1767 – a retrospective

Ian Page looks forward to the third year of MOZART 250 and our musical exploration of the year 1767.

For Mozart 1767 was a significant and important year, during which he composed his first dramatic works and concertos. He and his family had returned home to Salzburg on 29 November 1766 after an absence of almost three-and-a-half years, and despite rumours that they might soon embark on further travels to Scandinavia, Russia and even China they remained in their home town until September 1767. They then set off on an ill-fated trip to Vienna, during which Wolfgang contracted smallpox – he ended the year recuperating in Moravia.

Our MOZART 250 programme for next year incorporates staged productions of The First Commandment (Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots) and Apollo et Hyacinthus, both at St John’s Smith Square, and both directed by Thomas Guthrie, whose 2015 production of J. C. Bach’s Adriano in Siria earned widespread acclaim. We are also presenting what are still billed as Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1-4 (they were actually originally conceived for harpsichord and are extended arrangements of sonata movements by composers whose music the young Mozart had heard while in Paris), with the wonderful South African fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout as soloist. This concert also features a couple of Mozart arias dating from 1767.

Our year begins, though, with an intriguing overview of the musical scene 250 years ago. ‘1767 – a retrospective’ incorporates music by Haydn, Gluck, J. C. Bach, Arne, Abel and Gassmann, and it features three of the country’s most exciting emerging artists. Gemma Summerfield and Stuart Jackson are both Classical Opera Associate Artists, and most recently appeared together in our UK premiére performance of Jommelli’s Il Vologeso in April, while Ashley Riches is a former member of the Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme and is here making his company début.

The first two of these annual retrospective concerts have proved hugely popular, and they offer a fantastic opportunity to unearth and contextualise neglected rarities. It is not easy, initially, to persuade audiences that they need to hear arias by Abel and Gassmann, but the two arias we are featuring by these composers are heart-rendingly beautiful. Similarly Mozart’s Grabmusik, allegedly penned in solitary confinement as a test to see whether the eleven-year-old composer really was capable of writing such accomplished and exquisite music unaided, is not a widely known work, but it provides a memorable insight into Mozart’s uniquely precocious talents, and a suitable springboard for our survey over the next few months of the musical year 1767.

The concert ‘1767 – a retrospective’ will be performed at Wigmore Hall on 17 January 2017. To book tickets please click here.