ salaries and wages) and through the many changes of taste of the public in art and music and much more.

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With Mozart in Vienna…
Thanks to such particular structure, the admirers of Mozart’s works and the musicians devoted to Mozart will find in this book the possibility of looking at and considering well known episodes of the life of Mozart through a totally different point of view. So we may say that we have, on Mozart, an interesting change in the type of angle of visualization on a few events of his life (most of them occurred in Vienna between 1784 and 1786 for Le Nozze di Figaro, with Storace as an unforgettable first Susanna and then the concert of Les Adieux to Vienna with Mozart at the piano and Storace singing, on 23 February 1787, Ch’io mi scordi di te KV. 505, especially written by Mozart for her), a changed angle of visualization, which may really help in a better comprehension of certain passages of the life of Mozart.
Many figures, already well known because one finds them in Mozart’s biographies, make their appearance also here, but under a new light, since now they are people around Nancy Storace and, because of that, seen not in the light of Mozart, but in their everyday environmental context: the life and business of Opera Theatre from late 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century.
Therefore all this offers the reader an important glimpse at the real extra-long professional career of great opera singers like Venanzio Rauzzini, the famous castrato for whom Mozart wrote one of his masterpieces, the Exsultate, jubilate K. 165, the teacher of Nancy Storace, Michael Kelly and John Braham, the vocal coach and friend of Gertrud Mara, or the unforgettable Luigi Marchesi, the long time collaborator of Myslivecek, one of the teachers/friends of Mozart.
And the same must be said of the whole family Linley (the young Tommasino of Mozart’s biographies, Mozart met in Florence, his father Thomas the elder and especially the sister of Tommasino the singer Elizabeth Ann Linley Sheridan), with its profound connections with the Bath circles of culture and music and so with Rauzzini and the Storaces.
And the same must be said of many other famous Mozartian personages like the composers Sarti, Cherubini, Salieri, Paisiello, Cimarosa, Pleyel and especially Martín y Soler, Stephen Storace, Thomas Attwood, the singers Michael Kelly, Benucci, Bussani and the Mozartian poet par excellence Da Ponte, now depicted out of his Vienna environment (he was obliged to leave in 1791), trying to organize Opera Companies and new Opera dramas between Bruxelles and London with the possible help of the Storaces and then of Martín y Soler.
A special mention here goes to the episode of Mozart’s engagement for the London Italian Opera Theatre, the details of which are usually rather scarce in Mozart’s biographies. We learn now how a London consortium led by Robert Bray O’Reilly at the head of the Pantheon Opera Theatre and representing a group of high English aristocrats (the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Bedford, the Marquess of Salisbury), in 1790, tries to engage Nancy Storace for some new Italian Operas in London to be written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We know how Mozart, de facto, refused such proposals mainly to respect his 1787 agreement with the Vienna Imperial Court and also to avoid a direct rivalry in London with his friend Joseph Haydn, who was going to reach England for his famous First Tour (and probably Mozart was contacted also by Gallini and Salomon, before Haydn’s approval of the entire London project). However, the whole story of the destiny of the Pantheon Theatre led by O’Reilly, as recounted by Emmanuelle Pesqué, certainly casts some new and interesting light on the decisions of Mozart, and, after all (after the refusal of the proposals brought forward by the letter of O’Reilly of 26 October 1790, and after considering the total disaster, also financial, of the whole Pantheon Theatre Project in 1792), probably Mozart was right in refusing…

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… and with Haydn in London.
What has been said for Mozart on the change in the point of view, must be said also for Haydn, even though on a lesser scale, since the friendly relationship between Storace and Haydn in Vienna had a substantial minor professional involvement (i.e. fundamentally Il Ritorno di Tobia on 28 and 30 April 1784). A major professional relation between Storace and Haydn occurred, instead, during the First London Tour of Haydn, with the active participation of the soprano at the famous Salomon-Haydn Series of concerts and then at the Haydnian festivities for his Doctoral degree received from the University of Oxford (July 1791, see The Gentleman’s Magazine and The Morning Herald).

The multitudes of the unknown minor composers.
Another peculiar and notable result of this approach used by Pesqué is the re-surfacing of a multitude of unknown minor composers positioned, with their operas, within their correct historical context.
These minor composers, particularly in the 18th century, were, in reality, the fundamental backbone of the Theatre Houses both in continental Europe and in England and many famous singers of that period, like Storace, Kelly and Braham etc., in various occasions, owed them a lot: the success of their careers, especially at the beginning, a wide spread notoriety through vocal scores rapidly available and even odd opera pastiches, which the public liked very much and paid for.
We remember here Basili, Moneta, Nasolini, Nicolini, Gnecco, Mayr, Isola, Zingarelli, Bianchi, Mazzinghi, Reeve, Moorehead, Davy, Corri and many others, who now are just names, but who built, with their minor works, the theatrical good fortune and success of the great opera singers of the 18th and of the 19th century.

A generation of opera singers, who were also composers.
One aspect of the actual musical practice of the 18th century that may really impress both the scholars and the amateurs and the modern musicians and singers is the fairly good level of technical preparation in music composition, which characterized many opera singers of that Era.
One certainly remember the famous conversation between Michael Kelly and Mozart on this subject and how Mozart defined this particular category of composers, more or less, the melodists.
It is a fact that from the pages of this book, we discover how various opera singers, of the 18th century, like the great Rauzzini himself, were capable of composing music, writing arias, organizing an entire opera and treating the orchestration.
Not only the opera singer Michael Kelly was able to write music for himself and to compose entire operas, but, according to some source of that period, in 1796 he and his lifelong friend Nancy Storace managed to complete, in London, an entire opera left unfinished by the brother of Nancy, Stephen. So it seems that even Nancy Storace was a sufficiently good connoisseur of music composition and of its rules to help Michael Kelly in his work!
A particular situation was that of John Braham, who, through his entire life, mostly wrote by himself the music he was going to perform in public and left at least seven operas intentionally written for himself and for Nancy Storace (1802-1808), his mate in everyday life, but never his wife.
However it must be said that, in many occasions, such operas written by the melodists certainly enormously pleased the enthusiastic public and were a good bargain, in terms of money, but, on the other hand, showed clear signs of re-working and re-organizing music materials, ideas and fragments derived from great first-rate composers, like Mozart, Haydn, Paisiello, Sarti, etc. without openly declaring it… and sometimes even the newspapers of that period, usually vague on this subject, noticed that.
Along with the popular successes of these types of operas or opera-pastiches, the book by Pesqué well documents the incredibly slow path that led to the premieres of the most famous Mozart’s operas in England at the beginning of the 19th century. The first complete version of Le Nozze di Figaro (1786) premiered in London only in June 1812 after ten years from one of the first concerts there with fragments from Le Nozze di Figaro and Idomeneo (1802). And the years 1811 and 1812 are fundamental for a first wider diffusion of Mozart’s music in London, after so many years of concerts performing mostly only segments and re-worked and re-written pieces. In May 1811 we have the performance of Così Fan Tutte and in March 1812 La Clemenza di Tito (which premiered in 1806): so Mozart’s music in England is now finally well established in 1810s.

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From Fisher to Braham: the unpredictable trails of destiny.
A fundamental part of this book is dedicated to the two major male figures and love interests of Nancy Storace: John Abraham Fisher and John Braham.
The complicated and in many ways still mysterious affair and marriage with the violinist and composer John Abraham Fisher (Vienna, March 1784 and ended a few months later by personal act and will of the emperor Joseph II) is treated by Pesqué with the addition of new important updated information on the subject.
Behind this unhappy marriage, we may see even various possible mistakes made by Nancy Storace in her relationship with Fisher, mistakes which may have led her husband to the well known unacceptable behaviour, among them the suspect induced by her acts of an adulterine relation with the opera singer Benucci. Besides the possible real responsibilities of J.A.Fisher (ca. 40 years old) in ill-treating Nancy Storace (18 years old), the brother of the soprano, Stephen Storace, considered the marriage of his sister a «ridiculous marriage» (June 1785, while in conversation with Orsini-Rosenberg) and declared that his sister is a «testarda» (stubborn or even mulish) and that that caused the disaster in her marriage.
Thanks also to the results of the archival works carried on by notable scholars such as Dorothea Link and Michael Lorenz, Emmanuelle Pesqué has finally had the possibility of giving a new and detailed account on the birth and death of Josepha Fisher (b. 30 January 1785 – d.17 July 1785), putting an end to other various forms of speculations on this matter.
The importance of this period (1784-1785: the unhappy marriage and the death of her daughter) in the life of Nancy Storace is curiously determined not by the facts themselves, but by the incredible effects that such personal vicissitudes of Storace had on the life and on the artistic development of Mozart himself.
Mozart’s unfinished opera Lo sposo deluso K. 430 was especially designed by Mozart (between March and Autumn 1784) and by an unknown librettist to be performed by Nancy Storace (then called Fisher, i.e. Sig.ra fischer [sic! by Mozart], according to her new surname as married woman) as soprano. The most interesting thing about this otherwise still mysterious work is the title itself, which has certainly some connection with Gli sposi malcontenti by the composer Stephen Storace, brother of Nancy, an opera which premiered in Vienna on 1 June 1785 with Nancy as leading character. The opera written by Stephen Storace had an obvious open connection with the publicly notorious unhappy marriage of Nancy with Fisher in 1784, so one may wonder whether within the Vienna Imperial Court some manoeuvres were already underway in 1784 in order to have finally an Italian Opera composed by Mozart and that the possibility of covering up a budding Imperial Court scandal, such as the ill-fated marriage of Nancy, by spoofing it through a public comic opera might have been a good service to the emperor Joseph II and the Imperial Court.
Was it Da Ponte, who was manoeuvring in favour of Mozart?
We can’t say at the present state of the archival and documentary sources, however it is a fact that, curiously enough, in 1785 Mozart, even though he had not produced any Italian opera in Vienna yet and Le Nozze di Figaro had to premiere only in May 1786, was called to compose a brief Cantata written by Da Ponte himself in honour of Nancy Storace: Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia K. 477a. As is well known, this cantata (composed in collaboration with Salieri and a mysterious Cornetti and considered lost until November 2015, when the original score re-surfaced from the archives of Prague) was written by Da Ponte to celebrate the newly recovered health of Nancy Storace, who had to face, between June and September 1785, various personal dramatic moments, like the failure of her voice during a performance at Opera and the death of her daughter Josepha in July.
The long relation (both professional and sentimental) with the singer and composer John Braham is accurately treated in details from page 233 to 351, leading the reader into a kaleidoscopic world of those many personages, who, from the 1790s to 1820s, were the main characters of the theatre of the world: from Nelson to Lady Hamilton, from the English Royal family to Lord Byron, from the Bonaparte family and the French Revolution to J.M.W. Turner and John Ruskin, etc. Among the many intriguing episodes of this period a special mention must be made of two particularly interesting sections of Pesqué’s book: the European and Italian Tour of Nancy and Braham (1797-1801), which well reconstructs the panorama of Opera in France, in Italy and in Germany in the much troubled years of the French Revolution and of the first Napoleonic Wars and the intricate scandal of the affair of Braham with the wife of Henry Wright and the abandonment of Nancy Storace in 1816, a scandal which may have led, in the end, through an incredible twist of history, to a major role of the firm Jardine, Matheson & Co. in the First Opium War (1839-1842).

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Which perspectives for the Historically Informed musical practice? Something to ponder.
All those interested in the Historically Informed musical practice will find, in the narration and in the structure of this book, a fundamental motive of further reflection on what we consider philological or not in musical practice.
As Pesqué has largely demonstrated with her book, most of the success of these very well paid opera singers of 18th and 19th century was based, in reality, on versions of the operas, which, in many cases, had nothing to do with the original versions penned by the composers.
The rewriting of arias and sections of the operas and literally plenty of insertion numbers (i.e. arias etc.) written sometimes by another group of three or four different music composers, who had nothing to do with the first original composer, created an Opera Theatre business, regularly fed by operas which were, in reality, big pastiches, which sometimes retained, of the original concept of the first author, almost only the main title of the opera.
Hence, in conclusion, if in the 21th century we’d like to produce an Historically Informed reconstruction of an 18th century opera, which version we should consider really philological? The original one written by the first composer or the pastiche version with its great amount of insertion numbers, which was heartily welcomed by the audiences?
Certainly it’s something to ponder…
… and we are not touching here the delicate aspect of interpretation, since evidently, according to the original sources of that Era, in the 18th century there was a strong appeal towards a rather expressionist way of acting and performing (and it seems that part of the theatrical good fortune of Nancy Storace was also due to her special cheeky way of singing, dancing and, so to say, playing on the stage: what a magnificent Susanna!) and to what we may call, in modern terms, towards over-interpretation, whereas the modern music schools have a not always too acceptable interest rather in toned-down or even shabby interpretations (under-interpretation?), as if music may only mechanically exist, like an anonymous depersonalized entity (but beware of the famous ominous musicus mechanicus, as Mozart wrote in his letters!).

A reference book and the Internet on-line resources.
The book on Nancy Storace by Emmanuelle Pesqué is a book characterized by a beautiful and fluid readability. So, despite the accuracy and the many details, the book itself can be easily read as an intriguing novel.
Nonetheless, the Avant-propos, the first chapters of the book devoted to the origin of the family of Nancy Storace and to the flourishing music and entertainment business (e.g. the Pleasure Gardens) that this family manages to establish in London between 1740s and 1770s, the final chapters on the portraits of Nancy Storace and on Nancy Storace as a character of various fictional productions and the technical section at the end of book (the collection of rare images, the extremely detailed chronology of her theatrical career divided per seasons, the important collection of titles and synopses of extremely rare and now almost neglected English Operas written for Nancy Storace, the updated and extremely detailed bibliography and the discography) confer on the book by Pesqué also the status of an interesting and valuable Reference Book on the history of Opera Theatre between London and Vienna.
The Internet site run by the author of the book herself (annselinanancystorace.blogspot.com) further enrich the experience of this book with other updates and rare materials.

MozartCircle
S. & L.M. Jennarelli

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Interview June 2017: 10 Questions with R. Maeder

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Rebekka Maeder: Official Sites
Rebekka Maeder Official Site: Rebekka Maeder
Rebekka Maeder: Rebekka Maeder (LinkedIn)
Rebekka Maeder: Rebekka Maeder (Facebook)
Rebekka Maeder: Novocanto Ensemble
Rebekka Maeder: Novocanto Ensemble (Facebook)

Rebekka Maeder Coloratura Soprano:
Next Concerts
10-11-18 June 2017: Haydn – St.Cecilia Mass
8 July 2017: Mozart – Così Fan Tutte
16-17 September 2017: Mozart program concert
4-5 November 2017: Schubert Mass in E Flat (Bern)


1. International Soprano with a vast and varied repertoire (from Bach, Handel up to Mendelsshon, Offenbach, Ravel and Leonard Bernstein), through the years you have been building a really impressive Mozartian repertoire: 5 Mozart’s operas, 8 masses, Davidde penitente and many other Sacred Music Works by him. What attracted and what attracts you the most in Mozart’s music? What Mozartian opera character do you like the most of those you have interpreted? And why? What Sacred music Vocal part do you like the most of the many Mozartian Sacred Works you have interpreted? And why?

The compositions of Mozart are simply the product of an unrivalled genius.

He knew exactly how to deal with the human voice… how he had to write for each character in order to make it possible for the singer to show all the colours and all that necessary diversification that not only effectively builds the character but also makes the character well defined and interesting. Moreover, the orchestration is written by Mozart in a very clever way, so that it never arrives to an excess of demand from the singer. Personally, I do really love the elegance of Mozart’s melodies and how he musically builds up the characters in his Operas.

The characters in Mozart’s operas, which I have interpreted so far, with the exception of the Queen of the Night, show some similarities: young, adult ladies of nobility, confronted with the themes of love, loyalty and betrayal.

Mozart’s operas are mostly about the emotional entanglements with which the aristocratic population has to deal with in everyday’s life: love and fidelity, desire and adventure, power and resignation.

Therefore, a decision about my favourite Mozartian character is not easy at all… you see, it much depends on the profundity of a character and on the actual musical part, as well.

Of course, the Queen of the Night (The Magic Flute) has such a special value and such an intrinsic charm of its own: the great concentration of emotions, the high drama and also the vocal technical challenge… And all this must happen on stage and in music in a very short time… she has 3 shows in the whole opera: 2 arias of approx. 4min each and an ensemble at the end. Within these short periods, all these characterizing factors must perfectly emerge from your interpretation. This challenge is always a motive of great enchantment and it is always such a great joy to accomplish your performance of this character.

On the other hand, the Queen of the Night, as a drama character, has not an actual evolution nor a distinct development within the opera. If we consider this point of view, I must say I do prefer the character of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Such character really leaves enough room for the development of the various different facets, not only on a theatrical level but also, and principally, on a pure musical level.

In the field of sacred music, I love the Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor in a special manner.

The enchanting Soprano solo Et incarnatus est represents a great and, at the same time, a marvellous challenge to the singer, when you are demanded to completely merge intimacy and virtuosity through your own performance.

Moreover, in general, the Mass itself is a very delightful masterpiece for the soprano. There are even two of them, who are also ingeniously combined firstly in a duetto, and then with the tenor in a terzetto.

This mass is so marvellously permeated with an outstanding dimension of love and spirituality (and all this with a stylistic variety that is, at the same time, so harmoniously forged into an art product of such a pure and elevated unity), that it deeply touches the audience as well as the interpreter.

Rebekka Maeder sings Mozart, Mass in C Minor K427, Et incarnatus est.

Rebekka Maeder sings Mozart, The Magic Flute, Der Hölle Rache.

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2. In your Repertoire you have also many works by Joseph Haydn: The Creation, The Seasons and 5 Masses. What kind of interest led you to his music? What are your considerations on Haydn’s vocal parts in his masses and in his oratorios?

Haydn’s music is a great playing field for me as a singer!

I love his strong, sometimes even impetuous temperament, the freshness and playfulness of his compositions.

Sometimes arias are written in a way, that really recalls the Lied or Song technique, and can have a very catchy, almost folkish tone, but then… they can be highly virtuosic again.

His musical talent can achieve also such striking high levels of pictorial dimension.

An extraordinary example of this is his work The Creation in which his compositional mastery really stands out in all its glorious might… just not to mention that magnificent musical conception of chaos at the very beginning of his work.

Haydn really manages to break the rigid forms of baroque oratorios… and in such a pioneering way!

In The Creation he also shows his great talent in tone painting!

Each voice of nature finds its clear imitation in the sounds of the orchestra and also in the vocal parts: from the rays of the sun to the foaming waves of the sea, to the lions and the doves, etc.

All this is so so extremely interesting, if we consider the form of art itself!

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3. In your repertoire, apart from Handel’s works and Beethoven’s works, you have many important composers of the second half of the 18th century/beginning 19th century. Among them we remember Mozart’s friend and mentor Josef Myslivecek, Mozart’s and Haydn’s great pupil Hummel with his masses, the brother of Haydn and Mozart’s friend M. Haydn and also Gossec. What can you tell us about your interest in these composers and in their music? What led you to add them to your repertoire and which one of them do you consider the most interesting composer?

My musical interest is concentrated mainly on the epochs of classical music and romanticism.

As a freelance musician I have free choice on the works I sing, of course. I can decide whether the work or the composer irritates me or not.

Nevertheless, usually the theatres and conductors are those who make their first choice, as far as the composer and the work are concerned… and this gives me the lucky opportunity to know and sing music works, which I just did not know.

Moreover, it is fundamental to me also to decide whether the piece fits my voice or not.

In general, however, I think it is important to have as much diversification as possible in my choices and not to limit myself to interpreting only the great and well-known composers and works.

This alone arouses my interest, especially when we are considering composers of these epochs and when such composers, like Myslivecek, are also well associated with Mozart. This connection, not only in terms of teachers and pupils, but also friendships and competitions, often has a great influence on the composer’s musical work.

For me, it is in this very moment that music shows one of its most beautiful aspects: it unites people and people learn and grow together: the creators, the performers and the audience.

To explore what influences can be found in the music of Myslivecek, Hummel, Michael Haydn and Gossec has been and is of great interest to me.

And it is always exciting to discover how differently the composers have treated the human voice in their works.

Since these composers are very different one from the other, frankly I cannot say which one of them I consider the most interesting. You see, an important attitude for me is not to evaluate everything in life in a too sharp manner. It’s not just about what is now more meaningful and important, more intelligent, more virtuous, or more perfect. People are not perfect, in any respect. So I just try to grasp what I find in music, in terms of what is offered to be grasped, and I try to give it that meaning, the music itself wants and tries to express: sometimes this is really very much and of a complex nature, sometimes it is just simple and even, so to speak, casual.

In any case, I must say that, in particular, the works Abramo and Isacco by Myslivecek and also Gossec’s Grande messe des morts have been particularly touching to me.

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4. This year 2017 you are presenting Haydn’s St.Cecilia Mass (June), Mozart’s Così fan tutte (May-July), a full Mozartian program (September) and a Schubert Mass in November plus masses by Mozart (April) and Scarlatti (March) and Schumann and Mendelssohn. You also collaborate with various projects and ensembles and you are also a regular guest at various Music Festivals. So what can you tell us about your current and future projects? And what your suggestions to young singers who want to build a repertoire on MozartEra music?

I like the diversity and the constant new discoveries in the field of music.

I do not have to move across all the epochs, but I choose, where my voice and my heart lead me mostly.

I enjoy being able to make opera and operetta and sacred music with choir and orchestra, as well as chamber music.

Of course, concerts such as Haydn’s Cäcilienmesse, the Mendelssohn concerts in May and the Schubert Mass in November are impressive sonorous experiences, as they can fill a concert hall or a large church with a large orchestra and choir.

To make music with so many people is also a great accomplishment and it is also always so exciting to work with the different levels of the choirs… I mean, to work with professional musicians is an utterly different experience from working with non-professional choirs and often, when church music is involved, both experiences just incredibly meet each other.

Moreover the audience itself can be also so heterogeneous and of such a different nature. And this is a real challenge for the musician: to reach people, whether they are familiar with classical music or not.

And such considerations led me to work in projects like the Cosi fan tutte I’m presenting again in July: a chamber music version of the beautiful opera, tailored for the operatic lover as well as for the eyes and ears that are not familiar with the opera yet. The recitatives were replaced by the narrator Uwe Schönbeck, an outstanding and well-known actor in Switzerland and formerly a great and experienced singer who leads the audience through the opera and thus connects the musical numbers. This makes the opera much slimmer and more intelligible and it can also be easily financed and this in favour of smaller stages (a major subject in modern times not to be underestimated) and finally free the untrained listener from the fear of a visit at the opera house.

This variety of different works and performance platforms also offers great space for young singers to get acquainted with the repertoire of this time.

The vocal and artistic development of each young singer has its own pace and should be well reconciled with its possibilities. It must not be conducive to singing the most difficult and most complex works and roles too early and also the performance pressure should be handled with care.

So many young talents disappear, just because of a too much, so to say, because of too big stages and of a too heavy repertoire, which was forced.

Having a good mentor (or even several ones) who always has an eye and an ear on the singer is more than advisable. He can give good advice in the choice of roles and, above all, the necessary technical level. Internal and external growth should go hand in hand.

In contrast to later composers of the romantic period such as Strauss, Dvorak, Mahler, Verdi, Wagner, etc., the composers of the classical period seduce far less to an uncultivated and impetuous handling of the voices. The forms are more regular, the voice is somewhat less endangered.

Among the numerous works of classical music, however, there are also immense differences in the demands on the human voice. For example, it is advisable to choose, as a young soprano, the lighter voice parts (with Zerlina instead of Donna Elvira or with Blonde instead of Constanze), even if the voice shows already the potential for great drama.

Admittedly, sometimes the outside world does not seem to give a choice, but ultimately everyone decides more and more on his own voice.

If you are over-estimated it is actually easier to react, you can always cancel a job offer.

If a singer assumes too much too early, his ego is too great, or he has not dealt well enough with the part to be sung and has underestimated it (here an experienced consultant would be important).

If the singer does not take the step to accept or to apply for a role, although he is able to do so vocally, the ego, i.e. the inner growth, was not ready yet.

If one is underestimated, i.e. not being heard, this can have a reason which can be found in the very singer… the interior does not want to show itself, although it could. It is always a fundamental matter of balance.

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

Don Giovanni and The Creation.

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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?

I think Louis Spohr (1784-1859) is a very interesting composer.

Next year, one of his works The Saviour’s Last Hours will be performed.

Spohr is anything but unknown, his works range from opera, operetta, oratorios, drama music, songs, symphonies, chamber music to numerous violin concertos, however, despite the quantity and the quality of his works, he is rarely found in the concert or in opera agenda.

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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, especially thanks to your special experience as a MozartEra musician, performer and connoisseur.

For instance, Gossec’s Grande messe des morts or Hummel’s Mass in D Minor.

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8. Do you have in mind a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

For me, reading books is not the first choice when it comes to understanding the music.

I rather try to see how a composer has written the music; how he wrote my vocal parts and how he orchestrated them.

When I read books, I rather choose biographies or, even better, letters from the composers or from his contemporaries, as is in the case of Mozart.

Mozart’s letters are really wonderful to get an authentic impression of his world… They say a lot about the spirit of his time and about his own character.

 

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

BBC has produced a good number of interesting documentaries on Mozart; e.g. the chapter A Passion for the Stage from The Genius of Mozart (BBC Documentary).

And Amadeus is also a nice movie to get an impression of that time.

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1984, AMADEUS

10. Name a place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music.

Vienna is such a great place!

You cannot get around this city (fortunately), if you have to deal with the music of this century.

I have been there several times for masterclasses and sightseeing!

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

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2017 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use

 

 

Interview March 2017: 10 Questions with J. A. Montaño (English)

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Lee esta entrevista en Español

José Antonio Montaño: Official Sites
José Antonio Montaño Official Site: José Antonio Montaño
José Antonio Montaño Official Site: La Madrileña Orchestra
José Antonio Montaño: José Antonio Montaño LinkedIn (Official)
José Antonio Montaño: José Antonio Montaño Twitter (Official)
José Antonio Montaño: José Antonio Montaño Facebook (Official)
José Antonio Montaño: José Antonio Montaño YouTube (Official)

José Antonio Montaño & La Madrileña: La Madrileña Twitter (Official)
José Antonio Montaño & La Madrileña: La Madrileña Facebook (Official)

José Antonio Montaño conducting Martín y Soler, Haydn & Mozart:



1. Thanks to your intense activity as conductor, artistic director, music scholar and critical editor, you managed to develop an important series of music projects on a very special Viennese triad: Mozart, Haydn and Martín y Soler. So you really re-create, this way, that special authentic Vienna musical atmosphere of the 1780s, when Haydn was already a papa and both Mozart and Martín y Soler (backed by those great librettos by Da Ponte) became the Theatre Opera Best Sellers from Vienna to Prague with their Nozze di Figaro, Una cosa rara, Don Giovanni and L’arbore di Diana, and Martín y Soler was so successful to become the favourite composer of the Imperial Court. What fascinated and fascinates you most about the music of Martín y Soler? And, in your opinion, what characteristics of his music and of his operas impressed and attracted the 18th century audience so much that Martín y Soler’s operas managed to receive such an extraordinary amount of theatre performances for that period (almost 100 performances only for Una cosa rara and the usual theatre income for 24 successful performances was ca. 20,000 florins, i.e. ca. 140,000 modern US dollars: Mozart’s annual Imperial salary was 800 florins, i.e. ca. 4,800 modern US dollars)?

Since my early years as a musical director, I have had the impulse to research and perform forgotten works by not-so-popular musicians such as La Contadina by Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783), the zarzuela Las labradoras de Murcia by Antonio Rodríguez de Hita (1724-1787) and the oratorio Il sacrifizio di Abramo by Camilla de Rossi (16??-1710). In this context and while I was studyig in-depth Spanish authors of the 17th and 18th centuries, Vicente Martín y Soler (1754-1806) appeared. It also coincided that back in 2006, when the Teatro Real de Madrid (Royal Theatre of Madrid), where I was working as conductor of its young orchestra Orquesta Escuela de la Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid, decided to produce the opera Il Tutore Burlato (1775) on the occasion of the 200th death anniversary of Martín y Soler and therefore I had the chance to work in-depth on his music. It was in that very moment that I began studying his work and life more thoroughly.

Martín y Soler, Il Tutore Burlato, Overture

The first factor that has drawn me to Martín y Soler was that he, a Spanish composer, could enjoy such resounding success in Europe’s most prominent musical centres in the final years of the 18th century, and that he was, at the same time, in direct competition to musicians of the highest level such as Mozart himself, whom he even managed to surpass in popularity.

What I find fascinating about Martín y Soler also coincides with what I think was one of the keys to his success: to be a flexible and versatile musician who knew how to adapt himself and his music to the various trends and requirements that he had to face during the various and different (also geographical) situations of his life, be that in Spain, Italy, England, Russia or Vienna with their respective Italian, French and Russian operas.

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A great example of this is what happened when the empress Catherine II of Russia requested the service of Vicente Martín y Soler, who was at that moment a highly acclaimed composer and a favourite of Joseph II in Vienna, where he was known, in his role of a successful and celebrated maestro, as lo Spagnuolo.

The czarina was not satisfied with the work of Domenico Cimarosa who was then maestro di cappella at the Imperial Court and whose duties included the composition of Italian operas and the new Russian opera which Catherine II wanted to empower. Martín y Soler knew how to adapt to his Russian operas and highly fulfilled what was expected of him.

On the other hand, thanks to this replacement, in 1791 Cimarosa reached Vienna where he occupied, for a few months, the position of court composer that was formerly deserted by Salieri, (a position also intensely desired by Mozart, dead by then), to conduct the premiere of Il Matrimonio segreto in February 1792 with resounding success, which is considered today his best opera and one of the best comic operas of that period. It is well known how, after the sudden death (by poisoning?) of the Austrian emperor Leopold in March 1792, Cimarosa had to leave the Imperial Court and Salieri received his position of court composer back, to keep it de facto for another thirty years.

Cimarosa, Il matrimonio segreto (2012)

Another of the keys to Martín y Soler’s success was that he knew how to keep this flexibility and his ability to adapt without ever losing his own style and essence.

Throughout his career, his aesthetics follow certain general guidelines similar to those used by Spanish composers of the 18th century: a clear and clean orchestration, that avoids excess and artificiality where the voice did not compete in a counterpoint way with the orchestra, and a contained harmony. This apparent simplicity, his capacity for creating beautiful and catchy melodies and that amiable atmosphere of divertimento of his operas enchanted and captivated the audience of all the social classes.
It surely comes across as striking, yet during Martín y Soler’s Viennese period his operas were certainly more frequently performed and had more success than the majority of Mozart’s, who deliberately wrote for intellectual elite.

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2. You gained great audience and critical acclaim a few years ago, thanks to your most beautiful and brilliant production of Haydn’s opera La vera costanza. What did you love most of Haydn, the opera composer? And in what elements of his operas do you think the inventiveness and wit of the Haydn of the Quartets and of the Symphonies do emerge with all their charm?

Haydn really played a major and fundamental role in establishing two of the greatest forms of western music: the string quartet and the symphony. He used the string quartet as the means for formal experimenting, achieving thus that peculiar unity, where before there was just a series of movements. He exports his work on the string quartet to his symphonies and, of course, to his operas as well. That interrelation between different genres that he encouraged is, in its essence, both logical and visible. During his life, Haydn enjoyed success and recognition for his work, as rarely happens in history, however after his death and to this day his numerous and valuable works have become progressively forgotten and neglected due to various circumstances. Among these circumstances there is certainly also the appearance of Mozart and Beethoven, and so daddy Haydn started occupying the real undeserved role of a mere introduction to the well-known geniuses.

His very works are a real example of this kind of oblivion that their composer Haydn had to suffer, since they are rarely featured in present theatre programmes, and this is a tremendous pity.

I have been lucky enough to be able to work on such magnificent title as La vera costanza (1779)…

Haydn, La vera costanza, Sinfonia Introduzione

Haydn, La vera costanza, Finale Atto II

… and Il mondo della luna (1777), both composed while Haydn was in the service of the Eszterházy family (and the majority of his operatic catalogue was conceived, written and produced in such circumstances).

Haydn’s creativity and imagination are overwhelming. His arias and ensemble numbers have their own personality and they are characterized by that peculiar Haydnian scent, so to speak. Haydn is a real magician when it comes to regulating the intensity of music and to carrying it to its climax in a masterly way in his Finale, as his friend and admirer Mozart did in a very similar way.

However Haydn had a disadvantage, when we consider his opera production in comparison to that of Mozart and Martín y Soler: the quality of his librettos, in reality, was not excellent. Working in the Eszterházy court, he did not have a lot of opportunities to work with librettists of the rank of Lorenzo Da Ponte, while Mozart and Martín y Soler could work with him, one of the best librettists of that period. Probably this is one of the reasons why present day theatres do not produce his operas with particular assiduousness, even though Haydn’s music is so marvellous.

Another aspect that I much cherish in Haydn is his humour, always so manifestly evident in his entire musical production and this even more overtly and effectively in his own operas.

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3. Thanks to your activity as concert organizer, you have revived also a special type of 1780s concert: concerts featuring, during the same soirée, music by Mozart and by Martín y Soler. Probably the first time this happens since 1780s, when we know from the sources that music-lovers adored to organize such types of concerts (Mozart+Martín y Soler) with «extraordinarily numerous audience… and in unanimous satisfaction… elicited unanimous applause». What have been your impressions in finally re-uniting such two great masters of music for the same concert? Mozart wrote also a few vocal pieces to be included in the Operas by Martín y Soler: do you think he wrote such pieces, by using exclusively his own style or added also a bit of Martín y Soler in them?

I see this type of programmes with great satisfaction, both on a personal level and also because of the reaction of the audience and of the musicians themselves. A marvellous example is the programme for the debut of my period instrument orchestra La Madrileña which featured exclusively works by both authors. I chose masterpieces by Mozart such as the Symphony No. 40 in G Minor,…

Mozart, Symphony nº 40

…  the aria of Leporello Madamina, il catalogo è questo from Don Giovanni or the duo Crudel! Perchè finora from The marriage of Figaro and I combined them with overtures, arias and duos from operas by Martín y Soler such as Il burbero di buon cuore, Una cosa rara, La capricciosa corretta and L’isola del piacere. These works did not only prove a competence of Martín y Soler on the level of a Mozart, but the audience and even some of the orchestra members themselves were really amazed at the intrinsic high quality of Martín y Soler’s works.

Regarding your second question, yes indeed, the musical interrelation between Mozart and Martín y Soler is not only due to the famous quote from Una cosa rara which appears in the finale of Don Giovanni.

Sometimes these operas were performed during a long period of time and it would be necessary to replace one or another of the singers and such situations led to inevitably remake and readjust the music to the new voices.
This is exactly what happened in 1789 with the repositioning of a few arias of Il Burbero di buon cuore for the character of Madama Lucilla: Chi sa qual sia and Vado, ma dove.

Mozart, Aria Chi sa qual sia

This opera by Martín y Soler had premiered three years before and the new singer, Louise Villeneuve, needed for her arias to be developed in a more centred register. As lo Spagnuolo, Martín y Soler, was in San Petersburg, Mozart received the assignment for the rewriting. Mozart accepted and composed these two magnificent arias based on the same text by Lorenzo Da Ponte, yet in his own personal style.

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4. Your orchestra La Madrileña receives its name after Martín y Soler first opera Il tutore burlato or La Madrileña (1775-1776 as zarzuela), both as an homage to Martín y Soler and as a label for your Music Project The Martín y Soler Project. Among your activities with your orchestra, you are presenting a series of concerts featuring again rare beautiful music from the Spain of the 18th century with works by Martín y Soler, Boccherini, José de Nebra, Rodriguez de Hita and from the Zarzuela tradition. What are your vision and your projects for your orchestra La Madrileña and for the music of 18th century for the future, especially regarding The Martín y Soler Project? Do you think also that your activity of music critical editor will lead you also to re-discover some other lost music gems, after your marvellous work with Martín y Soler’s opera Pesnolubie?

I have great and ambitious expectations for La Madrileña and The Martín y Soler Project related activities. I hope we could soon complete our concert activities with also a series of productions of opera and zarzuela; the musicians I am fortunate to rely on are extremely capable and this allows them to tackle any type of production.

Regarding the Martín y Soler Project, which is in the DNA of La Madrileña, it is through this project that we aspire to encounter the recognition that Martín y Soler deserves. I firmly believe that the ideal way to showcase his music qualities is through an orchestra of period instruments of the highest standard such as La Madrileña.

Regarding the second question, I have been finding really hidden gems for so many years, until today, and I am sure that this state of things will certainly continue in this way, as long as I steadily carry on a strenuous archival and documentary research.

On the other hand, and especially regarding the Spanish music heritage, we have to state that it is so vast and of such a high quality, that it is hard to believe that it has been so scarcely performed so far. In addition, I have the pleasure to be able to rely on the invaluable help of various musicologists. Vera Fouter is one of them and her contribution is the largest one to The Martín y Soler Project. Doctor Fouter (Vera Fouter at Academia; Read here her work on Martín y Soler – University of Oviedo: La Estancia en Rusia de Vicente Martín y Soler: nuevas aportaciones musicologicas) is an academic major, specialized in Martín y Soler and it is mainly thanks to her studies and efforts that the revival in modern times of three arias from the opera Pesnolubie by Martín y Soler has been possible and this with the collaboration of La Madrileña: such works, in fact, have not been performed for more than 200 years!

 

Martín y Soler, Aria V svéte liúdi svoevólni, from opera Pesnolubie

Presently we continue working together on Martín y Soler’s music and we are really looking forward to being able to show the fruit of our work, as soon as possible, by presenting, to the public, new marvellous forgotten gems by him and by other composers.

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

This is a tough question, since I am literally capable of crazily falling in love with the works I am working on at the moment.

If I am conducting the 41st Symphony by Mozart, it happens that, during the process of study, the rehearsals, and the concerts, that very symphony can become even my favourite symphony ever.

And this always happens to me, always and with all the works I am working on.

However, if I had really to choose an opera, in particular, and nothing else, I’d choose Don Giovanni.

Mozart, Don Giovanni, Overture

Mozart, Don Giovanni, Aria Madamina, il catalogo è questo

I also think that that very peculiar experience that one lives when conducting (one’s memories, perceptions, the atmosphere, etc.), always exerts a great influence on one’s disposition towards things and also towards music works.

Many things, so, may exert a direct influence on one’s choices, but, without a doubt, Don Giovanni is special to me.
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For Haydn, I would choose Die Schöpfung.

It is a masterpiece for which I have always cultivated a profound admiration: it is an oratorio full of subtleties and of dramatic qualities, well deserving to be positioned among the greatest masterpieces of all time.

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6. Beside Martín y Soler, do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

I am interested in José de Nebra (1702-1768), a Spanish composer who composed marvellous zarzuelas and sacred works.

He is a great artist who, with minimal resources, was capable of achieving great expressiveness: a characteristic typical only of great maestros.

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7. Considering your work on Martín y Soler and the zarzuela, name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

Any opera by Martín y Soler and any zarzuela by Nebra represent marvellous concert and performance proposals, worthy to be included into any Music Season programme more frequently.

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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 think it is of great importance to develop a proper knowledge both of the oldest and of the latest musical treatises, with a particular attention to those treatises, which belong to the same era as the music works you are working on: it’s the only way to better understand any phase of the musical creativity process in its correct context and also within the historical flow.

To have a wider perspective always gives you the possibility of a better comprehension both of the subject, as a whole, and of its single parts and elements. Considering this special perspective, I think that the famous treatises by Quantz and Leopold Mozart are indispensable tools for any musician, even though those treatises belong to a previous generation, or better, exactly because they belong to that previous generation that produced the music of the 18th century.

On the other hand, I consider it very useful to develop also a proper historical, social and political knowledge, and not only a musical and an artistic one. I would like to cite here The Present State of Music in France and Italy by Charles Bruney and the Memoirs by Lorenzo Da Ponte, both perfect books for that type of intellectual work, I was talking about.

[The Memoirs by Lorenzo Da Ponte are already available to read & download at the MozartCircle Library: Mozart’s Life Books – Other Sources. Also the other books and treatises will be available soon.]

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

Considering the movies related to classicism, it is inevitable to remember the most famous Amadeus.

To complete an ideal trilogy that would help to grant a perspective on the previous and later periods I would cite Eroica, which re-enacts the first rehearsal of the 3rd Symphony by Beethoven (the recording is with musicians who play on period instruments), and Farinelli, il castrato, especially because of the very peculiar relationship of this great singer and of his family with Spain.

 

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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 piano music?

I think that if I had to choose a place, it would be Vienna.

The weight and influence that Haydn and Mozart had on Beethoven and on the future of the German and European music is simply indisputable.

However we cannot forget to mention Italy.

The musical genre of Viennese classicism, in fact, is par excellence, in reality, the Italian Opera buffa, to which later composers, like Rossini and Donizetti, gave their enormous contribution, preparing the way to a long series of excellent maestros, from Bellini to Verdi.

 

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

Thank you!

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