Ellen Sherman, oboe; Laura Koepke, bassoon; Meredith Brown, Alicia Mastromonaco, horn; Emlyn Ngai, Pierre Joubert,Tatiana Daubek, Ann Kaefer Duggan, Elizabeth Stoppels Girko, Joseph Tan, violin; Meg Eldridge, Cynthia Keiko Black, viola; Paul Rhodes, Timothy Roberts, cello; Derek Weller, bass;
Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony No. 7, “Le Midi”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Concerto for Flute and Harp , K. 299
Robin Carlson Peery, flute; Dan Levitan, harp
The Festival’s final day begins at the Sunset Center with a charming Haydn and Mozart program featuring principal flutist Robin Carlson Perry and harpist Dan Levitan
Haydn began an important chapter in his life when he was appointed to the court of Prince Paul Anton Esterházy in 1761. Although already an experienced composer of symphonies, he had not yet worked with musicians of such virtuosity. Haydn found a way to please his new employer—who had a fondness for Baroque concerti—and to flatter his new colleagues, by writing in the concertante style, with flashy solos for the various instruments. His first works in this new position were a cycle of three symphonies (No. 6-8) called Le Matin, Le Midi, and Le Soir (Morning, Noon, and Night). Within each work, Haydn evokes the Baroque concerto grosso, alternating between individual solos and tutti effects.
There is no specific programmatic effect associated with Le Midi, so you are free to imagine your own scenarios. It has been suggested that the majestic opening Adagio could depict the arrival of the Prince for his midday meal. The inner movements contain some of the most extended solos of any of Haydn’s vast symphonic output. The solo violin takes the vocal role in an extended Recitative, followed by an operatic aria that culminates in a passionate duet with the cello. These parts were undoubtedly written for Haydn’s colleagues and friends Luigi Tomasini, concertmaster in Esterhaza and composer in his own right, and virtuoso cellist Joseph Weigl, for whom the childless Haydn stood as godfather to two children and for whom he composed the famous Cello Concerto in C Major.
Mozart spent most of his youthful years traveling throughout the European musical capitals with his family, who inevitably returned to stable—albeit artistically stifling—Salzburg. In the fall of 1777, at the age of twenty-one, Wolfgang set out once again, hoping to find a permanent appointment. This time, his father Leopold was unable to obtain a leave from the Archbishop of Salzburg, so the young Mozart was accompanied only by his mother, Maria Anna. The itinerary over the next several months included Munich and Mannheim, which resulted in some commissions but no solid appointments. Mother and son arrived in Paris in March, 1778. The Mozart family, with its two prodigies (Wolfgang and Nannerl) had a royal welcome on their previous visit in 1768, but the atmosphere was quite different upon this return visit. Parisian musical life was dominated by an operatic rivalry between Gluck and Puccini, and although some connections were made, Mozart’s presence failed to attract much attention. It has been observed that he “came and went unnoticed.” Despite the overall indifference, during his months in the French capital he did produce masterful compositions designed to impress and satisfy the local taste, such as his “Paris” Symphony, K. 297. In July of that year his mother died tragically of an undiagnosed disease and Mozart abandoned Paris without obtaining the significant post he had hoped for.
Among his aristocratic connections Wolfgang came into contact with the Compte de Guines, an accomplished amateur flutist whose daughter Marie-Louise-Philippine Bonnières played the harp. She took composition lessons from Mozart, who was frustrated at her lack of imagination but favorably impressed with the playing of both father and daughter. It was for them that he wrote the Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299 within a month of his arrival. There is no record of its premiere, and de Guines notably never paid Mozart for the work nor for some of the daughter’s lessons. Mozart was apparently not overly fond of the flute, and he had scant familiarity with the harp (this is his only composition for that instrument), but he created a work rich in melody, sumptuous textures, and elegant display. This concerto is similar to a sinfonia concertante, so fashionable in Paris at the time. Such works feature more than one solo instrument, with light orchestration calculated to enhance but never overwhelm the soloists. In the sonata form Allegro they are either deftly accompanied by the orchestra or play as an unaccompanied duo in many extended passages. Mozart is not known to have written cadenzas for this work, and in today’s performance these are represented by a sampling of traditional sources. In the sublime Andantino, the winds are silent and the string texture is enhanced by divided violas. The finale, marked Rondeau, is in spirit a gavotte en rondeau, perhaps a nod to Parisian taste, yet does not strictly follow rondo form. –Allen Whear