Bravo!: the 1998 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival CD The Music
Quartet No.1 in G Minor for Violin, Viola, Cello & Piano, K.478 (1785)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
In 1785, Mozart began work on a set of six piano quartets, to be brought out by Anton Hoffmeister, an eager young composer who made his money publishing music. The first of the cycle, K.478 in G Minor, was completed by mid-October of that year; a sequel in the key of E-flat followed in June.
Mozart never composed the four remaining works, and thus we have one of music's great unanswered questions. Some would have it that Hoffmeister begged off after being scared by an article in the Journal des Luxus und der Moden that praised the new quartet (whether in G Minor or E-flat is not specified) for its "artful composition," then gave it the kiss of death by adding that "[the work,] which demands the greatest precision on the part of all four players, could only be enjoyed by musical experts even in perfect rendition." Another theory has it that Mozart was too busy working on other things—Le Nozze di Figaro, for instance, and the piano concertos K.482, 488, and 491—not to mention his deep involvement with the Masonic order. Or it could be that Hoffmeister's "payment" of two ducats (less than five dollars) for the G-Minor Quartet was a bit on the stingy side.
But back to the Quartet. If the E-flat Quartet is Figaro, the G-Minor is pure Don Giovanni. Nowhere is that more true than in the first movement—a piece of heroic strength in demonic G Minor, cut from the same cloth as the Don Giovanni overture. All four players plunge into the opening theme in vehement unison, the piano answering with an idea built with a descending scale and mordents. After a series of sequences based on the opening idea, the music moves to the relative major. Here the idea is reiterated in more lyrical fashion by the piano, buoyed by an Alberti bass, with a countermelody from the viola.
The second subject, stated in thirds, is an idea characterized by rhythmic syncopations. Mozart introduces a third and fourth idea before the exposition section draws to a close. The development begins lyrically, then reaches dramatic heights as the strings finally state the rhythm of the opening idea while the piano punctuates with upward scales. Recapitulation is more or less standard, with everything reappearing in the G-Minor "home" key. There also is an extended coda based on the main idea, in which the piano takes its answers further and further afield tonally.
The Andante second movement provides soothing relief after the anguish of the first. Its initial theme, started by the piano and followed by all the instruments together, is based on the thirds of the first movement. Immediately thereafter an idea appears in running notes, forming a basic motion for the entire movement. There is no development section to speak of, but—as is the norm for Mozart's slow movements—the recapitulation is embroidered modestly.
The Rondo's "Allegretto" marking and the chromaticism of the main theme give an indication of Mozart's mood here—mirth tinged by nostalgia. At one point there is a brief quotation from a quintet by Johann Christian Bach. Most uncharacteristically for Mozart, this theme is alluded to but never developed, or for that matter even restated. This must have made the fastidious Mozart feel guilty, for he promptly made amends to his respected older colleague by devising a monothematic rondo (the D Major, K.485) that uses nothing but the usurped fragment.—Harris Goldsmith
Pueblo Children's Songs (1995)
Marc Neikrug (b. 1946)
I wrote the Pueblo Children's Songs in July of 1995: Heidi Grant Murphy commissioned them to honor the birth of her son, Christopher. The texts were collected by my mother-in-law, a resident of Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. Some of the songs are in English, with a few Tewa words; others are presented entirely in Tewa. Tewa is the language spoken by the six pueblos directly north of Santa Fe, as well as by one of the Hopi villages.
As an infant, each Pueblo child is taken outside early in the morning for a naming ceremony. A chant is sung to the rising sun in the four primary directions. On this recording, the first time the chant is sung, it is in English: the Tewa words used in the text are Akhon Poui, which means "Flower toward the South meadows," and Kunu, "a dark green rock." The second time through, the chant is entirely in Tewa.
The "Chipmunks" song begins with a translation of its text—"Tiny hailstones are slapping the ground, arguing. It's time for me to lay you little chipmunks down to sleep." The "Naming Chant II" is entirely in Tewa.—Marc Neikrug