I spent an interesting morning yesterday discussing Mozart’s state of mind in 1787, specifically with regard to the String Quintet in g K.516, which does some very strange things indeed and embraces the minor mode with something approaching enthusiasm. 1787 was a tricky year for Wolfgang with the sudden death of his closest friend, his father’s terminal illness and death some two hundred miles away in Salzburg and, to top it all off, his pet starling fell off its metaphorical perch, prompting the composer to hold a Requiem service for it and write a poem in its memory.
I wonder quietly whether Wolfgang had more love for his starling than for his father, for Leopold was tough and demanding and probably disapproved of much that his son was up to. Despite all the shenanigans with Salzburg and the kick up the backside, Constanze in Vienna and many other scrapes, Leopold must surely have been proud of his son’s writing, even if Wolfgang seems never quite to have received the unqualified approval that he was after.
I find that only rarely does Wolfgang’s mask slip, and I believe that happens in this Quintet, the brooding introspective counterpart to the sunny K.515, but it happens more obviously, if fleetingly, in the short song Abendempfindung K.523, and I ended yesterday morning’s session with Elly Ameling’s lovely recording of that work. I was delighted to find later that she and my two other favourite sopranos of the late 20th century – Janowitz and Ludwig – are still alive, although long past performing. I caught Janowitz in recital towards the end of her career, which was memorable evening for many different reasons, although that story is for another entry.
In the evening Parliament Choir did some more work on The Oxen, which they seem to like a great deal, and we also ran through We Three Kings in preparation for our carol concert next week. I also received some decent comments about Joe’s album which, happily, highlighted one of the songs that I happened to have co-written.
Today I really need to get on with the new piece, for it is now touch and go whether it will be quite ready to go off to its competition on Friday. All that research and all that lecturing is joyous stuff, but there is no escaping that it steals time from the writing that really matters to me.