A Mozart evening with Daniel Harding

A Mozart evening with Daniel Harding
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21 Apr 2018

Berliner Philharmoniker
Daniel Harding

Andrew Staples, Georg Zeppenfeld, Lucy Crowe, Olivia Vermeulen

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Symphony No. 32 in G major, K. 318

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Misero! O sognoAura, che intorno spiri, Recitative and Aria for Tenor and Orchestra, K. 431

    Andrew Staples tenor

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Per questa bella mano , Aria for Bass, Double Bass obbligato and Orchestra, K. 612

    Georg Zeppenfeld bass

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Mass in C minor, K. 427

    Lucy Crowe soprano, Olivia Vermeulen mezzo-soprano, Andrew Staples tenor, Georg Zeppenfeld bass, Swedish Radio Choir, Sam Evans chorus master

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s C minor Mass K. 427 exists only in incomplete form: in addition to the autograph score, there are surviving orchestral parts edited by Mozart for the Salzburg premiere of the work in 1783 which was presumably fleshed out with movements from other mass settings. Two years later, the composer then used the work fragment as the basis for Davide penitente, a cantata to an Italian libretto paraphrasing biblical psalms. This recycling points to a characteristic of the music of Mozart, whose compositional technique incorporates a wide range of styles: it combines the strict compositional techniques of works in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel with very sensuous moments more usually heard in the opera house. It is also clear from a letter written by the composer’s sister that Mozart wrote one of the most vocally gratifying soprano parts of the C minor Mass for his new bride, Constanze: in October 1783, Anna Maria Mozart, known as “Nannerl”, wrote to family about rehearsals for a mass setting “in which my sister-in-law sings the solo”. Vocal parts written by a Salzburg copyist which contain corrections in Mozart’s own hand prove that this must have referred to the C minor Mass.

According to Alfred Einstein, one of the most beautiful passages that Mozart wrote specifically for his wife’s voice – the Siciliana-style “Et incarnatus est” section – has long been a “bone of contention for purists of sacred music”. However, the prominent Mozart scholar took the wind out of the sails of any objections to the stylistic transgressions of the C minor Mass with a reference to the visual arts: “If a piece of music like this must be excluded from the church, so should the circular panels by Botticelli depicting the infant Christ surrounded by Florentine angels; it is just as profane.”

Against this background, it will be doubly exciting when, in these Berliner Philharmoniker concerts under the direction of Daniel Harding, the performance of the C minor Mass is preceded by an orchestral work and two concert arias by Mozart. Appearing together with the Berliner Philharmoniker are the Swedish Radio Choir and a first-class quartet of soloists with Lucy Crowe, Olivia Vermeulen, Andrew Staples and Georg Zeppenfeld.

 

“Where is home?”

A Mozart Concert

The overture: Mozart returns to Salzburg

“I assure you”, wrote Mozart to his father from Paris, “that people who do not travel (I refer to those who cultivate the arts and learning) are indeed miserable creatures!” And, in that lightly didactic, lightly theatrical tone, he went on: “A fellow of mediocre talent will remain a mediocrity, whether he travels or not; but one of superior talent (which without impiety I cannot deny that I possess) will go to seed if he always remains in the same place” – especially when the place in question was named Salzburg. But, when all was said and done, Mozart had to return home from his grand Parisian journey in January 1779, his hopes dashed, his petitions for employment rejected. Reluctantly, he accepted a new post in his old domain – court organist – but with a threefold increase in salary: not exactly a sign of disparagement. He was back in the good graces of Salzburg’s prince-archbishop.

Mozart’s duties as organist included, “as far as possible, serving the Court and the Church with new compositions made by him”. A few days after writing the Mass in C major K. 317 (the celebrated “Coronation” Mass) for Easter Sunday in Salzburg Cathedral, Mozart “served” the court with his G major Symphony K. 318. Later he would add two trumpets to the score for an “academy” in Vienna. Combined with the four horns, this brass apparatus seems almost oversized and acoustically inflated, but in his travels – at the arts-loving elector Carl Theodor’s court at Mannheim and at Paris’s Concert spirituel – Mozart had experienced how the traditional “chapels” were being transformed into the modern orchestra, specializing in effects that resulted entirely from timing, precision and number of players, from the cumulative instrumental energy of a large ensemble. The G major Symphony K. 318 contains an abundance of tutti outbursts, upward- and downward-rushing scales, ornamental slides, crescendo “swells”, whirling tremolos, repeated-note bass parts, pedal points, flying turns and dynamic contrasts. In Mozart’s hands, this type of music takes on a feverish intensity, a vibrant edginess, an expansive urge towards vastness – into the open – as every space and structure becomes too cramped.

Mozart follows the form of an Italian opera sinfonia in his G major Symphony – two quick movements enclose a middle section of moderate tempo – and yet, strictly speaking, he has written only a single movement, which, just before the recapitulation, is quite suddenly interrupted by a lyrical Andante, and afterwards simply resumes. Not so simply, though, because Mozart reverses the order of the “themes”, lending the vaulting arch form (Allegro spiritoso – Andante – Primo Tempo) a slightly offset symmetry: the symphony or sinfonia or overture ends as it begins, reflecting itself in itself.

Gentle and passionate lovers

“Where is home: where we are born or where we wish to die?”, asks the German writer Carl Zuckmayer at the beginning of his memoirs. Whether Mozart wished to die in Vienna would have seemed rather a hypothetical consideration for a man in his mid-30s, but there is no doubt that he wished to live in the Habsburg metropolis. He called it “the best place in the world for my metier” after venturing independence from his father and his prince in 1781 and settling in Vienna as a “freelance artist”. Yet Salzburg, where he was born but did not feel at home, continued to pull him back. When, in 1783, Mozart wrote the great tenor aria K. 431, it was not for the stage but (presumably) for the Christmas benefit concerts of the Vienna Composers’ Society (Tonkünstler-Sozietät). The text came from the opera L’isola capricciosa by the Roman composer Giacomo Rust, who in 1777 had been appointed court Kapellmeister to the Salzburg prince-archbishop, only a few weeks before Mozart’s departure for France.

In composing the recitative and aria “Misero! O sogno” – “Aura, che intorno spiri” K. 431(425b), Mozart captured in music a lament whose nature was not only meteorological but virtually metaphysical. Torn from the context of the libretto, its text teases the listener’s imagination – just where does the pitiable hero find himself: imprisoned in a dungeon or hounded to a desert island by the Furies or maybe even in Hades? Mozart elevates the seriousness of the situation to the level of heroism, stoking pathos with unrelenting tempo shifts and reflecting “plaintive” psychological distress with expressive wind writing. He conceived this aria for the tenor Valentin Adamberger, his first Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Adamberger, an international opera star who also appeared under the italianized variant of his name, Valentino Adamonti, was especially noted for portraying “young, gentle and passionate lovers” on the stage.

One can imagine such a character delivering the aria “Per questa bella mano” K. 612, but these declarations of love, gentle and passionate, are sung by a bass, from the depths of his heart and deploying his deepest tones. Mozart here exploits the vocal range’s outer limits, an effect more amusing for the audience than for the singer – and not the only example of the composer allowing himself a joke at the performer’s expense. Furthermore, he pairs the singing bass with a string bass to create a noble competition between these deepest virtuosos. Mozart’s doubled-bass aria may have been intended as an “insert” in an opera buffa. In any event, he composed it in March 1791 for Franz Xaver Gerl, an Austrian singer, actor and occasional composer who belonged to Emanuel Schikaneder’s ensemble at the Freihaustheater auf der Wieden and, a few months later, created the role of Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte.

Unfinished: Mozart’s farewell to Salzburg

In Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral on 4 August 1782, Mozart married Constanze Weber, daughter of the bass singer, music copyist and stage prompter Fridolin Weber, who had died three years before. At the end of July 1783, the couple travelled to Salzburg (Wolfgang’s last visit to his native city), and in their luggage were parts of the score and sketches for the C minor Mass K. 427 (417a), which was then – in all probability – performed on 26 October 1783. That date would have been agreeable to Mozart, because it was a saint’s day and Mass could have been celebrated without the Credo: his setting of this section did not progress beyond the “Et incarnatus est”. The Sanctus is also entered incomplete in his autograph score, while the Benedictus is missing altogether. Both sections are preserved in a copy of the Salzburg performance parts, the originals of which do not survive. Mozart never wrote an Agnus Dei for this mass.

The occasion would attain local and music-historical fame: a presentation of the new mass at St. Peter’s by the church musicians – some ten singers (boys and men) and a small number of instrumentalists (augmented by Mozart family friends from the court musical establishment) – in which Constanze would have sung one of the soprano parts. Thus Mozart bade farewell to Salzburg with a mass he never completed, not even later in Vienna, with music which, for all its metaphysics and monumentality, maintains a human scale, which brings a profoundly personal world-view to the liturgy’s anonymous austerity. Music which seeks neither to confound nor overwhelm, but rather to console and delight – which professes a humanitarian Credo, unceremoniously beautiful and guilelessly true.

Wolfgang Stähr

Translation: Richard Evidon

Daniel Harding is music director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2007, and in September 2016 he took on the same role with the Orchestre de Paris. Born in Oxford in 1975, Daniel Harding began his career by assisting Sir Simon Rattle at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which he himself conducted for the first time in 1994. He later worked as Claudio Abbado’s musical assistant, and in 1996 became the youngest conductor to appear at the BBC Proms in London. That same year he also made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker at the Berlin Festival, conducting works by Berlioz, Brahms and Dvořák. After appointments with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra in Norway and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra in Sweden, he served as music director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (1997 – 2003), principal conductor of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (2003 – 2011), music partner of the New Japan Philharmonic (2010 – 2016) and principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (2006 – 2017). In constant demand in the world’s leading centres of music, he has appeared with many internationally acclaimed orchestras and conducted opera performances in houses as prestigious as the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala, Milan, the Vienna, Berlin and Munich State Operas and the Salzburg and Aix-en-Provence Festivals. In 2002 Daniel Harding was awarded the title Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government and in 2012 he was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. The Mahler Chamber Orchestra honoured him with the lifetime title of Conductor Laureate. As a guest conductor with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Daniel Harding last appeared in March 2018, when he conducted three concerts with works by Schubert and Strauss.

Lucy Crowe, born in Staffordshire (England), studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, to which she was appointed a “Fellow” in 2014. One of the leading lyric sopranos of her generation, the singer has appeared as Adele (Die Fledermaus) and Servilia (La clemenza di Tito) at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and as Eurydice (Orphée et Eurydice), Adina (L’elisir d’ amore ), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Gilda (Rigoletto) and Belinda (Dido and Aeneas) at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London. Further engagements have taken her to Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, English National Opera and the Glyndebourne Festival, where she has enjoyed great success in roles such as Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier), Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Dona Isabel (The Indian Queen), Poppea (Agrippina), Micaëla (Carmen) and Vixen Sharp-Ears. As a much sought-after concert singer, Lucy Crowe has worked with leading orchestras and conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Emmanuelle Haïm, Andris Nelsons, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Sir Simon Rattle. Guest appearances include at the Aldeburgh Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York and the Salzburg Festival; she has also given recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. With the Berliner Philharmoniker, Lucy Crowe made her debut in October 2017 in the title role of Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning LittleVixen.

Genia Kühmeier studied in her home town of Salzburg at the Mozarteum University and at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna where her teachers included Margarita Lilowa and Marjana Lipovšek. Winning first prize at the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg in 2002 laid the cornerstone of her career and a Karajan scholarship led her to a permanent engagement with the Wiener Staatsoper where she was a member of the ensemble from 2003 to 2006. Following her debut at La Scala in 2002 as Diane in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, she sang the part of the Inès in Donizetti’s La favorite at the Wiener Staatsoper in 2003. With a repertoire that includes works by composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Salieri, Beethoven, Bizet, Wagner and Strauss, Genia Kühmeier has performed at, among others, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, at San Francisco and Los Angeles Opera, De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, the Semperoper in Dresden, and at the Salzburg Festival and the RuhrTriennale. As a concert soloist with leading orchestras and major conductors such as Sir Colin Davis, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Mariss Jansons, Marc Minkowski, Sir Roger Norrington, Seiji Ozawa and Kirill Petrenko, and also as a lieder singer, the soprano has performed all over the world in renowned musical capitals and festivals. Genia Kühmeier’s most recent appearance with the Berliner Philharmoniker was in mid-April 2012 in the role of Micaëla in a concert performance of Bizet’s opera Carmen, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

Andrew Staples sang as a boy in the choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London before studying music at King’s College in Cambridge. With a grant from the Britten Pears Foundation, he continued his studies at the Royal College of Music in London and at the Britten International Opera School; he is currently a student of Ryland Davies. With a repertoire which includes works by Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Britten and Tavener, Andrew Staples is a guest artist at leading opera houses and concert halls, and at renowned festivals. He made his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London as Jaquino (Fidelio); since then he has appeared several times in different roles there. He has also sung at the National Theatre in Prague, the Hamburg State Opera, Lyric Opera Chicago and at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) at the Salzburg Festival. On the concert stage, Andrew Staples has sung with orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic, working with conductors such as Andrew Manze, Semyon Bychkov and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. In Berliner Philharmoniker concerts, where the singer made his debut in early February 2009, Andrew Staples was to be heard in June 2016 in performances of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.

The German bass Georg Zeppenfeld studied singing at the Detmold and Cologne Universities of Music, completing his training with Hans Sotin. Following engagements in Münster and Bonn, he became a permanent member of the ensemble at the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden in 2001. Many guest appearances have taken him to the stages of renowned opera houses and festivals all over Europe and the US, where he had a great success as Sarastro in Mozart’s Zauberflöte at his debut with San Francisco Opera in 2007, conducted by Claudio Abbado, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 2009. His repertoire includes the major bass roles of Mozart, Wagner and Verdi as well as Mussorgsky’s Pimen (Boris Godunov), Prince Gremin (Eugene Onegin) and the Water Goblin (Rusalka). On the concert platform, Georg Zeppenfeld has focused in particular on the works of Bach, Handel, Haydn and the great late-Romantic oratorios. He works with conductors such as Riccardo Chailly, Daniele Gatti, Andris Nelsons and Christian Thielemann and has performed with orchestras including the Munich Philharmonic, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Concentus Musicus Wien and the Orchestre National de France. As soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker he gave his debut in September 2010 under the direction of Pierre Boulez in Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol. His last appearance with the orchestra was in in June 2012 in Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, conducted by Herbert Blomstedt. In 2015 Georg Zeppenfeld was given the title of Kammersänger of the Semperoper in Dresden.

The Swedish Radio Choir is one of the world’s leading vocal ensembles. This professional ensemble of 32 members is an example of a choral culture in which each singer represents an individual with his own sound identity and plays an independent role in relation to the ensemble. The extensive repertoire includes a wide range of genres and works, from Early to Contemporary music. Founded in 1925, Eric Ericson took over the choir in 1952 (until 1982), and under his direction, led it to international fame and renown. In 2007, Peter Dijkstra became chief conductor and musical director. In addition to concerts with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and its own a cappella series in Stockholm, the choir regularly works together with Valery Gergiev and Daniel Harding on recordings and tours. The choir appeared regularly with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Claudio Abbado from 1992, most recently at the 2000 European Concert in the Berlin Philharmonie as the chorus in the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

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