Bill McGlaughlin plays through Mozart's original manuscript for the Gran Partitta (the Italianate three t's would have been correct in Mozart's day) with oboist Norman Middleton. The Library owns the manuscript for this great wind serenade, a magnificent, symphonic, 50-minute composition considered one of the composer's masterworks. Scroll down to see the entire manuscript.
Explore What's Behind the Music
Mozart "Gran Partitta" Shown here is W.A. Mozart's original manuscript for his Gran Partitta for wind ensemble, the Serenade in E-flat major, K. 361. View the Manuscript
Anton Stadler: Silhouette of the clarinetist Anton Stadler, Mozart's colleague, friend, and fellow Freemason, who presented and performed in the premiere of the Gran Partitta, March 23, 1784. Read More
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment: Thirteen brilliant soloists from Britain's celebrated Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment perform Mozart's extraordinary wind serenade, the Gran Partitta, on period instruments. Read More
Anton Stadler was the preeminent wind player in Vienna in the 1780s. Mozart probably first met Stadler at the residence of Countess Wilhelmine Thun shortly after he arrived in Vienna in 1781. Only three years apart in age (Stadler was born in 1753, Mozart in 1756), the two became friends; they also belonged to the same Masonic lodge. Stadler often played in Mozart’s works, including the Serenade, K. 365, and the Gran Partitta, and Mozart wrote music intended for his friend.
Stadler was not only a virtuoso clarinet player, he also invented a bass-klarinet, today known as the basset clarinet, to differentiate it from the present-day bass clarinet, which is an octave lower. The basset clarinet has two additional lower keys than the normal clarinet. It is now believed that this was the instrument for which Mozart wrote the Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, and the Clarinet Concerto, K. 622. Stadler and Süssmayr (Mozart’s student, who completed the Requiem) each wrote a basset clarinet concerto (both lost).
Another instrument belonging to the clarinet family that was Stadler’s and Mozart’s favorite is the basset horn. Both of them wrote works for it, particularly Masonic pieces. Aside from the Gran Partitta, Mozart used the basset horn in his early divertimenti, in his operas "Die Zauberflöte" and "La Clemenza di Tito," in the "Masonic Funeral Music," and perhaps most famously, in the Requiem. (Later composers who have used it include Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss, Roger Sessions, and Stockhausen.) Unique to the basset horn is its "soft mellow timbre of rich beauty and phenomenal range of four full octaves," as Burnet Tuthill wrote in his entry "Clarinet in Chamber Music" in Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music, 1929. The instrument has a sound that in the early 1800s the German composer-writer E.T.A. Hoffman likened to"the scent of red carnations" (cited in Georgina Dobrée's "The Basset Horn," in MadAminA!, a Web publication of Music Associates of America).
Also a composer, Stadler wrote 18 Terzetti for the basset horn. The earliest documentation of Stadler’s involvement with the basset horn is a letter written to Ignatz von Beecke in 1781, seeking employment at Wallerstein and offering trios with his brother Johann and Raymund Griesbacher, a basset-horn maker. The combination of three basset horns seems to have been a particularly favored instrumentation at the time.
-Tomás C. Hernández
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, which plays on original instruments, has no permanent music director, allowing it to work with some of the world's distinguished conductors and soloists across a wide range of music. By 1986 a largely London-based core of players of period instruments had grown, playing over the past 10 years years for bands directed by extraordinarily gifted and motivated pioneers in the field of period style performance practice like Christopher Hogwood, Trevor Pinnock and Roger Norrington. Bands like the Academy of Ancient Music and the English Concert gained a foothold in the concert hall and the recording studio.
A group of period instrument players, emulating the self-governing London Symphony Orchestra, formed the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, soon to be commonly abbreviated to OAE. It is named after the era in European history known as the Enlightenment, spanning the late 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. This was a time of great experimentation and innovation, during which instruments, techniques, and also the form of musical performance developed greatly. Thus the name has a double resonance for the group: it performs music mainly of that time frame, not only using as a starting point knowledge of the instruments, styles and techniques of the day, but also aiming to capture the spirit of innovation and discovery characteristic of the era.
Instead of a single conductor, the members opted to appoint a leader on a concert-by-concert basis, usually directing from the violin or keyboard, thus widening the field to include those who, though with much to contribute, might not otherwise ever face an orchestra of period instruments. Although today it still has no principal conductor or music director, OAE has two principal guest conductors, the Dutch Baroque and Classical specialist Frans Brueggen and Sir Simon Rattle. The leadership is rotated among three violinists: Alison Bury, Margaret Faultless, and Catherine Mackintosh.
Most significantly the OAE has played a crucial role in placing period style performance at the very heart of the musical world, a claim supported by the fact that the orchestra has established a firm footing in the world of opera. It is now the associate orchestra at the Glyndebourne Festival. Heard for the first time in the Royal Opera House in 2003, the OAE is also an assocate orchestra at London's South Bank Centre, where it recently presented a reconstruction of Mendelssohn's famous 1829 performance of the St. Matthew Passion. In addition, the OAE has a burgeoning educational program and an extensive discography.
OAE Soloists for the December 7, 2006 performance of W.A. Mozart's Gran Partitta
- Anthony Robison
- Dick Earle
- Antony Pay
- Sarah Thurlow
- Jane Booth
- Guy Cowley
- Andrew Watts
- Sally Jackson
- Andrew Clark
- Martin Lawrence
- Roger Montgomery
- Gavin Edwards
- Chi-chi Nwanoku, MBE
Notes on the Serenade in E-flat major, K. 361, "Gran Partitta"
For almost three centuries, composers have endeavored to write works for winds that possess the perfectly balanced ensemble qualities of the string quartet. Several alternatives have been attempted, from groups of identical instruments to assemblages of entirely dissimilar ones. The results are a musical Catch 22-one type offers superb blend but little contrast; the other, contrast but very limited blend.
Beginning in the Classical period, however, composers discovered a combination of wind instruments that was close to ideal: Harmoniemusik, with its nucleus of a pair of horns, with bassoons beneath to provide the bass, and one or more pairs of treble instruments above. These groups proved effective in the outdoors, and were regularly employed as military bands for many years and by the ruling class for their outdoor festivities. As a composer for profit, Mozart wrote at least 15 works in the genre.
Mozart’s chamber works for winds alone divide naturally into three phases of his life: Milan, Salzburg, and Vienna. The earliest works, the divertimentos K. 186 and K.166, seem to have been the result of a commission that the composer obtained while in Milan in 1773. Mozart came into his own in the next set of five sextet divertimentos he wrote for the Archbishop of Salzburg in the mid 1770s.
Mozart's professional situation circa 1780 was not good. He was in the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg, who seldom permitted the young upstart composer to perform outside engagements. Mozart, in turn, was insulted that the status of court musicians in the palace hierarchy was little higher than that of scullery maids (although this rank was standard in the 18th century). Ultimately, the Archbishop, weary of Mozart's complaints, released him on June 9, 1781. Mozart was now free to follow his artistic goals in the more cosmopolitan city of Vienna: he resumed teaching and composing, including the Serenade in E-flat major, K 375, which he completed the following October, and the Serenade in C minor, K. 388, the following year. Scored for a pair of clarinets, horns, and bassoons, K. 375 was most probably written for the clarinetist Anton Stadler, who was a member of the royal wind ensemble, the Kaiserlick Königlich Harmonie, comprised of the best wind players in Vienna at the time.
The Serenade in E-flat major, K. 361-the Gran Partitta-has been the subject of many contradictory theories concerning the history of its composition, while the huge number of textual inconsistencies between the various sources present potential performers with serious problems in unraveling the composer’s true intentions.
Initially, it was thought that Mozart must have composed the Gran Partitta sometime in either 1780 or 1781 for a performance in Munich because it was erroneously thought that the clarinet was unknown in Vienna at the time, and the Munich Hofkapelle was famous for the excellence of its wind players, making it the most likely recipient for this work.
The autograph bears no completion date by the composer, and there is no direct reference to the Gran Partitta in Mozart’s letters, nor is there any other written evidence of the piece during these years. When the preparation of a new critical edition of the"Serenade for the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe" by Daniel Leeson and Neal Zaslaw began in the 1970s, the 1780-81 date was challenged, together with several theories and legends concerning the work.
Today, the autograph score is preserved in the Library of Congress in Washington; a facsimile edition with an instructive foreword by Alfred Einstein was published in 1976. The autograph contains an indistinct date, which was interpreted as 1780 by Köchel in his catalogue of Mozart’s music. Köchel was following the publisher, Johann Anton André, who had settled upon 1780 as the probable date of composition when the latter compiled his own Mozart catalogue in 1833. Einstein later re-assigned the work to 1781 on the basis of a new reading of the date on the autograph, while yet another scholar, taking up a misleading comment made by one of Mozart’s first biographers, Georg Nissen, suggested that the Serenade may have been performed for the first time as an entertainment at Mozart’s wedding supper in August 1782.
By examining the physical characteristics of the autograph, such as its watermarks and binding, the editors of the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe reached a quite different conclusion-that the first surviving mention of the work in connection with a benefit concert for clarinetist Anton Stadler in March 1784 was, in fact, the first performance of the Gran Partitta. In addition to the various physical features of the autograph, which bear out the date of composition as 1784, we know that Mozart was fascinated by the basset horn around this time, and that two very competent basset horn players, the Bohemian players Anton and Vincent Springer, lived in Vienna at the time. Finally, the new dating of the Serenade confirmed a feeling that many commentators had already experienced on listening to the music itself: that its general character confirms it as being a later work than the other two wind serenades, those in E-flat Major, K. 375, and in C minor, K. 388.
Throughout the years, the subtitle on the autograph, "Gran Partitta," was always assumed to be a descriptive phrase supplied by the composer relating to the musical character of the work, and was interpreted and commentated upon as such by several authors, including Alfred Einstein. But a detailed analysis of the autograph’s physical characteristics shows that this subtitle was not written by Mozart at all but added by some unknown person at a later date, probably between 1792 and 1799, when the score was eventually bound. So it was not Mozart’s intention to compose a "grand" piece, just another serenade.
Why "Gran Partitta" and not "Gran Partita"? Not only is it spelled the first way on the manuscript but also because the subtitle on the manuscript is dated between 1799-1803, at a time when "Partitta" was a perfectly valid and legitimate spelling for the word. Also, most Mozarteans were not even aware that the subtitle existed on the manuscript until 1912, by which time contemporary spelling rules had become formalized and someone decided that whoever scribbled it on the manuscript in the first place had simply "misspelled" it.
From the unusual number of movements in the Gran Partitta, it was assumed that it actually began life as two separate works that were later welded together; or that Mozart did indeed plan it as one work but wrote it at two quite different periods of his life. Although the character and ordering of the movements might appear to suggest both hypotheses, the physical score itself proves beyond doubt that Mozart planned the piece as an integral work from the beginning and that he composed it over a fairly short period of time.
According to Leeson and Zaslaw, Mozart composed the Serenade K. 361 for a benefit concert for Anton Stadler presented at the Burgtheater in Vienna on March 23, 1784. Mozart probably began writing it one month earlier that year and, because the concert was for one of Vienna’s most gifted wind players and the other superb performers at his disposal for the occasion, it is not surprising that Mozart was moved to compose a work on such a "grandiose" scale. The concert was announced thusly in a contemporary journal, the Wienerblättchen:
"Herr Stadler, senior, in actual service of His Majesty the Emperor, will hold a musical concert for his benefit at the Imperial and Royal National Court Theatre, at which will be given, among other well-chosen pieces, a great wind piece of a very special kind composed by Herr Mozart."
Presumably because the work is so long, only four movements were performed on that occasion, as the critic Johann Friedrich Schink later reported in his memoirs:
"I heard music for wind instruments today, too, by Herr Mozart, in four movements - glorious and sublime! It consisted of thirteen instruments, viz four corni, two oboi, two fagotti, two basset-corni, a contre-violin, and at each instrument sat a master-oh, what an effect it made-glorious and grand, excellent and sublime!"
The uncertain origins and purpose for the Serenade have confused potential performers who faced difficulties in establishing a definitive text for performances of the work. In addition to the autograph score at the Library of Congress, several contemporary manuscript copies survive in libraries in the Czech Republic and Germany, as well as various printed versions dating from the first edition in 1803 by the Bureau d’Arts et d’Industrie in Vienna, not to mention three spurious arrangements for wind octet, flute quartet and string quintet.
The differences between all these many sources are legion, but what is clear is that most modern editions of the Serenade, K. 361, derive ultimately from the 1803 printing, which itself differs substantially in matters of detail from the autograph. Consequently, virtually all modern performances of the Gran Partitta use sets of parts which can be considerably at odds with Mozart’s intentions as expressed in the autograph score.
-Program notes by Norman Middleton, Jr., Music Division, Library of Congress