Mozart. Violin Concertos

‘Only the violin has been packed away’ notes on my cadenzas and Eingänge



For none of the works recorded here do cadenzas or Eingänge 1 by the composer exist. How might they have sounded? Mozart wrote no unaccompanied violin music from whose idiom one may draw any conclusions. His only two string cadenzas are found in the Sinfonia Concertante K364/32od. They are laid out as duets for the twosolo instruments, violin and viola, with the viola at once in motivic dialogue with th e violin and, whenever necessary, taking overthe function of the bass. But how would Mozart have realised melody and harmony on a single string instrument? To what extent did he insert double stops and chords in the cadenzas of his violin concertos alongside virtuoso figuration? We do not know.

In the correspondence between Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart two things are clear: first of all, that the son was an excellent violinist, at least in the first half of the 1770s; and secondly, that he nevertheless felt closer to the piano. Again and again his father encouraged him, sometimes seriously, sometimes in jest, not entirely to forget the violin: ‘Only the violin has been packed away: that I can well imagine’ (27 November 1777). My reflections build on this notion of ‘packing away the violin’. If W. A. Mozart was thus an excellent pianist who also played the violin, we may conjecture that he set greater store by harmonic fullness and clearly understandable part-writing on the string instrument than someone who was a fiddler by nature. This led me to experiment extensively with double stops and polyphony in a number of cadenzas, even if no analogies are found for this in Mozart’s violin works.

Manuals for improvisation in the later eighteenth century mostly take figured bass progressions (to be realised in chords) Mozart’s cadenzas for his piano concertos rely on the motivic material of each movement in widely varying degrees. Of course it is possible to discern certain tendencies: cadenzas to a movement in serioso or maestoso character are often more densely worked thematically than those in a scherzando or grazioso context, which give the impression of being more ornamental and more casually tossed off, and often actually avoid the main themes of the movement in order not to dampen the cheerful mood with an all too laboured earnestness.


A particularly appealing element of these violin concertos is their proximity of tone to Italian opera. I could not resist the temptation of playfully exploring this link. In particular, it seemed to be an obvious idea to seize on the topos ofthe instrumental recitative. Mozart may have encountered it in the works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Only a year after the last violin concerto he developed a whole movement from a recitative-like theme, the central Andantino of his ‘Jenamy’ Concerto K271.


As a result of these considerations, some of the cadenzas may have become unusually long according to the standards and the treatises of the period. However, the same is true of most of Mozart’s cadenzas – for example, the ones he tailor-made forthe aforementioned and apparently highly virtuosic Victoire Jenamy are notably complex and extravagant. For a violinist ofthe stature of Isabelle Faust, he would also have drawn on his full range of resources …


from booklet: Andreas Staier