Enhanced Program Notes – Mozart + Haydn: The Allure of Paris

Mozart Family on Tour Watercolor by Carmontelle, ca. 1763

View of Place Louis XV (now Place de la Concorde) from the Left Bank, attributed to Alexandre-Jean Noël (about 1780)

Haydn in about 1770 Portrait by Ludwig Guttenbrunn, painted c. 1791–2

Joseph Boulogne, le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1739-1799), Contemporary Etching of a painting of 1787

Portrait du comte d’Ogny

View of Paris from the Pont Neuf (1763) by Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet

Audiences in Paris wanted to hear the music of Mozart and Haydn. Both composers were first published there and both wrote symphonies specifically for Paris that are now viewed as turning points in each composer’s concept of symphonic and orchestral sound possibilities.

In 1768, Wolfgang Amadé Mozart (1756-1791) was twelve years old and had already composed numerous works and toured Europe with his family, a trip that featured he and his sister, Maria Anna, in musical performances. Their travels included London, where they stayed for over a year, and Paris, where they stopped twice and stayed a total of seven months, as well as visits to other cities and courts along the way.

Having been given the honorary title of Konzertmeister to the Salzburg court on October 27, 1769, Mozart was officially appointed to the post three years later and was paid a modest salary. In 1777, Mozart, with his father’s support, asked to be released from his responsibilities at the Salzburg court. The archbishop responded by firing both father and son. His father‘s position was soon restored, but Wolfgang, who had not been reinstated, was free to offer his talents to other courts and traveled with his mother in search of a better post. No position was offered and the trip ended tragically with his mother’s death in Paris in 1778. Soon after, Leopold instructed his son to return to Salzburg; both a new position as court organist and his former post as concert master were now available. Reluctantly, Mozart returned home. He left the archbishop’s court in June 1781 and made Vienna his home.  A few months later, however, he wrote to his father: “If I see that it is to my advantage, I shall remain here. If not, I am thinking of going straight to Paris.”

Paris was a musical center with both public and private concerts in addition to ballet, opera, and theater. Mozart wrote to his father about those opportunities during his travels in the late 1770s: “Wendling [flute virtuoso at the Mannheim court] assures me that I shall never regret [my upcoming trip to Paris]. He has been twice to Paris and has only just returned. He says it is still the only place where one can make money and a great reputation.” Mozart assures his father that he will do well because, according to Wendling: “Once a man has written a couple of operas in Paris, he is sure of a settled yearly income. Then there is the Concert Spiritual and the Académie des Amateurs.”

One of the styles of music composition popular at public concerts in Paris was the Sinfonia Concertante, a blending of the relatively new symphonic style with the older style of concerto. The underlying principle of this genre consisted of highlighting two or more soloists against the backdrop of the larger ensemble. This was not a new concept, but it acquired a fresh sound when combined with the shorter, more lyrical melodies and harmonic ideas associated with the mid-century symphony. Haydn employs this technique as early as his Symphony No. 8 (“Le Matin”) in which he included solo passages.

In Paris in the 1770s, the Sinfonia Concertante became one of the most popular instrument compositions, inspiring Mozart to start work on several while in Paris and just after he returned to Salzburg.

The combination of symphonic and concerto writing is blended seamlessly in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major, K. 364 (320d). The two themes in the first movement are characterized by a difference in instrumentation (strings for the first

and winds for the second

and ultimately prepare for the entrance of the soloists, violin and viola. For this piece, Mozart writes the solo viola part in the key of D major and requires the solo violist to employ scordatura; that is, to tune the strings of the instrument up by a half step, creating a brighter tone while retaining the natural warmth inherent in the instrument.

Once the soloists enter they are partners both in sharing the role of soloist equally and in the sense of the 18th century dance in which the two perform motions in parallel and then come together from across the dance floor, often barely touching but instinctively aware of the other’s presence.

The second movement is tender,

but with dramatic interruptions,

while the last movement pairs memorable melodies with unrelenting rhythmic energy.

In July 1805, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) received a medal and diploma from the Paris Conservatory. One of the many awards given to the composer, this medal, delivered by the composer Luigi Cherubini, was a sign of respect and acknowledged Haydn’s importance to musical life in Paris.

Anyone familiar with the structure of most symphonies written in the latter half of the eighteenth century might be surprised to hear Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 in F minor, “La Passione.” Although it consists of four movements–by this time Haydn’s preferred format–this symphony begins with a slow movement that recalls an earlier style of composition. In the anxious, yet calm, first movement, Haydn gives each musical moment weight and importance.

In the same form as the first, the second movement releases the energy and emotion held in check by the first, even as both follow a similar harmonic motion that moves from minor to major and back.

The Minuet and Trio sections of the third movement share a similar rhythmic pattern in which the melodic line opens with longer values and closes with shorter ones. The opening musical phrases of the Minuet are extended through repetition at the end of the phrase, acting like an echo.

The second part of the Minuet section becomes haunting as Haydn adds two more ideas as musical afterthoughts, further echoes of a dance long past.

In the same way that the second movement of this symphony releases the tension of the first, the Finale changes the mood to something more fervent,

while maintaining the same minor-major-minor harmonic motion heard in the previous three movements.

In the 1780s, Haydn’s music became increasingly popular in Paris. This prompted Joseph Boulogne, le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1739-1799) and Claude-Francois-Marie Rigoley, Comte d’Orgny (1757-1790) to commission a set of six symphonies from him for a new concert series and orchestra called Concert de la Loge Olympique.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 87 in A major, composed in 1785, is the last of his Paris Symphonies. The energetic first theme of the opening movement features the full ensemble of flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, and strings.

Haydn then introduces a second theme for strings alone,

establishing what will be a study in dynamic contrast in this movement, as the quiet string-only theme leaves the ear unprepared for the abrupt returns to the opening theme. Haydn continues this pattern throughout the first movement, adding another surprise or two along the way.

The second movement features solo passages for the wind instruments with two cadenza-like sections: the first for flute and oboe;

the second for flute, oboe, and bassoon.

The strings present the theme for this movement

and then assume the role of accompaniment. Soon, however, Haydn transforms their role into something more substantive as they play a kind of rhythmic counterpoint to the winds.

The Minuet and Trio are graceful and (surprisingly) contain almost no surprises.

Even the syncopation at the end of the phrases for solo oboe in the Trio is gentle and elegant.

Although Haydn casts the final movement similarly to the first, the second half of this movement covers a lot of ground before returning to the opening theme.

Once there, we may be caught off guard by how quickly Haydn finishes the movement, and yet we are completely satisfied with the result.

Teresa M. Neff