St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Mozart. Handel. Boccherini

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Eine kleine Nacht musik
Piano concert № 20

Georg Frideric Handel
Sonata for two violins and string orchestra

Luigi Boccherini
Cello concert № 2

Symphony Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in Vienna on 10 August 1787. The time – between Le nozze di Figaro and his three final symphonies – was the twilight period of his talent, but that summer surprisingly few new works emerged. And if it had not been for Eine Kleine Nachtmusik it could in no sense be referred to as productive.
It is not known who commissioned the work from Mozart, but such as these were written only to order, for celebratory occasions, such as for marriages.
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is indeed rather short. Night serenades like this normally included five, seven or more parts, and a minimum of two or three minuets. Up to four orchestras could be involved in performing them, filling palace gardens with sounds and creating the effects of an echo. Mozart limited himself to one string orchestra and four parts – the Allegro, the Romance, the Minuet and the Rondo. It is true that, initially, between the Allegro and the Romance there was yet another minuet, which later disappeared.
The miniature Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is full of grace, wit and an undisguised love of life – an image of the “light genre” of the classical era.

Concerto No 20 in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra is one of the most popular of Mozart’s concerti thanks to its romantic and passionate character. The first section precedes the emotional pages of Don Giovanni, while the third is the finale of Symphony No 40. Mozart completed the score on 10 February 1785, and already the next day the composer performed his latest work in the casino room of the Mehlgrub at the opening of a series of six subscription concert. Performing the keyboard at the same time as conducting was his favourite method of influencing the public. It was Mozart, in the 1780s, who created a revolution, ridding the piano of its role as accompanist (which in line with tradition had been performed in the orchestra by the harpsichord and other keyboard instruments) and transformed it into a real soloist. Mozart intended his concerti for the broader public. In a letter to his father he wrote: “It is concerti that are somewhere between too hard and too easy, there is much dazzle in them, they are pleasant to the ear, but, of course, they do not disappear into emptiness; in certain places there is satisfaction to be had only by connoisseurs – apropos, non-connoisseurs should inexplicably be pleased with them.”


The Sonata for Two Cellos and String Orchestra is an arrangement of George Frederick Handel’s Sonata Trio in G Minor (Op. 2, No 8). In its original form, the sonata was intended for two violins and a basso continuo. At the wish of the performers, the violins may be replaced by two flutes or two oboes.
The history behind the creation of the sonatas, Op. 2 is filled with enigmas. They first appeared in London around 1730 in the form of a pirate publication. Handel himself had no connection with the compilation of the anthology, and he had written the works included in it much earlier, starting at the age of fourteen.
Many of his sonatas are adaptations of fragments of other works by Handel (operas, anthems and concerti). Sonata No 8 was not one of these. Historians doubt at all that it was, in fact, composed by Handel, suspecting it may only have been published as being by him. Either way, it is very close to its “sisters” from Op. 2: the so-called “church” sonata in four parts with, typically for Handel, an image particular to each. Following the serious and measured first part there comes the impetuous second part, intense in polyphonic methods, which is succeeded by the lyrical third section with the languid figured of “sighs” borrowed from opera music. The sonata concludes with a finale in the style of a brisk minuet.

The Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini (1743– 1805) composed no fewer that twelve concerti for his favourite instrument. Judging by 18th century standards this is not a great many. Alongside the hundred or so string quartets and the hundred string quintets of Boccherini himself, the figure twelve stands out.
Boccherini’s cello concerti were printed in the 1770s and the 1780s in Paris. At this time, the composer himself was working in Spain, though he retained contact with publishers in various European capitals. Possibly there could have been more of the concerti, which are remarkable for their melodic inventiveness, technical demands and the pure use of the upper register. For example, supposing the stringent conditions of his service in Spain for a lengthy period proved no obstacle to Boccherini writing works to commission for Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia (the future King Friedrich Wilhelm II), a passionate amateur cellist for whom Haydn and Mozart both wrote works.
After the death of the composer, his vast legacy lay forgotten for some time. The “renaissance” of Boccherini began at the very end of the 19th century with the appearance of free adaptations of various works. This process continued into the 20th century too. The Concerto in D Major was written by the cellist Sergei Aslamazyan from fragments of rarely performed cello works by the composer.

Anna Bulycheva

Age category 6+

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