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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
BBC TV Series – Great Composers
Excerpts from:
Die Entführung aus dem Serail K384 (1781-2) Act II: ‘Welche Wonne, Welche Lust’
Le nozze di Figaro, K492 (1785-6) – Overture; Act I ‘Se vuol ballare’; ActII: ‘Voi che sapete’; Act III: ‘Che soave zeffiretto’
Don Giovanni K527, (1787) Overture
Cosi fan tutte, (1789) K588 - Act I Quintet
Die Zauberflöte, K620(1790-1)) Act I ‘Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja’.
Symphony No. 1, K 16 (1764)
Symphony No. 31, K297 ‘Paris’ (1778) - Finale
Symphony No. 40, K550 (1788) – 1st movement
Symphony No. 41, K551 ‘Jupiter’(1788) - Finale
Piano Concerto No. 23, K488 (1784-6) 1st and 2nd movements
Violin Concerto in A major, K219 (1775)
Clarinet Concerto, K622 (1791) – 2nd movement
String Quartet, K465 ‘Dissonance’ (1785) - 1st movement
String Quartet in G major, K387 (1782) – Finale
Narrated by: Kenneth Branagh
Performed by: Cecilia Bartoli (soprano); Lilian Watson (soprano); Imogen Cooper (pianist); Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Endellion Quartet; London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis
Contributors include: H.C. Robbins Landon; Jonathan Miller; Robert Levin, Charles Rosen; Sir Georg Solti; Sir Colin Davis and Imogen Cooper.
BBC broadcast 1997
WARNER MUSIC/NVC ARTS/BBC 50-51011-5449-2-7 [59:00]

“I think that Mozart is the God of music …. There is something special about this man which is irresistible” – Sir Colin Davis
“Mozart’s music touches me deeply because it is sincere and (his opera characters) are so fragile, both passionate and profound” - Cecilia Bartoli
“Retrospectively we have constructed this myth of an amazing angel who was visited with a supernatural talent and then taken away from us far too soon” – Jonathan Miller, opera director
Another enlightening programme in BBC TV’s Great Composers series. This one succinctly explores the genius of Mozart and how influential and important his work was to the development of European music. The programme illustrates his manifest gifts with numerous well-chosen excerpts from many genres. It illuminates his essential humanity and the often-overlooked profundity of his music.
The programme includes many contemporary portraits of Mozart and his family and location shots in Salzburg and Vienna but it is the excerpts, splendidly performed, and the filmed interviews that really make this programme so informative and entertaining.
There is so much enlightening material. At the outset, the point is made that for any such child prodigy to succeed, he should not only be extraordinarily talented and quick to learn, but should have the infinite support of parents and teachers and the enthusiasm of attentive audiences; all of which came together for Mozart. Furthermore, at the end of the 18th century, in Joseph II’s Vienna, an emerging affluent, educated, often multilingual and well-travelled middle class, was supporting public concerts. This allowed music to develop outside the more restricted requirements and confines of church and court. All these conditions were favourable to Mozart’s emerging genius.
Mozart is shown as a fully rounded personality. For instance, he is recognised as a shrewd businessman. Early in his career, for example, he realises that Italian opera overshadows German, so he studies the Italian genre and not only succeeds in that idiom, but also cleverly and artfully adopts and refines that form’s techniques into his concert music. Some of the most interesting and unexpected gestures of Mozart’s A Major Violin Concerto, are instanced. In earlier concertos the violin, on its first entry, repeats material previously announced on the orchestra. In Mozart’s A Major Concerto, the violin behaves like an operatic diva and plays something different, some entirely new material.
Some of the most illuminating comments come from pianist and musicologist, Robert Levin who is shamefully relegated to an obscured credit, behind the DVD on this company’s typically slipshod and inadequate packaging*. Speaking of Mozart’s A minor Sonata, composed shortly after, and surely influenced by his grief over the death of his mother, Levin draws attention to its wildness, the music lashing out, “one can imagine fists striking out at the instrument … there’s something psychotic about this music; those terrifying chromatic scales, slithery things sucking him into the vortex … and then there is (elsewhere) a sense of helplessness”; redolent of the work’s calmer, more poignant music.
(*Works are wrongly identified or not identified – for instance, there is no mention of the A minor Piano Sonata and K488 is Piano Concerto No. 23 not No. 2!)
Later, Levin comments that, in the context of his piano concertos of which the programme credits him with having created its modern form, Mozart cannily presented himself to his audiences as composer, performer and improviser. He goes on to state that although we, today, would regard Mozart’s accomplishments in that order, it was the reverse for Mozart’s audiences. “His improvisations were beyond delight”, Branagh immediately after comments and then continues, “Mozart dazzled his audiences with many magical improvisations in just one concerto, leaving all other pianists with a problem – should you just play the notes as Mozart wrote down or add your own embellishments to his text?” This dilemma is particularly acute at the end of the slow movement of the Piano Concerto No. 23 where, as Imogen Cooper remarks, “… the piano line in the score looks very spare and simple – with rising and falling intervals from the top to the bottom of the piano and back again with nothing else written in. Now Mozart would do this quite often leaving a line quite bare and would fill in, extemporising in performance; and he would have varied it from performance to performance. He would never have bothered to write it down. There is no subject (how to interpret such music) that divides musicians more and raises blood pressure more; it’s a very personal thing.” On this subject, Sir Colin Davis opines “You don’t know that Mozart did not want that bareness. To put frills on it sometimes is inappropriate, you are missing a moment of extraordinary depth and desolation in this man by dressing him up in dolly’s clothes.”
The programme is full of enlightening insights like these across all genres of Mozart’s music.
“The world will not see such a talent again for a hundred years.” – Joseph Haydn, on the death of Mozart
Even the keenest Mozart admirer will find some wonderful insights in this excellent documentary.
Ian Lace




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