BEETHOVEN, BERWALD & MOZART

Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Saturday 21 January 2023, 7.00pm

Book online or call the box office 01405 763652

Past Event

BERWALD Grand Septet in B-flat (25′)
MOZART Clarinet Quintet in A K581 (35′)
BEETHOVEN Septet in E-flat, Op.20 (40′)

An evening featuring three celebrated works of chamber music, all on a larger scale.

Beethoven’s Septet was his most popular work; an inventive, celebratory piece, full of youthful energy and generosity of spirit, punctuated by fanfares, solos, cadenzas and exuberant fireworks! The evening begins with a Romantic septet, inspired by Beethoven, and written by his Swedish younger contemporary, Berwald; Mozart’s sublime Clarinet Quintet follows.

BERWALD Franz, Grand Septet in B flat

Adagio
Allegro molto
Poco adagio
Prestissimo
Poco adagio
Finale: Allegro con spirito

 

The influence and popularity of Beethoven’s Septet spread across Europe and the work was regularly performed in Berwald’s native city of Stockholm. Now widely regarded as the most important Swedish composer of the nineteenth century, during his lifetime Berwald was seldom able to earn a living from his music, working instead as a successful physiotherapist and, later, manager of a glass works. None of this should lead us to underestimate either Berwald’s creative talent or his imaginative handling of musical form. Both are apparent in this Septet. Completed in 1828, it may have been a reworking of an earlier piece for the same forces. Even so, it is a relatively early work, composed two decades before his best-known pieces such as the Symphonie sérieuse and Symphonie singulière. The musical language is consistently appealing, owing something to contemporary opera and to composers such as Spohr, but the melodies and harmonies have an idiosyncratic character that is entirely Berwald’s own (as at the start of the Allegro molto in the first movement, or the opening of the finale). In terms of the Septet’s design, the most striking innovation comes in the second movement which has a very quick Scherzo embedded within a seemingly conventional slow movement.

MOZART Wolfgang Amadeus, Clarinet Quintet in A K581

Allegro 
Larghetto 
Menuetto 
Allegretto con variazioni  

The Clarinet Quintet was completed on 29 September 1789 and written for Mozart’s friend Anton Stadler (1753–1812). The first performance took place a few months later at a concert in Vienna’s Burgtheater on 22 December 1789, with Stadler as the soloist in a programme where the premiere of the Clarinet Quintet was a musical interlude, sandwiched between the two parts of Vincenzo Righini’s cantata The Birth of Apollo, performed by “more than 180 persons.” 

From the start, Mozart is at his most daringly beautiful: the luxuriant voicing of the opening string chords provides a sensuously atmospheric musical springboard for the clarinet’s opening flourish. The rich sonority of the Clarinet Quintet is quite unlike that of any other chamber music by Mozart, but it does have something in common with his opera Così fan tutte (premièred in January 1790), on which he was working at the same time. In particular, the slow movement of the quintet, with muted strings supporting the clarinet, has a quiet rapture that recalls the trio ‘Soave sia il vento’ (with muted strings, and prominent clarinet parts as well as voices) in Così. The finale of the Quintet is a Theme and Variations which begins with folk-like charm, then turns to more melancholy reflection before ending in a spirit of bucolic delight. 

Nigel Simeone © 2012 

BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, Septet in E flat Op.20

Adagio – Allegro con brio
Adagio cantabile
Tempo di menuetto
Tema con variazioni. Andante
Scherzo. Allegro molto e vivace
Andante con moto alla marcia – Presto
Written in 1799, Beethoven’s Septet was one of his most popular works during his lifetime. The number of movements serves as a reminder that the Septet had its origins in the popular form of the divertimento. Beethoven’s Septet was first performed in a concert at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 2 April 1800 and it was published – after a tetchy exchange between Beethoven and his publisher – in 1802. Aiming high in terms of potential benefactors, Beethoven dedicated it to Maria Theresa – the last Holy Roman Empress and the first Empress of Austria. The Septet’s success was immediate and lasting, and this came to be rather resented by Beethoven who felt the public should take more interest in his bolder later music.

 

The first movement is a beautifully proportioned and genial sonata form with a slow introduction. It’s clear from the start that all the instruments are expected to operate as soloists (in a letter to his publisher, Beethoven stressed that every instrument was obligato). The Adagio opens with a long-breathed clarinet melody that is taken over by the violin while clarinet and bassoon play a counter-melody, all supported by a gently pulsating accompaniment in the lower strings. The Minuet that follows demonstrates Beethoven the recycler: he uses the same theme here as in the Piano Sonata Op.49 No.2 (which, despite its opus number, predates the Septet). The relaxed mood is maintained in the charming theme and variations. The Scherzo is launched by a horn call from which much of what follows is derived – even the start of the Trio has thematic links with this tune (or rather an inversion of it) but the high-lying cello theme and a texture dominated by the strings provides a very effective contrast. The finale begins with one of the few significant uses of a minor key in the work: a stern slow march that soon gives way to a rollicking Rondo based on a deliciously memorable tune.

Nigel Simeone 2013