The Lieder of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

by John Campbell

      Cecilia Bartoli has said that "there is no inferior music by Mozart." It is easy for the listener to find delight in his songs. Most of Mozart's lied are not art song by the strict definition of the Romantic period: art song is poetry set to music that is through-composed. This definition was formalized in 1798, seven years after Mozart's death. The early songs of Mozart have texts of a simple wholesomeness. There are songs on friendship, joy, composure, tranquility and of course romance to poems that were fashionable at the time. Most of his forty songs are strophic and the only one set to poetry of a major poet is Das Veilchen (The Violet) by Goethe. And even here Mozart adds words that suggest that he is joking if not being a bit condescending about Goethe's text. He adds: "The poor violet! It was a dear little violet!"

      In his lifetime only seven songs were published and the most substantial ones came near the end of his life. After his operas became popular there was a market for his songs. Mozart "seized the opportunity to respond to the demands of publishers and public and thereby boost his often erratic income."

      This information comes with the booklet from a 2 CD set: Mozart Lieder - Notturni Phillips (422-524-2). Elly Ameling sings and Dalton Baldwin accompanies her on piano. It is wonderfully well-done and a great introduction to his songs. There is another 2 CD set of Mozart The Complete Masonic Music on VOX (VoxBox2 CDX 5055) that has four lied by male singers. It is a fun collection of music written for use at Masonic meetings, lots of chamber pieces and a cantata for tenor which contains five short songs.

Mozart Live

      "To me Mozart songs are about seduction, before, after or during" so said Sarah Wells, soprano who sang Sensucht nach dem Früling (Yearning for spring) written in January, 1791, the year Mozart died, and Die Zufriednenheit (Contentment).

      At the September 22 meeting of the Virginia Art Song Society Dr. Julian Kwok gave a short introductory talk on Mozart lied and then with Karen Scott, soprano we had a perfect demonstration of Viennese style in the song Ridente la calma (a calm smile awakens in my soul). In her second selection Komm liebe zither (Come dearest zither, come) Ms. Scott proved to be a stylist of refinement accompanied by Chris Basford, an accomplished classical guitarist.

      The co-MC Debbie Harris sang Oiseaux, si tous les ans (Birds, avoid winter every year) in good French and with a lovely voice. Didi Granger sang An Chlöe (To Chlöe), a song from 1787, characteristic of Mozart lied in form and sentiment.

      Warnung (Warning) an admonition to fathers to lock away a maiden to protect her purity was bumptiously portrayed in her very likable voice by Charlotte Elia, soprano. Als Luise die Briefe (On Louise's letter) followed and was well chosen for the singer's dramatic and vocal gifts. Das Veilchen was sung by a youthful Rebecca Cross.

      Abendenfindung (Evening thoughts) is a through-composed song and aria-like in sound. Wie unglucklich bin ich nit (How unhappy am I) was written when Mozart was a teenager and sung by Pamela DeMeyere, soprano. Her second selection Wiegenlied (lullaby) is not on the Elly Ameling CD since this song once attributed to Mozart was actually written by Bernard Flies, according to the "Lied and Song Text Page" of recmusic.org.

      You will find the group's next meeting "Songs of Charles Ives" on the Calendar for November. Patrick O'Donnell is the speaker and pianist.

 

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