"Eine kleine Nachtmusik"
W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
Serenade No.13 for strings in G major K. 525 (“Eine kleine Nachtmusik”)
Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951)
Verklärte Nacht op.4 (ed. 1943)
Serenade No.6 in D major K. 239 (“Serenata notturna“)
Paul Hanmer (*1961)
“Nightjar breaks“ for flute and string orchestra *
“Nachtroep” concerto for violin, trumpet, piano and string orchestra *
* (first performance, new commission from JIMF)
W.A. Mozart - Serenade No.13 for strings in G major K. 525 (“Eine kleine Nachtmusik”)
Few of Mozart’s (1756-1791) works are better known than the Serenade K. 525. It dates from August 1787, though it is not known exactly for what occasion it was written. In Mozart’s own catalogue he refers to it as “Nachtmusik” which may just be a synonym for ‘Serenade’. In its present form it is in four movements, but there are sketches for a fifth that are incomplete. Despite its current popularity the work was little known in Mozart’s day and was not published till the 1820s. Though coinciding with Mozart’s work on Don Giovanni this delightful Serenade displays none of the darker side of the opera. It is Mozart at his most effortlessly lyrical.
Arnold Schönberg - Verklärte Nacht op.4 (ed. 1943)
Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) composed his Verklärte Nacht in 1899, aged 25. Despite its clear indebtedness to some earlier composers, notably Wagner, it is a unique and innovatory work. It was originally composed for string sextet and is the first such chamber work to have been conceived as a tone-poem based on an extra-musical idea, in this case a poem by Richard Dehmel (1863-1920). The poem tells the story of a man and a woman walking in the middle of the night through a “bare, cold grove”. The woman has a secret which she wishes to unburden. She tells the man that she is pregnant, not by him but by someone to whom she succumbed through need, not love. She is now not only beset by guilt but very much afraid that her new and much loved partner will not stay with her now he knows of her earlier sin (as she sees it) and current predicament. As her new lover comforts her he reassures her that their love will transcend everything and that she has no need to feel guilt or apprehension. Whereupon the moon lights up his face and the ‘night’ of the woman’s guilt is transfigured by this new luminosity and the man’s strong love for her. Schönberg turned this powerful psychological drama into a twenty-minute work of extraordinary passion. Taking as his cue the word “verklärt” (transfigured), he used musical development as its metaphor and developed his ideas like the leitmotifs in a Wagner opera. His succession of themes and transformations demonstrate the changes in the psyches of the protagonists – though in a more compressed, even more intense manner than Wagner. The work opens broodingly in D minor, but quickly the tonality of the work becomes so fluid and the chromaticism so rich that the work seems seldom to settle until the end. However, there are one or two moments, particularly associated with the moon and the lifting of the woman’s psychological burden, where Schönberg writes music that shimmers so gloriously with string glissandi and harmonics that the moonlight and its effects appear almost tangible.
W.A. Mozart - Serenade No.6 in D major K. 239 (“Serenata notturna“)
Mozart composed his Serenata Notturna in Salzburg in 1776. It has an unusual orchestration. It is composed in a ‘concertante’ style, a smaller string orchestra being pitted against a larger one, to which is added a timpani part in the tutti sections. The work is in three movements, there being no slow movement, though there is a slow section in the finale.
‘Nachtroep’ and ‘Nightjar Breaks’ by South African composer Paul Hanmer are performed for the first time at the final concert of the 2012 Johannesburg International Mozart festival (JIMF).
In three movements, ‘Nachtroep’ is a triple concerto for trumpet/flugelhorn, violin and piano with string orchestra and ‘Nightjar Breaks’ a short fantasia for solo flute and string orchestra.
In keeping with the overriding “night” theme of the concert, it seemed appropriate for Hanmer to name his new pieces accordingly.
When the festival’s artistic director, Florian Uhlig, suggested that Hanmer write a new concerto in part-fulfilment of his appointment as composer-in-residence to the festival, he immediately indicated that he wanted to include Feya Faku as one of the soloists. “Feya had expressed an interest in performing something written specifically for his 'voice' on trumpet and flugelhorn together with a large body of strings and I wanted to honour this – especially as I love his playing so much,” says Hanmer.
Florian Uhlig proposed the inclusion of piano and later violin in the concertino group. Distinguished soloist Mikhail Simonyan will take the violin role and Uhlig will be at the piano.
The first movement of ‘Nachtroep’ showcases each soloist alternately playing the main theme allegretto after a slow introduction by the orchestra. “I think I managed to find a theme that could be expressed equally well on each of the solo instruments,” says Hanmer.
The second movement is a slow courtly dance with the violin playing the main theme. This is linked directly to the brisk-paced third movement by means of a short cadenzetta for the concertino group.
When flautist Massimo Mercelli confirmed his participation in the 2012 JIMF, a new piece was needed to showcase his particular voice. The outcome is ‘Nightjar Breaks’, a South African-style 'Nightingale Fantasy' of sorts for flute and strings. “As Florian Uhlig quite rightly observed, there are no nightingales on the Highveld. In observance of this, the piece includes themes drawn from local bird-song,” says Hanmer.