MASTERWORKS PROGRAM NOTES MOZART: Symphony No. 31 in D major, K. 297, “Paris” Scored for flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets in pairs, timpani, and strings. Duration is 19 minutes. Last performance by the Colorado Symphony was September 19-21, 2003, with Peter Oundjian conducting. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) wasn’t French, so why does one find a symphony in his catalog called “Paris”? It was written during a concert tour to Paris, one that began in hope and ended in tragedy. It was early in 1778, and Mozart, just 22 years old and chaperoned by his mother, had traveled to Paris seeking fame for himself and his music. However, Parisians proved largely immune to yet another composer in their midst. Regrettably, even one of his rare successes in Paris was tainted by tragedy. On June 18, 1778, the composer conducted the premiere of his Symphony no. 31 to frequent and extended applause from the rarely amenable Parisians. Indeed, so well received was the work that it earned more performances in future weeks. “I was so happy,” Mozart wrote to his father Leopold a few days later, “that as soon as the symphony was over, I went off to the Palais Royal, where I had a large ice, said the Rosary as I had vowed to do, and went home.” The prayer, however, was not in thanks for a successful premiere. Instead, it was offered for the composer’s mother, who at the time of the concert was suffering badly from a fever. By the time that Mozart managed to write the letter about the symphony and the Rosary, her illness had already proven fatal. Yet he wrote only of her sickness, not of her death, and even expressed a belief that she would soon recover. Perhaps he could not bring himself to write those fateful words, or he may have been attempting to gradually prepare his father for the worst of news. On the same day that he wrote with deceptive optimism to his father, Wolfgang also wrote to a Salzburg priest, telling the whole sad story, and asking that the priest gently break the news to Leopold. Before long, the young composer returned to Salzburg, defeated and bereft. It must have been peculiarly wrenching for him that this symphony, inextricably bound up in days of sorrow, would continue to be in popular demand throughout his life.
o DEBUSSY: Syrinx Scored for solo flute alone. Duration in 3 minutes. This is the first performance of the work on a subscription program. It is the tiniest bit of music, for flute alone with no accompaniment whatsoever. Claude Debussy (1862-1918) composed it in 1913 as stage music for a piece by Mourey. When the composer died of cancer in 1918, the work still lay on his desk unpublished. It was not until 1927 that it would come to print, and then with a title that may not have originated with Debussy himself. The published title refers to a young mortal woman of Greek mythology, chased much against her will by the god Pan, and rescued by water spirits who turn her—irrevocably—into water reeds. The god, cheated of his desire, makes do by crafting from those reeds a flute-like
SOUNDINGS 2013/14 | COLORADOSYMPHONY.ORG PROGRAM 5
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