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Mozart – Idomeneo, Ballet Music K. 367 (1781) – mp3

January 12, 2019

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era. According to Bartje Bartmans the greatest and brightest star under the firmament.

Ballettmusik zur Oper Idomeneo (1781)

1. Chaconne
2. Pas seul (de Mr Le Grand) (9:56)
3. Passepied (14:27)
4. Gavotte (17:43)
5. Passacaille (20:24)
6. Marcia (26:25)

Vienna Mozart Ensemble conducted by Willi Boskovsky

Mozart composed Idomeneo during the winter of 1780–81. Its plot concerns the return of Idomeneo, King of Crete, from the Trojan War. Encountering a deadly storm en route, the monarch secures safe passage by vowing to sacrifice to the sea god Neptune the first creature he meets on shore. This is the same fatal bargain made by the Old Testament warrior Jeptha. And like Jeptha, Idomeneo arrives home to encounter immediately his own child. Needless to say, intense psychological conflicts ensue, but tragedy is averted when, at the climactic moment, Neptune agrees to forego the sacrifice if Idomeneo will relinquish the throne to his son, Idamantes, the intended sacrificial victim.

Mozart originally expected to interpolate ballet numbers into Idomeneo, but as he worked on the composition it became apparent that the opera would be more than long enough without the dance interludes. So instead, he fashioned a separate ballet for performance after the conclusion of the opera. Although we do not know what scenario was conveyed by its choreography, both the opera’s story and Mozart’s music suggest that it might have been festivities attending the coronation of Prince Idamantes, which should naturally occur at the point where the opera concludes.

Mozart’s ballet consists of a suite of brief dances, the major number being a Chaconne. This bears scant resemblance to the familiar Baroque-period chaconne, which typically entails contrapuntal elaboration of a repeating short melodic figure. Instead, Mozart casts his music as a rondo, with a majestic main theme that sounds several times in alternation with other ideas. Some of the fast passages convey a sense of high drama. The ensuing music, written for a solo dance (the Pas seul), follows without pause.