Artists

Conductor

13 Dec '18

Concert III
13 Dec '18

Marc Minkowski

Tour

Concert dates and locations

  • 13 December 2018 | Victoria Hall Geneva | 20:00

Artists

Programme

In the course of the last three years of his life, Mozart orchestrated four of Georg Friedrich Handel's vocal works, starting with the mask Acis and Galatea (KV 566, 1788) and Messiah (KV 572, 1789). In summer 1790, he then added two of Handel's odes (secular cantatas), Alexander's Feast (KV 591) and the Ode for St. Cecilia's Day (KV 592), to his catalogue of arrangements. Mozart set about this task at the request of Baron Gottfried van Swieten, Prefect of the Imperial Library and a great music lover, whom Mozart met shortly after his arrival in Vienna in 1781. Van Swieten was passionate about baroque music, which he had discovered in the course of his travels throughout Europe. It was only after his meeting with this former diplomat that Mozart realised the full value of his predecessors. He then undertook an assiduous study of fugal writing, which he put to use in his own works (notably the Mass in C minor). Van Swieten was not only a great collector of baroque music. He also gathered a circle of Viennese aristocrats to finance private concerts dedicated to great works of the past. These musical evenings took place at the Baron's home during Lent and Christmas and culminated with the first performance of Haydn's two oratorios, The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801). Van Swieten commissioned Mozart to expand the orchestration of Handel's works, which seemed a little thin to Classical ears. Mozart added flutes, clarinets and horns to the orchestra to give this Ode for St. Cecilia's Day a "Viennese glow". He also rewrote the final aria for bass. There is no evidence of performance of this arrangement during Mozart's lifetime, but numerous copies of the work prove that it enjoyed enormous popularity in the early 19th century.
Mozart may well have composed fifteen masses, several vespers, litanies and a good number of motets during his Salzburg years, but didn't consider church music as his primary concern. As soon as the musician left for Vienna, he invested all his energy in composing symphonies and concertos, chamber music and of course opera. In January 1783, however, Mozart told his father that "the score of a half-composed mass was awaiting completion". He had seemingly vowed to compose another mass if his wife's first delivery went well. Later that same year, the composer visited Salzburg for the first time with his wife Constanze. At that point, the composer still hadn't finished his Mass in C minor, which was lacking the end of the Credo and the whole of the Agnus Dei. The unfinished work was nevertheless performed on 26 October 1783 in St Peter's Church, the gaps probably being filled in with pieces borrowed from Mozart's previous masses. The composer let his wife sing the soprano solo parts, which have a very operatic allure in the Christe eleison, Laudamus te and Et incarnatus est sections. Mozart shared in this Mass his new understanding of baroque music, which he had learned through the works Baron van Swieten had introduced him to in Vienna. The Cum Sancto Spirito and Hosanna sections, in particular, show off some very masterly fugues. After the Salzburg premiere, Mozart never attempted to complete his Mass in C minor and hardly ever returned to church music until his final composition, the Requiem in D minor (which also remained unfinished). He did, however, use once again the music of the Kyrie and the Gloria. He set these two parts to an Italian text and added two newly composed arias to produce the cantata Davidde penitente which had been commissioned by the Vienna Society of Musicians.

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Good to know

Marc Minkowski made his debut as a conductor at a very young age since he was only 19 when he founded Les Musiciens du Louvre. He had previously begun his musical career as a bassoonist, before studying conducting with Charles Bruck at the Pierre Monteux Conducting School (Maine). Back in France, Mark Minkowski embarked on the path of historically informed performance and set out to explore the French repertoire and the music of Handel, before moving on to Mozart, Rossini, Offenbach and Wagner. The French musician also regularly performs as a guest conductor with major European and American symphony orchestras, thus expanding his repertoire to the music of 19th and 20th centuries. In 2013, he was appointed Artistic Director of the Mozart Week in Salzburg where he invited Bartabas and his Académie Equestre two years later. In 2016, Marc Minkowski took up a new position as Director of the Opéra National de Bordeaux. Since 2011 he also directs the festival Ré Majeure which he launched on the Isle of Ré.

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