SERENADE IN B FLAT FOR WINDS
To be played as background music at parties and social events, serenade music, like other compositions of the Classical era, was written for immediate consumption. Therefore, many instrumental serenades of the time have disappeared without a trace. However, Mozart's Serenade's have survived. Without doubt, the B-flat Serenade for 13 winds K. 361/370a has been proved "glorious and grand, excellent and sublime".
At the end of 1780, Mozart decided to leave his post of "slavery" (as he himself called it) with the Archbishop of Salzburg. He went to Munich to prepare his opera Idomeneo. He hoped to gain not only the position of Court Opera Composer, but also looked forward to an appointment to the Munich Orchestra (the former Mannheim Orchestra) which included most of Europe's greatest instrumentalists of the time. This was the immediate impetus for composing the B-flat Serenade. The other title, "Gran Partita", given in the autograph, was added by an unknown hand after Mozart's death. Mozart's biographer, Herman Abert, records that Mozart chose this piece for the climax of his own wedding celebrations on August 4, 1782. However, the earliest public performance probably took place at Vienna in 1784 under te direction on Anton Stadler, the clarinetist for whom he later composed the Clarinet Quintet, K.581 and Concert K.622. The announcement in a Viennese newspaper of 23rd March, 1784, said, "Today Herr Stadler senior, at present in the service of his Majesty the Emperor, will give a musical academy for his benefit in the Imperial Royal National Court Theatre, at which, among other well chosen pieces, a large wind work of a very special kind composed by Herr Mozart will be performed".
Around the time the piece was composed, Mozart was experimenting intensively and exploring the possibilities of instrumental combinations outside the conventional norms of his contemporaries. Thus, there is in the B-flat Serenade a constant alternation and combination between instruments, such as a quartet for clarinets and basset horns, and a sextet of oboes, basset horns, and bassoons with double bass providing a harmonic basis. The new combinations of instruments do not affect the principle of equal partnership in ensemble playing because each instrument can still retain its individuality as the work unfolds.
An aspect worthy of mention is Mozart's first use of basset horns in his instrumental compositions, following on from their use in the G minor aria from the opera, Die Entführung as dem Serail, K.384. Interestingly, although the work is known as the Serenade for 13 winds, this title is not strictly accurate. Mozart specified a double bass as the thirteenth instrument to provide a solid harmonic foundation. Although some modern editions allow the substitution of a contra-bassoon to achieve a more homogeneous wind sound, Mozart did not offer this alternative, as the presence of pizzicato in the fourth and fifth movements requires the use of double bass.
The first movement of the seven starts with a slow introduction of repeated chords flavoured by delicate little phrases for clarinets. In the movement proper, the witty character of the first theme was probably taken form an aria of Philidor's Marèchal Ferrant. The second theme can be regarded as an extension of the first. Monothematic treatment not only dominates the two main themes, but serves as the primary compositional strategy for the entire movement.
The second movement is a Minuet in B-flat with two Trios, featuring "Storm and Stress" dynamicism. The first Trio in E-flat is a quartet for two clarinets and two basset horns, dark in colour. The second Trio is in the related key of G minor, "a key of pessimism". Triplets running from bassoon to oboe to basset horn are interrupted occasionally by a pair of horns, echoed by the upper woodwinds.
The E-flat Adagio is a trio between solo oboe, clarinet and basset horn. It gives an impression close to "pain or tears". Alfred Einstein describes this "longing and grief" movement as a "scene from Romeo under starry skies... distillation from the eating hearts of lovers".
The fourth is another movement comprising a Minuet with two Trios. There is a contrast between the forte staccato and the soft legato in the B-flat Minuet section. The first Trio is in the unusual key of B-flat minor, and full of surprises. The second is a German Ländler in F major, providing a rustic feeling.
The melody in the slow Romanze in E-flat is simple but expressive, in contrast with the unsettled mood of the quick tempo C-minor middle section.
The Theme and Variations contains a playful theme announced y clarinet and echoed by the others. The principle theme is followed by six variations and then a closing Ländler dance. The movement was probably taken from the second movement of the Flute Quartet in C (K.285b/K.Anh.171) of 1778. The slow variation is reminiscent of the third, Adagio, movement, providing an early example of "cyclical" composition.
The irrepressibly high-spirited Finale is a cheerful and sparkling rondo movement with two episodes. The movement with a gay principal theme of a popular character is filled with Mozartian humour and charm. It is also an adaptation of the last movement of Mozart's early piano-duet sonata K.19d.
Mozart's Serenade, combining the Italian style of graceful melody with a German taste for formal ingenuity, accomplishes emotional satisfaction and thus epitomizes the eighteenth-century Classical Style. The Serenade, songful and virtuosic, is admirable as entertainment providing pure joy.
- Yau Shek Fung, Henry -
Christopher Coleman is currently acting head of the Hong Kong Baptist University Department of Music and fine arts. He has also taught at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Columbia College, and in the Interlochen Center for the Arts summer programme. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago where he studied composition with Ralph Shapey and Shulamit Ran.
While at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned the M.A. in composition, he studied with Geroge Crumb, George Rochberg, and Richard Wernick, among other. He has received commissions from The Hong Kong Bach Choir and Orchestra, the Hong Kong Composers' Guild, the DuPage Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago-area chapter of the American String Teachers' Association, and the University of Georgia Trombone Choir, among others. He has been awarded first place in the Percussive Arts Society Percussion Ensemble Composition Contest and the ASUC/SESAC Composition Contest.
Dark Gardens comprises five movements: Night creatures, Skittering nightmares, Frozen flowers, November things and Cry carefully. The composer writes; "The emotional world of Dark Gardens has its genesis in a series of extremely difficult recent personal events, especially my parents' illnesses and my father's eventual death. A pervasive sense of deep sorrow lingers. Fragments of half-forgotten dreams haunt me: Night birds, fluttering, panicked...evelations, hopelessness, grief, despair grow in the Dark Gardens of the heart."
- Christopher Coleman -
MASS IN E MINOR
Anton Bruckner's three most important Masses (in D minor, E minor and F minor) were written between 1864 and 1868. The work was composed in 1866 and revised in 1869, 1876 and 1882; the 1882 version will be performed tonight. Both the D minor and F minor masses demonstrate the heritage of the great Austrian tradition he learned from Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Cherubini's Requiem Masses. Commissioned by Bishop Rudigier, the E minor Mass stands on its own, a testimony to Bruckner's intensive study of 16th century Italian counterpoint, his tribute, in particular, to Palestrina's musical language.
This return to old Italian style probably owed much to the German "Cecilian Movement" in the Catholic church of that time. The movement, founded by Franz Xaver Witt, aimed at the revival of sixteenth-century polyphonic style and the promotion of the old a capella singing in contrast to the symphonic mass settings of the late Classical and Romantic periods. The Mass also occupies a very special position with its unique combination of voices and instruments. It was scored for eight-part mixed chorus, without soloists. Instead of the classical orchestra, the composer employed a wind-band of two oboes, two clarinets, four horns, two trumpets and three trombones, without the support of church organ, strings or percussion instruments. Springing from instrumental imagination, the piece makes a greater demand on the supreme virtuosity of each voice part than any other masses Bruckner composed.
The opening unaccompanied eight-part Kyrie in Phrygian mode starts with calm chords and chains of interlocking suspension, successfully recalling the archaic feeling of sixteenth-century sacred music. A powerful structural crescendo leads to the forthcoming contrapuntal Christe. The Christe marks a climactic moment before the return to the Kyrie.
There are many structural and musical similarities and connections between both Gloria and Credo. Both movements are in the bright key of C major. The opening of each is reserved for liturgical plainchant singing. The opening bassoon arpeggio figure of the Gloria sets a forward motion that is restated in the Credo. Contrasting central sections are inserted to separate movements. The Gloria has a quiet section at "Qui tollis", accompanied by horn with antiphonal writing for voices, while the "Adagio" section of the Credo, with its emphasis on particular words like "El homo factus est" and "Crucifixus", has the solemn dignity befitting a funeral piece. The ending "Amen" of the Gloria uses an energetic double fugue to conclude, while the "et vitam" ends with a mighty cadence and a sudden triple forte.
The central work Sanctus clearly shows Palestrina's influence, as the motif of the Missa brevis is quoted. It begins with a two-part canonic imitation in fifth, then develops into an eight-part fugue. Thus, a slow but powerful crescendo is built. Widely spread chords, symbolizing the mightiness of the Lord, conclude the movement.
The Benedictus and Agnus Dei are characterized by an unbroken connection between phrases and an intricacy of texture. The tender Benedictus is structured in ternary outline with a decisive outburst at the concluding phrase, "Hosanna in excelsis". This outburst contrasts effectively with the gentle preceding section. The Agnus Dei renders the customary prayer for ultimate peace in one's soul. The woodwind and chorus in unison is another example of Bruckner's direct and emotional response to the liturgical text. When the "Dona nobis" part dies away, the motif from the Phrygian close of the Kyrie is re-announced. The whole work is, therefore, unified.
The E minor Mass is a powerful presentation reflecting Bruckner's mature contrapuntal skill and expressive harmonic language, derived from both Italian and Viennese schools, and demonstrating his ability to adapt archaic forms into his own idiom.