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In April 1782, young Mozart wrote to his father Leopold: ‘Every Sunday at 12 o’clock I go to the Baron van Swieten’s, where nothing is played but Bach and Handel. I am currently making myself a collection of Bach fugues…’. In the Baron’s library, Mozart discovered a treasure trove of music by these two already-forgotten composers. Commissioned by the Baron to make arrangements for strings of Bach’s music for his Sunday matinees, Mozart in some cases added his own preludes. Mozart’s Eb Major Divertimento, written shortly after his final three symphonies, belies its title: it is hardly an ‘entertainment’, but a substantial and complex six-movement composition that was described by Mozart biographer Alfred Einstein as “one of his noblest works.”
“Marc Destrubé is an outstanding soloist… of remarkable virtuosity.” – The Georgia Straight
To view/download this programme, please click here.
This concert is generously supported by Marlene Rausch and Tom Phinney
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791):
Adagios and Fugues after J.S. Bach, KV 404a
No. 1 in D minor (Fugue after BWV 853)
No. 4 in F Major (Adagio after BWV 527, Fugue after BWV 1080 (The Art of the Fugue))
Divertimento for string trio in Eb Major, KV 563
“I go to the house of Baron Van Swieten every Sunday at 10 o’clock and nothing is played there but Händel and Bach. I am making a collection of Bach’s fugues, those of Sebastian as well as Emanuel and Friedman’s.”, wrote Mozart to his father in the spring of 1782.
Gottfried van Swieten was a Viennese nobleman who served as Austrian envoy to the court of Frederick the Great in Berlin from 1770 to 1777; he is known to have brought back a number of Bach manuscripts to Vienna, and developed a library consisting primarily of manuscripts of music by Bach and Handel. It seems surprising that Mozart’s visits to the Baron were his first encounter with the ‘ancient’ music of Bach and Handel, but, in an age when the musical public was only interested in the latest compositions, van Swieten’s interest in this music would have seemed eccentric.
Mozart continued to attend van Swieten’s musical salons and, at the request of the Baron, transcribed fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier and other works for string trio and string quartet, to be played at these Sunday morning gatherings.
In this way Mozart developed his craft in writing complex pieces for strings. Having struggled with writing for string quartet, it was not until the end of his life that he returned to writing for string trio, and indeed the Divertimento in Eb is one of the earliest compositions by any composer for the combination of violin, viola and cello. The lack of a ‘second voice’ makes writing for this ensemble a challenging exercise, and the masterful way in which Mozart succeeds in this piece is testament to the skill he had developed by the end of his short life.
The Divertimento was composed in the same year as his final three symphonies (which were completed, amazingly, in an intense six-week period), the ’Coronation’ piano concerto, and the Adagio and Fugue for strings. At the time of its premiere in April 1789, Mozart was touring German cities on his way to Berlin. The first performance took place in Dresden, with Mozart playing the viola (his favourite instrument), Anton Kraft the cello, and Anton Teyber the violin. Written during a period of serious financial difficulties, it is dedicated to Michael Puchberg, a friend and fellow freemason, who supported Mozart in lean times and also helped Mozart’s widow Constance after Mozart’s death.
Writes Mozart biographer Alfred Einstein: “it is a true chamber-music work, and grew to such large proportions only because it was intended to offer … something special in the way of art, invention, and good spirits. … Each instrument is primus inter pares, every note is significant, every note is a contribution to spiritual and sensuous fulfillment in sound.”
Calling this work a ‘Divertimento’ is both edifying and perplexing. Divertimenti were written by many classical composers, including Haydn and Boccherini, and the label suggests a light-hearted work, easy on the musical intellect and intended to be performed outside the concert hall, perhaps after dinner or outdoors, a kind of 18th century ‘elevator music’. In this, the last of twenty-seven Divertimenti written by Mozart, each of the six movements begins with just such a not-altogether-serious flavour, but Mozart in short order applies all his compositional skill and seriousness of intent to draw us into unexpected depths of expression and imaginative twists on the existing musical forms. In the final three movements he stretches this dichotomy even further, introducing folk-like elements, a hunting horn theme, and a waltz-like trio, and in each case transforms them into something sublime.
Having struggled with writing string quartets, “the fruits of a long and laborious effort”, he said, Mozart’s writing for string trio in this Divertimento shows consummate mastery, giving the three instruments equal importance, and playing with all the possibilities of varied texture and colour; much of the music exemplifies that unique Mozartean quality of mysteriously combining cheerfulness with melancholy and sadness with humour. Einstein called it “one of his noblest works.”
Marc Destrubé, violin
Canadian violinist Marc Destrubé is equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, concertmaster or director/conductor of orchestras and divides his time between performances of standard repertoire on modern instruments and performing baroque and classical music on period instruments.
As a concertmaster, he has played under Sir Simon Rattle, Kent Nagano, Helmuth Rilling, Christopher Hogwood, Philippe Herreweghe, Gustav Leonhardt and Frans Brüggen. He is co-concertmaster of the Orchestra of the 18th Century with which he has toured the major concert halls and festivals of the world. He was concertmaster of the CBC Radio Orchestra from 1996 to 2002, concertmaster of the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, and founding director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra.
He is first violinist with the Axelrod String Quartet, quartet-in-residence at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., where the quartet plays on the museum’s exceptional collection of Stradivari and Amati instruments. He has also performed and recorded with L’Archibudelli and is a member of the Turning Point and la Modestine ensembles and Microcosmos string quartet in Vancouver.
He has appeared as soloist and guest director with symphony orchestras in Victoria, Windsor, Edmonton and Halifax as well as with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra and Lyra Baroque Orchestra. A founding member of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, he has appeared with many of the leading period-instrument orchestras in North America and Europe including as guest concertmaster of the Academy of Ancient Music and of the Hanover Band.
Marc has recorded for Sony, EMI, Teldec, Channel Classics, Hänssler, Globe and CBC Records.
Joanna Hood, viola
Violist, Joanna is an avid chamber music player both in modern and period styles, and has a passion for the music of our time. She is a member of the Lafayette String Quartet, formed in 1986 and based in Victoria BC. She is a founding member of the historically informed performance groups, The Loma Mar Quartet, founded in 1997 and the DNA Quintet formed in 2008, both based in New York. With these two groups she recorded two CDs of the newly discovered chamber works of Domenico Dragonetti. The first recording won the prestigious Classical Recording Foundation Award for 2009.
She is the principal violist with the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and performs with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and the Victoria Baroque Players, and has performed with Pacific MusicWorks, Oregon Bach Festival, and The Serenade Orchestra.
She is a founding member of the Victoria new music group, Ensemble Tsilumos, and is a co-organizer of the SALT New Music Festival and Symposium in Victoria BC.
Hood studied at the San Francisco Conservatory with Isadore Tinkleman, and at Indiana University, where she was an Associate Instructor with Abraham Skernick and baroque violinist Stanley Ritchie.
Joanna is an Artist-in-Residence with the Lafayette Quartet at the University of Victoria where she teaches viola and chamber music. She plays on a viola labeled Johan Samuel Fritsche, dated Leipzig, 1805, and a viola by Edmond Aireton, 1754.
Joanna has recorded for the EMI, Tzadik, Dorian, CBC, Adler, and Verve labels.
Tanya Tomkins, violoncello
Artistic Director and co-founder of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, cellist Tanya Tomkins is equally at home on Baroque and modern instruments. She has performed on many chamber music series to critical acclaim, including the Frick Collection, “Great Performances” at Lincoln Center, the 92nd Street Y, San Francisco Performances, and the Concertgebouw Kleine Zaal.
She is renowned in particular for her interpretation of the Bach Cello Suites, having recorded them for the Avie label and performed them many times at venues such as New York’s Le Poisson Rouge, Seattle Early Music Guild, Vancouver Early Music Society, and The Library of Congress.
Tanya is one of the principal cellists in San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Portland Baroque Orchestra. She is also a member of several groups including Voices of Music and the Benvenue Fortepiano Trio (with Monica Huggett and Eric Zivian). On modern cello, she is a long-time participant at the Moab Music Festival in Utah, Music in the Vineyards in Napa, and a member of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. As an educator, Tanya has given master classes at Yale, Juilliard, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and is devoted to mentoring the next generation of chamber musicians through the Apprenticeship Program at the Valley of the Moon Music Festival.