Just for you! A Short Video on Mozart's Twinkle Twinke Little Star, and Idomeneo
May 11, 2020
Everyone knows the song "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"! It originated as a French pastoral song in 1740 to which Jane Taylor added the famous English text "Twinkle" in 1806. BUT! Maybe not everyone knows that this French melody charmed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart so much that he wrote in 1781 appealing, inventive, fun 12 Variations on the melody, and called it after the French text, added to the tune in 1761, "Ah, vous-dirai je, maman". It is appealing, playful, whimsical, original! Maybe he heard it on his first three year long Grand European Tour when he was seven, or perhaps he caught the melody later when he would return to France. It is written as a "theme and variation", a wonderful enticing tool for a classical music: There is a melody and then there is simply fun playing twists to the given melody.
Mozart was not the only one to be charmed with it! He opened up door to Muses to inspire others to take upon this piece: Adolph Adams in his opera Toreador in 1845, Franz Liszt in Album Leaf in 1883, Saint-Saens in his twelfth movement of the Carnival of Animals in 1886, Dohnanyi in his 10 Variation on a Nursery Tune in 1914, Erwin Schulhoff in 10 Variations on a French Melody also in 1914, Harl McDonald in the second theme of the first movement of “Children's Symphony" published in 1948, and the list goes on! What an impact there was of a French pastoral song that was immortalized by Mozart! And here it is for you!
Natalie Schwámová, Mozart, 12 Variation on Ah, vous-dirai je, maman, op.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as composer does not need much introduction, but there are pieces that are not as famous as others, just like his opera Idomeneo, his first grand mature significant opera that is in its ambition and beauty on the same level as e.g. Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni.
It was comissioned by the Elector of Munich, Karl Theodor, for a carnival season in Munich for January 1781. Mozart was overjoyed to work with the best orchestra in Europe as the famous and finest Mannheim orchestra that was an orchestra of Karl Theodor, moved with him to Munich. Mozart knew well many musicians who would be singing in the opera, and was a friend with the musical director, Cannibich. The opera premiered on his 25th birthday, on January 27, 1781 to quite a success. Enjoy the excerpts!
Electra is mad! She is fuming not to get her love Idamante. What a passion here! Anna Netrebko, "D'oreste, D'ajace
And here! What a force in this Electra from Saltzburg Festival 2019, Nikole Chevalier in the role of Electra
Illia, the Trojan princess is in love with the enemy, prince Idamante, son of the king of Crete, Idomeneo. "Padre,germani, addio" sung by Nadine Sierra.
Lyrics: Father, brothers, farewell! You are no more; I have lost you. Greece, you are the cause; and shall I now love a Greek? I know that I am guilty of abandoning my kin; but I cannot bring myself, o gods, to hate that face.
When we listen to the overture after hearing the excerpts, you amy agree that the overture prepares you well what to expect! Daniel Harding is conducting.
Wolfgand Amadeus MozartJanuary 27 1756 - December 5, 1791
Constanze Weber Mozart(wife)1762- 1842
Leopold Mozart (father) 1719 - 1787
Anna Maria Mozart (mother) 1710 -1778
Nanerl Mozart (sister) 1751-1821
Karl Theodor (1724-1799)— elector of Bavaria who resided in Mannheim and sponsored Manhem orchestra that become the best and finest in Europe. Karl Theodor later moved to Munich, most members of the orchestra followed him. It was him who commissioned Mozart to compose Idomeneo.
Mannheim School - a term for a "modus operandus" of Mannheim orchestra in mid 1700's, the father of the orchestra is considered a Czech composer and conductor Johann Stamitz. It was the finest orchestra in Europe, inventing many new strategies to enhence emotional impact of music. The orchestra developed e.g. "Mannheim crescendo", "Mannheim rocket" — rapid ascending arpeggio over a large range, combined with a crescendo; "Mannheim roll"( —a bold crescendo passage with a rising melodic line over an ostinato (reoccurring) bass line...
Idomeneo, opera seria, 1781, premiered in Munich. Libreto, Giambattista Varesco. Main characters: King of Crete, Idomeneo, his son Idamante, Ilia, a prisoner of war, a Trojan princess; Electra, a Greek princess visiting Crete.
Opera seria is an opera popular the most between 1700-1770's, it had a theme from history or mythology and featured arias and recitativos, usually about thirty numbers.
The opposite was opera buffa, a comic opera with characters of ordinary people, based upon Italian commedia dell' arte.