WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Symphony n. 5 in B flat major K. 22
Domine Deus da Gloria
Symphony from La sconfitta de’ Cananei
(first modern performance)
Sull’altare del Suo sdegno from La sconfitta de’ Cananei
(first modern performance)
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Symphony n. 27 in G major K. 199
Fra le oscure ombre funestefromDavide Penitente K. 469
Et incarnatus est from the Mass in C minor K. 427
Symphony n. 24 in B flat major K. 182
Opera Carlo Felice Genova Orchestra
Giuseppe Sarti (Faenza 1729 – Berlin 1802) was a composer, an operaist, of almost unrivaled fame and a point of reference throughout Europe at the end of the 18th century. Haydn interrupted his own performance to greet him publicly and the emperor dedicated an official reception to him in Vienna. He had been a favorite student of the best teachers of the time, Fr. Vallotti and p. Martini (also mentor of the young Mozart), had held prestigious positions such as directing the choir of the Church of the Pietà in Venice, a few years after Vivaldi, having been Kapellmeister of the Milan Cathedral and, even before that, Master of the Italian Opera House at the Danish crown (think of the times: a crowned head demanded that his court not limit musical life to his own musical chapel, but then felt the need to offer his country an opera theatre, and an Italian one!). His scores were printed and translated into different languages within a few months. All this was proof of an undoubted and full-blown success and yet Sarti, although a clear emblem of Italian art and culture, belongs to that group of composers, together with Viotti or Boccherini, among others, then neglected in the musical historiography which has since arrived today. Being Italian meant belonging to a prevailing culture in the musical world of that period: Italian was also spoken at the Vienna Opera, the most coveted and successful chapel masters were Italian, but there was a discrepancy between belonging to a thousand-year-old culture of reference, and the fact of being Italian before, alas, Italy existed.
Sarti’s case is among the most paradoxical because if in Russia, where he spent the last decades of his life at the court of Catherine II, he is still considered the forerunner of their national school, in his “Western” Europe his notoriety, however sparse, it is mostly due to the “literal” quotation that Mozart makes of it in his own Don Giovanni: «Evvivano i Litiganti». But that quote was neither a coincidence nor a mere recognition of fame, it was a sort of thanks to that composer whom he esteemed so much, as the young Amadé wrote to his father, and whose work Inglese Between the two litigants the third one enjoys, commissioned by La Scala in 1782, three years before Nozze and five of Don Giovanni, it had been so successful in Vienna that it had more than inspired the Salzburg genius himself. The plot, the harmonies, some themes, the vocality and the concertati of Sarti’s works were certainly not unknown to the composer of the above-mentioned masterpieces, and perhaps we can speak of a true little Italian Mozart, this should be our Faenza native.
The program of this appointment with the Mozart l’italiano symphonic cycle does not aim to make comparisons but to make Mozart masterpieces available to the public, which are usually little attended, with the exception of the Categorical Absolute of the Et incarnatus, taken from the Mass in C minor K. 427, and some examples of Giuseppe Sarti’s sacred writing.
The Gloria, probably written in 1787 for the Catholic church of St. Petersburg, is a composition in which the severe style of academic counterpoint alternates in the choirs with the typically Italian and free singing, almost operatic I dare say, in the “arias” such as the Domine Deus who will be executed.
The rediscovery of the Oratory La Sconfitta de’ Cananei (Rome 1766) was very peculiar. In those years Sarti was director of the Italian opera theater at the Court of Denmark, and was sent to Italy in search of new voices. The synopsis of the oratory is that of the biblical event in which the prophetess Deborah warns the Israelite general Barach that Israel will be victorious in the war against the Canaanites at the hands of a non-Jewish woman: Jael, who recognizing Sisera, leader of the Canaanites, as the emblem of Evil, will kill him after welcoming him into his tent. The modernity of the musical writing, a forerunner of the so-called classical style that would establish itself within a few decades, is unimaginable; the emotional impact is strong thanks to instrumental and harmonic boldness and unexpected and unpredictable vocal virtuosity. This is a real rarity, not only because a small part of it was performed on this occasion after a few centuries, but also due to the fact that in those decades the setting to music of Old Testament texts was prohibited in Rome: it is It is plausible to suppose that this was instead possible because the libretto takes up the Song of Deborah, taken from the book of Judges, which has always been considered a moment of high poetry as well as one of the very first examples of Jewish poetry. That is, Rousseau’s Enlightenment idea was accepted according to which Poetry is the means to achieve the Truth, which in this case is summarized in the prevalence of the will of God over Evil. The story, therefore, does not linger on the killing of a tired man and a guest at that, made morally reprehensible in itself. The message of the typically poetic story highlights that Jael fulfills Deborah’s prophecy: God frees the people and does so not with the contribution of the army and its general, but through the hands of a peaceful woman available to God, in the choir final assimilated, by mission, to Mary. Thus, not only was it possible to write it down, but a rare opportunity was created for a high and fruitful encounter with Jewish culture. The same biblical episode is remembered by Alessandro Manzoni in the ode March 1821, where the poet with reference to God writes: «he who in the grip of the male Jael / placed the mallet and guided the blow».
Written in 1766, just 16 years after Bach’s death, this oratorio left an almost avant-garde mark and certainly received approval until the 1980s, to which some rediscovered librettos, printed in Munich, date back. Jaele’s aria, which will be performed in today’s layout, highlights the technical difficulties that Sarti required of the singers, but it is also emblematic of that disdain and those dramatic colors that are so strong that they allow the listener’s imagination to easily draw the it’s about a scene that doesn’t exist. In the typical form of the aria – ABA – the central, slower part, in which the libretto recalls the departure of Sisera’s soul, the chromaticisms, the harmonic succession, the rhythmic tactus and the dissonances recall something, certainly, more familiar ; I have no evidence to connect the two scenes, but juxtaposing the death of Don Juan’s Commander with that of Sisera, the coincidences and very distant similarities seem to find a common thread.
Last but not least, the Oratorio Symphony, in C major, tripartite, martial in its incipit and of great brilliance in the finale, was discovered not to have been written for the oratorio, but was “borrowed”, from the work The Nitteti which Sarti himself had composed the year before in Venice for the Teatro S. Benedetto. On the other hand, the Symphony, as a genre, was born in those years and, although many composers and many places boast of its paternity, above all the Milanese Sammartini, it is known that that musical form was already present throughout Europe and capable of introducing more complex works. Generally written in three movements, it was customary to distinguish them between chamber symphonies, i.e. concert, opera or church symphonies.
The Mozart symphonies themselves that will be performed in this program are children of those times and those customs: the conditioning of even the very young Mozart with respect to the musical panorama in which he was raised is inevitable. On a formal level they are also tripartite, and the structural and rhythmic similarities between one and the other undoubtedly make one think of a known and shared formal pattern.
The various news and information on the very first symphonies that Mozart wrote in London as a child between 1764 and 1765, and which have been lost, suggest a symphony in C major, perhaps in imitation of Johann Christian Bach, with a rhythmic scansion very military. It may just be a coincidence, but the Symphony of La Nitteti, lent to the Canaanites, also reflects that tone and those characteristics… it is nice to dream that Mozart’s esteem for Sarti began before the most famous vicissitudes.