Mozart composed about half of his symphonies before the age of fifteen, but his skill as a symphonist was honed to a large extent during the nine months following his second Italian trip (December 1771-August 1772), when he was 15-16 years old. Symphony in F Major, K. 130, is one of the eight symphonies that he composed during this brief period.
The two symphonies on today’s program are among only five Mozart symphonies that call for four horns in the instrumentation, and K. 130 is the only symphony for four horns with two flutes and strings, in instead of the usual two oboes, two horns and strings. In these two works we see the influence of Joseph Haydn in many aspects. The instrumentation including four horns is most likely due to Mozart’s acquaintance with Haydn’s three Symphonies that call for four horns: Nos. 13 in D (1763), 31 in D (1765), and 39 in g (1768). In particular, the affinity between Mozart’s K. 130 and Haydn’s Symphony No. 13, and between Mozart’s K. 183 and Haydn’s Symphony No. 39 are palpable both in substance and in spirit. In both symphonies, all movements except the Menuettos are in the sonata form.
As in Haydn No. 13, K. 130 is full of fascinating odd-measure phrases and groupings. The first movement begins with an Italianate theme of two five-measure phrases that consists of a snappish Lombard rhythm (reversed dotted figure with the short note before the long note) on the strong beat followed by repeated eighth notes for the rest of the measure. After this unusual first theme, the phrase structure reverts to even-number groupings, including the appearance of the first theme in an eight-measure guise in the recapitulation. The persistent rhythmic motive of the first theme throughout the movement along with the presence of a cheerful second theme featuring trills and triplets seem to suggest continuous laughter.
The two middle movements of this symphony also feature unusual phrase structures. The second movement, Andante grazioso, is a tuneful piece whose serenity belies the asymmetrical phrase structure of its main theme, which consists of two ten-measure phrases in 3/8 meter, each phrase made up of 3+3+4 measures. In the third movement, the light-hearted Menuetto of two eight-measure phrases is pitted against the Trio, which consists of a twelve-measure phrase of 3+3+3+3 measures and a ten-measure phrase of 4+3+3 measures. The quirkiness in phrase structure accords well with the striking and witty use of modal harmony in the Trio.
It is in the final Molto Allegro that the listener most appreciates the unusual instrumentation of this work. Here the brightness and lightness of the flutes, with their frequent doubling of the first violin part either in unison or an octave higher, combined with the fullness and richness of the four horns produce the unusual orchestral sonority that is at once powerful, buoyant, and clear.
K. 183, completed in October of 1773, shows the influence of Haydn’s Symphony No. 39 (1768), not just in the use of four horns and its resultant rich orchestral sonority, but also in its rhythmic propulsion, strong harmonic direction, and thorough thematic development. With its intensity and its depth of expression, this highly dramatic work in G minor presaged the great symphonies that followed.
The first movement begins with a stunning exposition that creates a range of intensity by means of the contrast of the different rhythmic make-up of the string accompaniment for each repetition of the oboes’ theme in whole notes: first the turbulence of the syncopated quarter notes, followed by the repose of the regular quarter notes, then the agitation of the sixteenth-note tremolos. The restlessness of the first theme is contrasted with the playfulness of the second theme in the relative major key of B-flat. The short development section continues the excitement of the exposition by the daring juxtaposition of disparate musical ideas. The recapitulation recaptures the intensity of the exposition, and the movement is brought to a close by a short coda.
The second movement is distinguished by the presence of expressive appoggiaturas throughout. The expressivity of the three-note motive of the theme is accentuated at the beginning and in the recapitulation by the echoes of the bassoons, and enhanced in the development section by the instability of harmonic modulations. A most effective surprise is the insertion in the recapitulation of a sentence that recalls the development.
The third movement is a Menuetto in G minor in which statements by the full orchestra alternate with quiet and sensuous responses by the strings. This is pitted against a light-hearted Trio in G major played by only the winds.
In the final Allegro, the horns emerge in the role of soloists by playing the main theme eight times throughout the movement. With two pairs of natural horns, one in G and one in B-flat, in turn they are able to play all the pitches and thus the theme in its entirety. It is the rich sonority of the four horns that gives this movement its heroic quality.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei is one of three smaller works of Mozart’s church music singled out for discussion by H. C. Robbins Landon in his essay on sacred vocal music of special interest and merit. The autograph of this piece is dated 9 September 1777, and it was intended for performance on the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which in 1777 was on 12 September. With the knowledge that Mozart and his mother were preparing to embark on their arduous trip to Paris on 23 September to face an uncertain future, some Mozart experts have postulated that this piece was the composer’s private votive offering to the Virgin Mary, seeking her protection on their long journey. This supposition seems to me to be a convincing explanation for the very personal tone of its non-liturgical Latin text, which says:
Holy Mary, mother of God, I owe everything to you, from this hour, I dedicate myself solely to your service. I elect you as my patroness and protectress, In my heart I will always honor and worship you, I will never abandon my devotion or allow it to be profaned by word or deed by those placed in my care. Holy Mary, receive my prayers as I kneel at your feet, protect me in life, and defend me at the hour of my death.
Regina coeli in B-flat Major, K. 127, was composed in 1772 for Solemn Vespers during Eastertide. It is in three movements: fast-slow-fast, and scored for soprano solo, chorus, and an orchestra of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 horns, strings and continuo. The translation of its Latin text is as follows:
O Queen of heaven, rejoice – alleluia. For he, whom you were worthy to bear – alleluia. Is, as prophesied, arisen – alleluia. Pray for us to God – alleluia.
The first line is set to the music of the first movement, which is a concerto movement in sonata form, with a double exposition. It begins with a full orchestral introduction that includes all the musical material of the exposition, which is then sung by the chorus with orchestra. This music is repeated again in its entirety in the recapitulation after a short development section.
The last three lines of the text are set to a deeply moving slow movement for soprano solo, chorus, and orchestra. It is an aria in two sections. The first section in F major, marked Andante, includes both the second line, sung by the soprano solo, and the third line by the chorus. The effective tone-painting of the word “Resurrexit” is exclaimed by the chorus by the thrice rising sequence of a broken-chord motive. The soprano returns in the second section of the movement to sing the last line in a pleading aria in E-flat major (symbolically a step lower than F major), beseeching the Queen of heaven to pray for us.
In a complete change of mood, the soprano solo introduces the final “Alleluia” in a brisk 3/8 meter. In the sonata form and with a coda, this movement is a joyful expression of the jubilation of Easter.
The solo soprano part in this work was written for Michael Haydn’s wife, Maria Magdalena Lipp, who must have been a fine coloratura soprano and sensitive musician. The florid passages and the ornamented melodies throughout the last two movements are at once a display of vocal agility and a test of vocal expressiveness.
©2006 John Hsu
(Additional note by Daniel Pyle — Mozart’s name which he was given at his baptism was Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart: “Johann Chrysostom” in honor of the saint of the same name, and “Theophilus” in honor of his godfather. “Amadeus,” by which we know him, is simply a Latin translation of the Greek “Theophilus,” He also used the form “Amadeo” at times, but the form he himself used most often was “Amadé” or “Amadè”)