Relayed from the National Museum of Wales
National Orchestra of Wales
(Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Cymru)
Two of Mendelssohn's orchestral works, the 'Fingal's Cave' Overture and the so-called 'Scots' Symphony, owed their inspiration to the visit which he paid to Scotland in 1829. The melody which forms the chief tune of the Overture 'Fingal's Cave,' sometimes called 'The Hebrides,' was written down immediately after a visit to Staffa and Iona, and sent home in one of his delightful letters, describing the visit with all his own buoyant enthusiasm.
The Overture begins with lower strings and bassoons, presenting a theme which depicts the long rolling Atlantic breakers, and later it is the same instruments which give us the second chief tune. The Overture is built up on these singly and together; a very beautiful instance of their use in combination is heard near the end, where flute and horns join to play them very softly.
In 1773, when Mozart was seventeen, he and his father paid a visit to Vienna. What they had in view is not known, but we can guess that the father was hoping to find a permanent post for himself in the musical world there. If that be so, the visit was not a success, but it was very valuable from the young Mozart's point of view. Till then he knew but little of Viennese, or indeed of any German music, being rather under the influence of Italy, where he had already paid two visits and met with a good deal of success both as pianist and as composer. In Vienna, he learned something of Haydn's music, particularly of the String Quartets, and that is reflected at once in the pieces we know him to have composed about that time. The two returned home, to Salzburg, about the beginning of October, and the young Mozart immediately flung himself into composition with all his own impetuous energy. By the end of the year ho had completed an impressive volume of work, this Symphony as part of it. Disappointing as the Vienna visit had been in some ways, and unsatisfactory as family circumstances were, the Symphony shows no trace of any unhappiness nor discontent; it is throughout in the most buoyant good spirits.
The first movement begins at once, after two introductory bars, with a merry little tune made up of a sequence, the first bar being repeated four times over, each time a note further down the scale. This tune, and little variants of it, make up most of the first movement, a second tune making only fugitive appearances. The movement is slightly unusual in shape; the second part, which includes the working out, is intended to be repeated, and the last section, in which from the beginning, is very short, and is made up entirely of the first tune.
The slow movement, which comes next, begins at once with a very simple tune on the first violin, and the whole movement is formed of dainty and gracious variants of it.
The Minuet and Trio, which come next, are both full of Mozart's compelling charm, and both are simply bubbling over with happiness, the kind of music to which it is well-nigh impossible to listen without smiling.
The last movement, too, has a very merry tune as its basis. Like the first, it is formed of a sequence, dropping down the scale, and then stepping briskly up, to begin all over again. The movement is short, and hurries along with great energy and vigour.
The orchestra called on is a very small one, as compared with modern requirements. Besides the usual stringed instruments, there are only two oboes, two horns, and two trumpets in the score.
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