15 Mar 2011

Mozart – Violin Concerto No. 3

Written by Jeff Counts

THE COMPOSER WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART – Mozart was 19 years old in 1775 when his 3rd violin concerto premiered in his native Salzburg where he was employed as a court musician. As prolific as he would become in the composition of piano concerti he wrote only five for the violin, all during the course of that single year (with the possible exception of the 1st which some scholars date in 1773).

THE MUSIC – History recalls Mozart so fondly as a pianist that we often forget he was also a suburb violinist. He began his string studies at the age of six and performed a concerto just one year later for the birthday celebration of the Archbishop of Salzburg. In an interesting bit of symmetry, it may well have been his violin playing that earned him employment in the court of a later Salzburg Archbishop, one Count Hieronymus Colloredo. Colloredo himself was a violinist of a sort but even with that point of mutual interest, theirs was not to be a comfortable relationship. It is lucky that the violin concerti Mozart wrote during that tough period show none of the professional discomfort he endured, but we are left to assume that the end of his job in the Salzburg court and the end of his association with the violin as a performer are directly linked. Records of his possessions at the time of his death show that he no longer even owned one. Very little is known about the premiere of the lovely and perky 3rd Concerto but it is quite possible that the composer appeared as soloist. If Mozart did in fact perform the piece, his cadenzas from that concert are unfortunately lost to time but his affection for the instrument and intimate understanding of its virtuosic potential are not.

THE WORLD – 1775 was the year of Paul Revere’s ride and the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. James Watt completed and patented a successful prototype of his steam engine. Also in 1775, explorer James Cook would return from his historic voyage to the Antarctic.

THE CONNECTION – Utah Symphony has presented Mozart’s 3rd Violin Concerto no less than seven times since 1980, most recently in 2007 with Concertmaster Ralph Matson as soloist and fellow violinist Jaime Laredo on the podium.

by Jeff Counts