Mozart | Elgar
22 February 2020, 7:00 p.m.
Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio in Warsaw
Katarzyna Budnik | viola
Maria Machowska | violin
The Jerzy Semkow Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra
George Tchitchinadze | conductor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Overture to the opera Così fan tutte K. 588
Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major, K. 364 for violin, viola and orchestra
Edward Elgar – Enigma Variations op. 36
phot. Artist’s archive
Two years after the success of Don Giovanni in Prague, Mozart used the opera buffa form again (and for the last time), this time recounting, again with the librettist Da Pont, the very frivolous history of a wager that is decided in the course of one day concerning the swap of two fiancées between two bachelors and featuring the moral of the impermanence of women’s feelings (“women are like that…”). In comparison to his earlier masterpieces, Così fan tutte seems less impressive from the outside. Mozart is once again revealed to us as a classic artist in search of formal balance and harmony. This sunny opera, preceded by a charming, lively overture, is a wonderful summary of Mozart’s comedic work and more broadly – his affirmative, joyful attitude towards the world and people; it also represents the completion of his triptych of later works in this genre, in which opera buffa equalled opera seria in quality for the first time in its history.
Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola (the second work of its kind after an earlier piece in the same key for oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon) was created at the end of the composer’s youthful period in Salzburg when he was already bathed in the radiance of European fame – most probably due to his journey through Mannheim (at the time famous for its outstanding orchestra) to Paris with a view to performances in these cities, although not much is known concerning how they were received; later it was consigned to oblivion for many years. The title itself indicates the genre, combining symphony and concerto, although it is clearly dominated by the latter. Two instruments carry on a lively dialogue and the entire work is filled with a cheery and carefree atmosphere.
The beginning of Edward Elgar’s career did not foretell the enormous popularity and fame which would be bestowed upon the more than 40-year-old musician. His later success first manifested on the European continent, where his works gained recognition from acclaimed artists such as Richard Strauss and conductor Hans Richter, who directed the premiere of the Enigma Variations op. 36 at London’s St. James Hall on 19 June 1899. This event was a milestone in Elgar’s career and his variations soon gained even greater fame throughout Europe. Apparently, the idea behind the work originated with a musical joke – Elgar was entertaining his wife with piano improvisation by creating variations on a certain melody in an attempt to create sound “snapshots” of her, himself and a group of friends who were visiting their home (while asking them to guess which theme represented each person). Alice found the idea so interesting that she convinced her husband to develop the improvisations and write them down. The basis of the variations was this riddle or theme: according to Elgar, it was only a counterpoint to a certain well-known melody, which has never been identified, and certain elements that encode the initials of his friends as sketches of their symbolic, sound portraits. This original and appealing concept, its harmonious beauty and colourful orchestration ensured that the composer’s name was not only famous among his contemporaries, but also introduced it permanently to the pantheon of the most outstanding British artists, and many of his works to the canon of orchestral repertoire, although none of Elgar’s other pieces achieved the fame of Enigma.