Serenade No 10 in B flat K 361 ‘Gran Partita’

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
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Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)

Performance date: 03/07/2009

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: circa 1781-2

Duration: 00:48:41

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Large Mixed Ensemble

Instrumentation Other: 2 ob, 2 cl, 2bthn, 4hn, 4bn, db

Artists: Nora Cismondi - [oboe]
Emma Schied - [oboe]
Romain Guyot - [clarinet]
Jerome Laferierre - [clarinet]
Philippe Berrod - [basset horn]
Francois Lemoine - [basset horn]
Hervé Joulain - [horn]
Jean-Philippe Chavey - [horn]
Sylvain Guillon - [horn]
Fabian Borchers - [horn]
Laurent Lefevre - [bassoon]
Sarah Andrew - [bassoon]
Niek de Groot - [double bass]

composer for wind instruments has ever equalled Mozart’s instinctive knowledge
of each instrument’s individual character and none has left the player and the
listener a richer or more varied legacy. And of all these wonderful works the
Gran Partita is the greatest, the most ambitious and the most masterly. The
words of an early convert still ring true, A
master sat at every instrument-and oh, what an effect – magnificent and
grand….like the land of the blessed, the land of music
. The master at every
instrument is of course crucial and we owe much to the Imperial Royal Harmonie with the Stadler brothers on
the clarinets. And if you look through the catalogue at all those strange wind
combinations for basset horns, clarinets and bassoons and it becomes quite
clear that Mozart and the Stadlers and other colleagues whiled away many an
hour experimenting with the different instruments, just for the joy of the
great game itself.

His greatest pleasure was
music. If his wife wanted to give him a special surprise at a family festivity,
she would secretly arrange for a performance of a new church composition by
Michael or Joseph Haydn.
 This is from
the Constanze authorised biography, which may paint a slightly rosy picture.
But the idea of secretly arranged performances backs up the delicious idea that
this wind serenade was Mozart’s wedding present to his wife, which puts it on a
par with Wagner’s birthday present to Cosima at Triebschen nearly a hundred
years later, the equally incomparable Siegfried Idyll.

first movement opens with a spacious
Largo introduction,
which sets the festive scene. The first and second subjects are inextricably
related and the overall mood is of celebration and wit, Mozart adored the
endless possibilities for the woodwinds with their vividly contrasting voices
to talk to each other freed from the overbearing tyranny of the strings. The
first Minuet contrasts firm and rather severe
tuttis with gentle exchanges amongst individual pairs of
instruments. The first Trio features the clarinet family and the second is a
masterly piece in G minor.

A solemn Adagio in E flat,
it started simply enough, just a pulse in the lowest registers, bassoons and
basset horns, like a rusty squeezebox. It would have been comic except for the
slowness, which gave it instead a sort of serenity. And then suddenly, high
above it, sounded a single note on the oboe. It hung there unwavering, piercing
me through, till breath could hold it no longer, and a clarinet withdrew it out
of me, and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight it had me trembling….What
is this need in the sound? Forever unfulfillable yet fulfilling him who hears
it, utterly…It seemed to me I had heard a voice of God.

second Minuet is a light-hearted breezy affair again contrasting the full
ensemble with smaller groups. The first Trio begins very severely in the
unusual key of E flat minor but it soon develops a cheerier aspect. The second
Trio is a short, unassuming but wholly irresistible country dance. The
Romanze opens in the same serene mood of
contemplation as the earlier
where each glorious phrase floats seamlessly from one instrument to the next.
This opening is in ternary form leading to a cheery central section held
together by a rhythmic chatter from the bassoons. The return of the opening is
extended by a new singing coda over a strong bass.

theme with its six variations gives Mozart an opportunity to explore all the
different combinations of colour available to him. The theme is stated simply
and develops momentum as it progresses. The first three variations follow this
pattern, No.3 featuring the classic gurgling clarinet, No.4 explores the stark
key of B flat minor while No.5 (
creates a texture of pure magic with clarinets and basset horns, surely the
opening of Heaven’s gate. The Variations end with suitable panache with an
obligato appearance for the double bass. The Serenade ends with a
Rondo of unabashed exuberance, where
Mozart still finds space for more experiments with the endlessly fascinating
combinations at his disposal.