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Explore the Mostly Mozart WAM!! Program

Explore the Mostly Mozart WAM!! Program

This November, the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) unites with Principal Trumpet of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, David Elton for the final Mostly Mozart concert of 2022. Explore the repertoire in this excerpt from the official program notes, by Stella Joseph-Jarecki.

About the music

Thanks to composers such as Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, many of us cannot picture an orchestra in full flight without a healthy number of trumpets and French horns. These instruments have roots which stretch all the way back to 1500 BCE: the first known versions were hollowed out from bone, clay, wood, and eventually forged in metal. However, trumpets and horns only developed as they are recognised today in the late 18th and early 19th century. This morning’s program will be led by David Elton on trumpet, but three out of the four pieces were written for other instruments entirely. 

Peter Adcock’s WAM!! is having its world premiere at Mostly Mozart after being jointly commissioned by David Elton and the Australian National Academy of Music. The brass dectet is a love letter to the precocious genius, the rockstar of his age, the King of Classical: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It weaves together material from three of Mozart’s operas (The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro) with his final undertaking: the Requiem. 

In Adcock’s words: ‘Mozart's sublime and scintillating music [is shared] between all 10 brass instruments, with solos for each player promoting the unique character and sonority of their individual instrument, with the timpanist providing additional rhythmic energy, dynamic drive, and dramatic cohesion.’ 

The four-note title motif from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni ‘recurs and binds this Mozartian odyssey as a musical signature. [The motif] not only bookends this whole concert overture, but also links each successive solo aria, duet, chorus and instrumental cameo reference.’ 

Johann Baptist Georg Neruda’s Concerto for Trumpet and Strings in E-flat was written for the corno da caccia, a predecessor of the French horn. This instrument had no valves and a mouthpiece more closely resembling that of a modern trumpet. In fact, it was common practice for trumpeters to also perform on the corno da caccia due to the overlap of technique required. 

Details on Neruda’s life are scarce. He was born in either 1707 or 1708 in Bohemia, now known as the Czech Republic. He worked as a professional violinist in a theatre orchestra in Prague before relocating to Dresden to join the court orchestra of Count Rutowski. He went on to become the director of this orchestra and worked in this role until his death. 

Neruda’s compositional voice reflects his position in the generation between Johann Sebastian Bach and Joseph Haydn. Popular from the 1720s to the 1780s, the ‘galant’ style moved away from the florid contrapuntal lines of late Baroque music and towards an elegant, courtly style. 

All three movements of the horn concerto are in E-flat - natural horns of the time could not change key without physically swapping out the tubing. The piece follows the familiar concerto structure of fast first and third movements with a slow movement in the centre. Despite its understated grace, this piece is a demanding task for a musician. On a valveless horn, simply producing the right notes would have presented a challenge, never mind phrasing them with sensitivity and nuance! 

Mozart’s Horn Concerto No.2 in E flat was one of at least three concertos for horn written for the same musician: Joseph Ignaz Leitgeb. Leitgeb was a close friend of Mozart’s – they first met when Mozart was seven years old, after Leitgeb joined the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg and became a colleague of Mozart’s father Leopold. 

The second horn concerto was written in 1783, two decades later. By this time both Mozart and Leitgeb had found themselves in Vienna. Leitgeb was highly regarded as a horn soloist, having performed concerts across Frankfurt, Milan and Paris. He was one of the first masters of the covered hand technique, where the musician’s hand sits inside the bell of the horn to alter the tone quality and pitch. 

Mozart clearly thought highly of Leitgeb’s musical abilities to write him so many pieces – but he expressed his personal feelings for the man in a characteristically cheeky way. The composer was known to enjoy a practical joke, and reportedly refused to write the second horn concerto until Leitgeb agreed to be locked in a room for the several hours it took for Mozart to complete the piece. At the top of the manuscript Mozart wrote the following inscription: ‘W. A. Mozart took pity on Leitgeb, ass, ox and fool in Vienna on 27 May 1783.’ 

Mozart’s second horn concerto follows the same three movement structure as Neruda’s composition. It is a compact piece, with the second two movements only running at three and a half minutes each. The rondo third movement is a sprightly gallop inspired by a fox hunt, with a coda that hurtles ahead at breakneck speed. 

The word ‘serenade’ has taken on different musical meanings over the centuries. It might conjure up images of a bard performing a love ballad for the object of their affections, but in the Classical and Romantic period a serenade was a multi-movement instrumental piece, usually energetic and light-hearted in character. The number of movements could range from four to ten- Mozart’s Serenade No.9 in D has seven and runs for a total of 40 minutes! This morning’s performance will feature the final two movements. 

This serenade carries the nickname 'Posthorn'. This refers to an instrument commonly used by mail-coachmen during the 18th century to signal their arrival. The posthorn has a starring role in the second trio of the sixth movement, after the opening minuet bolstered by trumpets and percussion and the preceding trio led by the piccolo. The final movement does not pause for breath, featuring effervescent rhythms and the rainbow of instrumental colour at the composer’s disposal. 

The occasion behind the ninth serenade is not definitively known. It was likely written to commemorate the feast day of Mozart’s employer, the Archbishop of Salzburg, or for graduation celebrations at Salzburg University. In a letter to his father, Mozart happily ruminated on the piece’s reception: ‘I need not tell you very much about the success of my concert, for no doubt you have already heard of it. Suffice it to say that the theatre could not have been more crowded and that every box was full.’ This packed house included the Emperor Joseph II of Austria!

Written by Stella Joseph-Jarecki.

About WAM!!

‘A virtuosic concert opener for brass dectet, arranged especially for ANAM, WAM!! celebrates the inspirational kaleidoscope of the perennially timeless music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ('W.A.M.').  

By turns virtuosic and expressive, fast and slow, peaceful and dramatic, witty and visceral, WAM!! entwines familiar themes, famous excerpts and favourite highlights from the captivating and compelling operas, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Die Zauberflöte, as well as the profound and seminal Requiem all penned by the most influential musical legend of the eighteenth-century Classical era of music.  

WAM!! shares Mozart's sublime and scintillating music between all 10 brass instruments, with solos for each player promoting the unique character and sonority of their individual instrument. It concludes by epitomising the spirit of contrapuntal equality, with each musician presenting primary material in synergistic dialogue to its enigmatic close. Throughout, the timpanist provides additional rhythmic energy, dynamic drive, and dramatic cohesion. 

Be sure to listen out for the 4-note 'Don Giovanni' motif (the sound of Mozart's father summoning his son) which recurs and binds this Mozartian odyssey as a musical signature. Mozart's striking motif not only bookends this whole concert overture, but also links each successive solo aria, duet, chorus and instrumental cameo reference.’ Peter Adcock 

David Elton

About David Elton

Principal Trumpet of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra since 2011, David Elton is also a trumpet professor at the Royal College of Music in London, and a member of the Australian National Academy of Music brass faculty in Melbourne.  David was Principal Trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra from 2017 to 2021.  

As a soloist, David has performed Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in Vietnam with the London Symphony Orchestra, given the world-premiere of James Ledger’s Trumpet Concerto (a work that was written for him) with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, as well as performing other concerti with various orchestras including the Sydney and Canberra Symphony Orchestras, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. 

Don't miss the final Mostly Mozart concert of 2022 in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall on Thursday 3 November. Click here to book now.

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