Hall: Concert Hall
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The young Mozart was genuinely inspired by his stay in Mannheim (1777), where he could hear one of Europe’s best orchestras of the day, employing excellent soloists‑ virtuosi. One of these was the oboist Friedrich Ramm, whom Mozart mentioned in a letter to his father: “there was [at a concert in the Cannabich house] one very good oboist who plays with a pure and beautiful sound. I made a gift to him of my oboe concerto. He nearly went mad with joy!” The concerto is a rather mysterious piece, since in other letters Mozart also mentions an oboe concerto written for the Italian Giuseppe Ferlendis during his stay in Salzburg. Scholars still disagree as to whether these were variants of the same piece or two separate compositions. Today we only know one oboe concerto by Mozart, catalogued as KV 314 (285d). The piece demonstrates different aspects of the instrument: its ability to play Italian cantilenas, but also its brilliant virtuosity.
In the third decade of the 19th century many German towns and cities celebrated the anniversary of the publication of the Gutenberg Bible. Specially for this occasion the Leipzig city council commissioned a piece of music from Felix Mendelssohn, the Kapellmeister of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. At first he planned to compose an oratorio, but eventually chose a form that he himself labelled as a symphony‑ cantata: Lobgesang, or ‘The Hymn of Praise’. Its architecture seems to emulate that of Beethoven’s Ninth in that the vocal element only comes in the final movement. In Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 the first three movements likewise follow the traditional symphonic cycle, but are much shorter in relation to the vocal movement and constitute something like an extended orchestral introduction to a cantata. The opening Maestoso presents a majestic theme or motto, which returns in the Finale on the words of Psalm 150: “Alles, was Odem hat, lobet den Herrn.” The text consists of lines from the Bible, mainly from the psalms and from St Paul’s letters; there is also the Protestant hymn Nun danket alle Gott. The piece was premiered at St Thomas Church in Leipzig on 25th June 1840. Mendelssohn’s unceasing fascination with Bach is reflected here in the spectacular use of polyphony, which, however, is very modern and avoids neo‑Baroque stylisation.