Salieri

Among the entries in the death register of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s cathedral there are to be found two Italian names of some significance in musical history. One – Antonio Vivaldi – is justly famous; the other – Antonio Salieri –  unjustly infamous. Vivaldi had come to Vienna late in life, lured (possibly) by hopes of imperial patronage. The move […]

Rott

Vienna’s long musical history has encompassed a number of fascinating what-ifs. What if Mozart hadn’t died at only 35? Or Schubert at 31? Or Hans Rott at the even more tragically early age of 25? Hans Rott?? You can read his (perforce) short biography here. Together with Schubert and Schönberg, he was one of the few […]

1st Viennese School?

Mugshots of some of the most famous musicians to grace our planet. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and (sometimes) Schubert are frequently lumped together under the blanket heading of the First Viennese School. But, unlike the Second Viennese School (Schönberg, Berg and Webern – of whom more next week), in the case of these four mostly Vienna […]

Stephansdom

St. Stephen’s Cathedral – the heart of Vienna: here Haydn was a chorister and later got married; here, too, Mozart married his Constanze and later christened his children; Johann Strauss the younger was also married here, while the cathedral’s register of deaths contains many illustrious musical names including those of Vivaldi and Schubert. The importance of […]

The Clarinet

The clarinet is the johnny-come-lately of the orchestral woodwind. Unlike those old baroque stalwarts, the bassoon, oboe and flute, it only really got its act together in the ‘classical’ period towards the end of the eighteenth century, and then mainly because of Mozart’s intervention. He produced two masterworks, a quintet and a concerto, which, taken […]

Dissonance

The last of the ‘Haydn’ Quartets [K.465 in C] has a nickname: Dissonance. Why? Well, look at and listen to the introduction to the first movement, below. Mozart: String Quartets (DG Collectors Edition), Hagen Quartet The eye is bewildered by all those accidentals – flats, sharps, naturals everywhere – and the ear! The poor ear, for the […]

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Ah, I feel it, it has disappeared Forever gone love’s happiness! [Mozart – Die Zauberflöte Bernard Haitink/Lucia Popp/Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks Warner Classics] Lost love, rejection, despair: no, I know it’s not chamber music, but Pamina’s deeply moving aria from the second act of The Magic Flute demonstrates perfectly the emotions that Mozart associated with the […]

Skittles, anyone?

The Mozart trio for clarinet, viola and piano K. 498 has a nickname — it’s called the Kegelstatt Trio. Kegelstatt? Who or what is a Kegelstatt? The answer’s rather surprising, I suppose: it’s a skittle alley. And what has the skittle alley have to do with the trio? The answer’s simple and, again, I suppose, rather surprising: nothing. […]

Chromaticism

The opening of Mozart’s quartet in E-flat, K.428 gives us really good opportunity to examine the composer’s use of chromaticism. What’s chromaticism? Well, an ordinary (diatonic) scale — as in Ex. 2 below (of C major) — uses only 7 of the available 12 notes between one octave and the next, whereas the chromatic scale […]