International tour – Zurich
Sponsored by: Vontobel
About the program
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: „A Berenice”, K.70
Leopold Mozart took his extremely talented children Nannerl and little Wolfgang to London in 1764-65. We learn of their stay in England from the words written by Dr. Daines Barrington for the Royal Society, describing the amazing ability of the eight year-old boy. The doctor speaks about the performance when little Wolfgang improvised in various musical genres, including opera arias. Just how well Mozart mastered the expression of the sublime, majestic feelings as a small boy is well illustrated by the respectful arias written for mythical-allegoric text following his return to Salzburg after the long stay in London, the second of which was Berenice. The arias were played in the Salzburg court to pay tribute to Archbishop Sigismund von Schrattenbach – “to everyone’s amazement”, according to the yearbooks.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano concerto no.4, Op.58
Beethoven wrote his Piano Concerto No.4 between 1805 and 1807. It was innovative in that the sonata-like first movement starts not with an orchestral introduction, but a piano solo. Even more unusual was the omission of wind instruments in the second movement, with piano and strings in a dramatically charged dialogue. The work was premičred as part of a “mammoth concert” at the Theater an der Wien, alongside performances of the 5th and 6th Symphonies, as well as extracts from the Mass in C. As with the premičres of his previous three piano concertos, the soloist was the composer himself, though this time it was clear that he was hardly fit to perform on account of his deafness. As a result, his student Czerny was to premičre the 5th Piano Concerto.
Johannes Brahms: Piano quartet (Arnold Schönberg’s rearrangement)
Critic Donald Tovey has called the seven chamber pieces Johannes Brahms completed from 1859 to 1865 the works of his “first maturity,” when Brahms synthesized his own style from the influences of predecessors such as Beethoven and Schubert. The Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, completed in 1861, numbers among these.
Schoenberg began his arrangement of Brahms’ quartet in May of 1937 in Los Angeles, where he had moved to escape the dangerous political atmosphere in Europe, and completed his work in September of that year. He explained his reasons for choosing this work in a letter to Alfred Frankenstein, music critic for The San Francisco Chronicle, in March of 1939:”My reasons: I like the piece.It is seldom played. It is always very badly played, because, the better the pianist, the louder he plays and you hear nothing from the strings. I wanted once to hear everything, and this I achieved.My intentions: To remain strictly in the style of Brahms and not to go farther than he himself would have gone if he lived today.To watch carefully all the laws to which Brahms obeyed and not to violate them, which are only known to musicians educated in his environment.”
Schoenberg changed none of the notes of Brahms’ original score. The extent to which he adhered to Brahms’ style, however, is open to some interpretation. The arrangement includes a style of chromatic writing for the brass that Brahms did not use, even after such writing became technically possible; brass is also used more heavily to double the melodic line than is typical for Brahms. (Schoenberg is said to have suggested that if Brahms had been aware of such modern scoring he would have used it.) The coloristic writing in Schoenberg’s version of the fourth movement includes decidedly un-Brahmsian appearances by xylophone, glockenspiel, and cymbals, as well as trombone glissandos, brass double-tonguing, and divisi strings. Yet in general Schoenberg’s arrangement makes a compelling case for the symphonic quality of Brahms’ original work.