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Serenade for Winds in C minor K.388

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

Composer
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
Composition Year
1782
Work Movements
1. Allegro
2. Andante
3. Menuet
4. Allegro
Artists
Peter Whelan [bassoon], Amy Harmon [bassoon], Hervé Joulain [horn], Christoffer Sundqvist [clarinet], Susanne Schmid [horn], Mathias Kjøller [clarinet], Olivier Doise [oboe], Armel Descottes [oboe]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

All of us, who take lascivious pleasure in Mozart’s writing for wind instruments, owe a great debt to the quirk of Imperial taste that saw the establishment of an official wind octet made up of members of the Court Opera Orchestra in Vienna. Their job was to play wind band arrangements of operas in the Imperial repertoire as Tafelmusik. This delightful custom originated in the early 1780s and ensured that there was a nucleus of exceptionally skilled wind players in the opera orchestra. This had a sensational effect on Mozart, who naturally seized the opportunity to write for these brilliant instrumentalists. So from out of this dinner-time entertainment we have inherited a whole galaxy of wind serenades as well as the wonderful wind writing that curls through Mozart’s operas, symphonies and, in particular, his piano concertos.


Much has been written about the C minor key of this work being unsuitable for the genre of Nachtmusik, but the sonorous and grandiose unison opening bars rather bely this criticism.. This stately introduction leads by way of gently questioning phrases directly into the Allegro and the first subject dominated by its dotted rhythm. The second subject opens to a moment of pure bliss: an anticipatory pause before the last figure of the first group is taken by the oboe, modulated and transformed to the new theme as the clarinets enter underneath with an exquisite chirruping figure. This is later given to the bassoons with equally magical effect. The exposition repeat gives another chance to hear this moment of perfection, which is differently treated in the recapitulation. The development is curiously downbeat and short before the introduction returns in full sonority to lead us a different path through the now familiar material.


Mozart was sufficiently proud of this work to re-score it for string quintet six years later when he needed a companion work for the G minor and C major Quintets. In the strings the minor key is more dominating whereas with the winds it seems to be but one of the extraordinary textures that Mozart extracts from his eight instruments. The Andante seems to be cast in one sinuous legato line as the voices weave and interweave in their delicious song. The Minuet is more angular, even harsh, despite attempts by the clarinets to restrain the oboes. The Trio is a victory for tranquillity and gentleness so the return of the Minuet is even more abrasive.


The Finale is a virtuoso demonstration by Mozart of his compositional woodwind tricks, produced one after another like rabbits out of the hat including a gorgeous interlude led by the horns. It is as though we have been let into the composer’s laboratory and shown how to mix the potions. Even in the final run to the finish, he cannot resist pausing for a last surprise decorative flourish.

Francis Humphrys


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Serenade for Winds in C minor K.388

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
Performance date: Saturday 8th July 2017
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
Work Title Serenade for Winds in C minor K.388
Composition Year 1782
Work Movements 1. Allegro
2. Andante
3. Menuet
4. Allegro
Artist(s) Peter Whelan [bassoon], Amy Harmon [bassoon], Hervé Joulain [horn], Christoffer Sundqvist [clarinet], Susanne Schmid [horn], Mathias Kjøller [clarinet], Olivier Doise [oboe], Armel Descottes [oboe]
Performance Date Saturday 8th July 2017
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Coffee Concert
Duration 00:23:40
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Small Mixed Ensemble
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

All of us, who take lascivious pleasure in Mozart’s writing for wind instruments, owe a great debt to the quirk of Imperial taste that saw the establishment of an official wind octet made up of members of the Court Opera Orchestra in Vienna. Their job was to play wind band arrangements of operas in the Imperial repertoire as Tafelmusik. This delightful custom originated in the early 1780s and ensured that there was a nucleus of exceptionally skilled wind players in the opera orchestra. This had a sensational effect on Mozart, who naturally seized the opportunity to write for these brilliant instrumentalists. So from out of this dinner-time entertainment we have inherited a whole galaxy of wind serenades as well as the wonderful wind writing that curls through Mozart’s operas, symphonies and, in particular, his piano concertos.


Much has been written about the C minor key of this work being unsuitable for the genre of Nachtmusik, but the sonorous and grandiose unison opening bars rather bely this criticism.. This stately introduction leads by way of gently questioning phrases directly into the Allegro and the first subject dominated by its dotted rhythm. The second subject opens to a moment of pure bliss: an anticipatory pause before the last figure of the first group is taken by the oboe, modulated and transformed to the new theme as the clarinets enter underneath with an exquisite chirruping figure. This is later given to the bassoons with equally magical effect. The exposition repeat gives another chance to hear this moment of perfection, which is differently treated in the recapitulation. The development is curiously downbeat and short before the introduction returns in full sonority to lead us a different path through the now familiar material.


Mozart was sufficiently proud of this work to re-score it for string quintet six years later when he needed a companion work for the G minor and C major Quintets. In the strings the minor key is more dominating whereas with the winds it seems to be but one of the extraordinary textures that Mozart extracts from his eight instruments. The Andante seems to be cast in one sinuous legato line as the voices weave and interweave in their delicious song. The Minuet is more angular, even harsh, despite attempts by the clarinets to restrain the oboes. The Trio is a victory for tranquillity and gentleness so the return of the Minuet is even more abrasive.


The Finale is a virtuoso demonstration by Mozart of his compositional woodwind tricks, produced one after another like rabbits out of the hat including a gorgeous interlude led by the horns. It is as though we have been let into the composer’s laboratory and shown how to mix the potions. Even in the final run to the finish, he cannot resist pausing for a last surprise decorative flourish.

Francis Humphrys