by John Green
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV 1060R (1736)
The composition date of Bach’s lively C minor concerto is uncertain, but it was likely penned some time between 1717 and1723, during his six years as Kappelmeister at Cothen. Johann Forkel’s 19thCentury Bach biography describes the concerto as “very old” which probably supports this early composition date. It was a period when Bach’s duties allowed him time to compose secular music, including the one for violin and oboe. Although the original score has been lost, Bach later transcribed the work for two harpsicords, the only copy of the concerto that still exists. And it’s interesting to note that its later reconstructed edition for violin and oboe, probably in 1736, is not in Bach’s handwriting.
The work is in the traditional three-movement arrangement—fast-slow-fast. The first is a stunning and animated Allegro full of melodic motifs. The second Adagio is a passionate duet between the violin and oboe accompanied by orchestrated strings. The up-tempo Ritornello (recurring passage) of the last movement is a carefree display of individuality for the two solo instruments, steering the concerto to its spirited end.
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786 - 1826)
Clarinet Concertino Op.26
Carl Maria von Weber composed Concertino for Clarinet in E-flat major, Op. 26, J. 109 for Heinrich Bärmann, clarinetist in 1811 in three days from March 29th to April 3rd. Bärmann learned the work over the subsequent three days and the command performance on April 5, King Maximilian I of Bavaria attended, having purchased 50 tickets.
The concertino unfolds in one movement with a form of theme and variations. It commences featuring a slow introduction in C minor. The E-flat major theme is sixteen bars in length (Rice 2003, 173). The next section is marked poco più vivo. In some editions, "Variation I" follows, although it has be argued, the previous section is actually the first variation. The so-called Variation I presents variations of the theme in triplets. The so-called Variation II is marked poco più vivo and presents sixteenth notes. The following variation is slow and in the parallel minor. The next variation is in 6/8 time. The piece concludes with a section marked con fuoco.
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692 - 1770)
Trumpet Concerto in D Major, D53
To say that Giuseppe Tartini led a most unusual life would be a major understatement. At a young age his wealthy and aristocratic parents sent him off to become a Franciscan Friar, and although he remained an active candidate for a religious life, in 1710 he abandoned the monastic cloister. To assuage his parents’ disappointment, he moved to Padua to take up studies in law. To further complicate his problems it was here where he married a woman his family disproved of; and it was also here where the Bishop ultimately had him charged with abduction. Finally, in order to escape his ongoing tribulations he fled to Assisi where, at last, he began his musical education in earnest and where he would become a celebrated violinist and composer.
Tartini’s music rests on the border between the Baroque period and the Classical era. His output, particularly for the violin, was prolific—more than 125 concertos—including tonight’s D major Trumpet Concerto transcribed from an E major violin concerto.
The first movement is distinctly Baroque with the sounds of hunting horns, appropriately suited for the trumpet. The second movement moves across the border to classicism, reminiscent of melodies found in opera. A Baroque motif returns in the third movement with an enchanting duet between the solo instrument and the orchestra.
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786 - 1826)
Andante e Rondo ungarese in C minorop.35, for Bassoon solo and Strings
Composer, virtuoso pianist, opera composer, guitarist, and conductor, Carl Maria von Weber’s compositional output was nothing less than staggering. His more than 300 works, including ten complete operas, earned him the title “the father of German Romanticism”. He was the first composer attributed with creating opera a serious musical drama. Musicologist Richard Streatfield wrote, “Without Weber, Richard Wagner would have been impossible”. His four piano sonatas had a significant influence on the later compositions of Liszt, Chopin and Mendelssohn.
The Andante e Rondo, written for the composer’s brother as a piece for viola, was reworked by the composer for bassoon at a request from George Frederic Brandt in 1809. At the time, Brandt was principal Bassoonist for the Munich Symphony Orchestra. The work stood out remarkably in the repertoire when very little else had been written for the bassoon.
The Andante’s initial theme is moderately nostalgic, and the three variations that follow provide a lavish and varied repetition of that same theme; however, the lyricism of the piece is always close by, and the dramatic final flourish is a spectacular exhibition for the soloist’s virtuosity.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sinfonia concertante in E-flat major, K.297b, for Oboe, Clarinet, Horn & Bassoon solos and Strings
Surrounded by mystery, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante had a less than auspicious beginning. It dates from around 1778 intended for a performance at a public concert series, music that was intended to provide entertainment for events such as Easter and other religious holidays. For unknown reasons, the concert series director replaced the piece at the last minute for another piece, and Mozart’s work was never performed; the soloists’ parts were never copied; the original manuscript was never returned to Mozart, and the score was lost, never to be seen again.
The version performed today has been labelled by music scholars as an “attributed work”, to whom is unknown. It begs the question: how did a manuscript copy for the four winds concertante show up in 1870 not in Mozart’s hand? The Grove Dictionary of Music states “its credentials are dubious, and any music by Mozart it may contain can only be in corrupt form”. There is, however, no controversy when it comes to the work’s melodies and charm.