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Gran Partita – Chamber Festival 2023

MOZART Serenade in Bb “Gran Partita”

Oboe: Matthew Bubb
Oboe: Katya Amadita
Clarinet: Andrew Doyle
Clarinet: Rob Mackay
Basset Horn: Alisha Coward
Basset Horn: Greg Larielle-Jones
Bassoon: Joshua Reynolds
Bassoon: Zola Baldwin
French Horn: Adrian Hallam
French Horn: Gemma Lawton
French Horn: Neil O’Donnell
French Horn: Robert Stonestreet
Double Bass: Mark Szeto

Leichhardt Town Hall, Leichardt NSW

Saturday, September 16th at 3:30 pm

Gran Partita – Concert Information

Mozart, W.A (1756 – 1791)Serenade No. 10 in B-flat K361/370a

Mozart’s Serenade in B-flat is often referred to as the ‘Gran Partita’ from words written on the first page of the autograph (actually penned ‘Gran Partitta’ as seen above). The handwriting is clearly not Mozart’s, and the text’s red colour matches nothing else in the manuscript, so the title appears to have been added at a later time by someone else. It is also different to the publisher’s (André) handwriting seen in the top right of the opening page.

The late 18th Century saw a tremendous appetite develop amongst nobility for their own Harmoniemusik to entertain guests within their homes. This was in no small part because of the reduced expense of having 8 or 9 musicians instead of a full court orchestra, while still being able to produce a rich palette of sound and colour, capable of playing music from almost all the different styles of the time. These wind bands were traditionally made up of pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns, and often had an extra bass part for added depth. Mozart’s letters contain several mentions of wind instruments, and we can clearly see his fondness for Harmoniemusik, and of particular note to this author, the timeless sentence ‘Ah! If only we had clarinets too!’.

Munich, Oct. 2, 1777

At four o’clock I went to Frau von Tosson’s, where I found mamma and also Frau von Hepp. I played there till eight o’clock, and after that we went home; and at half-past nine a small band of music arrived, consisting of five persons—two clarinet players, two horns, and one bassoon. Herr Albert (whose name-day is tomorrow) arranged this music in honour of me and himself. They played rather well together and were the same people whom we hear during dinner at Albert’s, but it is well known that they are trained by Fiala. They played some of his pieces, and I must say they are very pretty: he has some excellent ideas. Tomorrow we are to have a small musical party together, where I am to play. (Nota bene, on that miserable piano! oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear!) I beg you will excuse my horrid writing, but ink, haste, sleep, and dreams are all against me. I am now and forever amen, your dutiful son, A. W. MOZART.

Mannheim, Dec. 3, 1778.

I MUST ask your forgiveness for two things,—first, that I have not written to you for so long; and secondly, that this time also I must be brief.

Next Wednesday I set off, and do you know how I travel? With the worthy prelate, the Bishop of Kaisersheim. . . . Be so good as to answer me the following questions. How do the comedians please at Salzburg? Is not the young lady who sings, Madlle. Keiserin? Does Herr Feiner play the English horn? Ah! if only we had clarinets too! You cannot imagine the splendid effect of a symphony with flutes, hautboys, and clarinets. At my first audience of the Archbishop I shall tell him much that is new, and also make some suggestions. Oh, how much finer and better our orchestra might be if the Archbishop only chose! The chief cause why it is not so, is that there are far too many performances. I make no objection to the chamber music, only to the concerts on a larger scale.

January 23, 1782

Well, I want to give you my opinion as to my prospects of a small permanent income. I have my eye here on three sources…. The first is young Prince Liechtenstein, who would like to collect a wind-instrument band (although he does not yet want it to be known), for which I should write the music. This would not bring in very much, it is true, but it would be a least something certain, and I should not sign the contract unless it were to be for life.

A vivid impression of Harmoniemusik performances is found in a quotation from the Vienna Theatre Almanac for 1794:

During the summer months, if the weather is fine, one can encounter a serenade in the street any day and at any time of day, possibly at one o’clock in the morning or even later. These serenades, however, do not consist merely of a vocalist accompanied by a guitar, mandora or similar instrument, as is the practice in Italy or Spain; here serenades are not performed in order to express one’s sighs or declare one’s love, for which there are a thousand more comfortable opportunities; these serenades consist rather of quartets, quintets or sextets performed by wind instruments, sometimes by a whole orchestra . . . These performances at night show clearly how widely and intensely music is loved; no matter how late at night it may be, even at an hour at which everyone is hurrying home, people may soon be observed at their windows, and in a few minutes the musicians are surrounded by a crowd of listeners, who applaud, frequently demanding that a piece be repeated, as though they were in the theatre, rarely departing until the serenade is concluded and often accompanying the band in large numbers to another part of the town.

Prior to the introduction of copyright laws, opera arrangements posed quite a dilemma for composers intent on reaping all possible financial gain from their compositions. Indeed, on the heels of the success of his opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Mozart scurried to beat his rivals to the punch:

Well, I am up to the eyes in work, for by Sunday week I have to arrange my opera for wind instruments. If I don’t, someone will anticipate me and secure the profits.

Another mention of note in Mozart’s letters, but more fondly this time as the band was performing his music reads:

November 3, 1781

At eleven o’clock at night I was treated to a serenade performed by two clarinets, two horns and two bassoons–and that of my own composition . . . These musicians asked that the street door might be opened and, placing themselves in the centre of the courtyard, surprised me, just as I was about to undress, in the most pleasant fashion imaginable with the first chord in E-flat.

Early opinions erroneously suggest that the B-flat Serenade K361/370a was begun in Munich, but watermarks on the paper suggest it was written in the early Viennese period, c.1782. Roger Hellyer, a scholar of Mozart and Harmonie, suggests that possibly the B-flat Serenade was a wedding present for Constanze in 1782.

Evidence of the first known performance of this work points to the spring of 1784, with four of the seven movements performed. It is not clear as to whether the other three movements existed at that time or were written later. Mozart’s friend and famed clarinettist Anton Stadler (who was one of two clarinettists employed with the emperor’s Harmonie) included this work on a concert during the Lenten season. This was the time of year that musicians of the nobility were given vacation, so Stadler had the pick of the best musicians for his efforts. In the Wienerblättchen advertisement Stadler suggests that he commissioned Mozart to write a ‘great wind piece of a very special kind’. The performance at the Burgtheater on March 23, 1784 received the following response from critic J. F. Schink:

A master sat at every instrument and oh, what an effect!-magnificent and grand…Mozart. There’s life here, like the land of the blessed, the land of music…

The sheer impressiveness of this music has continued to inspire artists throughout the generations, and in Peter Shaffer’s play of 1979 – Amadeus – Shaffer attempts to capture the genius of the Adagio:

On the page it looked nothing, the beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse, bassoons, basset horns, like a rusty squeezebox. And then, suddenly… high above it… an oboe. A single note, hanging there, unwavering. Until, a clarinet took it over, and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was a music I had never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing. It seemed as if I was hearing the voice of God.

Andrew Doyle

Dedicated to Sarajane-Kirkaldy Hansen (1965 – 2023)

Co-Principal Bassoon of The Metropolitan Orchestra

Dearly missed

NB: Please note that there will be an additional work presented this afternoon which has been specially written for today. This work will be announced at the performance.