Leopold Mozart Re-examined

Today, he’s primarily known as Mozart’s father. But in his day, Leopold Mozart was a respected composer and performer in his own right. As Friedrich Marpurg noted in his 1757 “Historical-Critical Contributions,”

“As regards the number of finished musical works, [Leopold Mozart] may be placed side by side with the two composers Scarlatti and Telemann, diligent and renowned in equal measure.”

This new release supports that assertion, I think. It presents three facets of Leopold’s compositions. (The fame of his son so overshadows that I feel I have to refer to Leopold by his first name to avoid confusion with THE Mozart.) Included are a serenade, and concerto, and a symphony, representing light music, solo instrumental writing, and a complex work.

Serenades, by nature, are lightweight works, designed for an evening’s entertainment (and in some cases, background music). Leopold’s serenade runs true to form. Short movements with simple, catchy tunes. To my ears, this work seems on par with W.A. Mozart’s serenades and divertimenti.

The 1752 concerto for two horns and strings is a well-crafted work. Leopold demands a lot from his soloists. The melodies employ a lot of step-wise motion (no mean feat with a valveless horn), and there is some particularly interesting rhythmic interplay between the two instruments.

The Symphony in G major is the “New” Lambach Symphony. For a while was thought have been written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Current scholarship attributes it to Leopold. The 20-minute piece is a fully-developed rococo symphony. When it was assumed to by W.A. Mozart, its quality was unquestioned. As a Leopold composition, it makes one rethink the assumption that Leopold was but a mediocre talent.

The Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic, under the baton of Reinhard Goebel, turn in first-rate performances of these works. If you only know Leopold through recordings of his “Toy” Symphony, this may cause you to revise your opinion of the elder Mozart.

Leopold Mozart: Serenata in D major LMV VIII:9; Concerto in E-flat for 2 horns LMV IX:9; Sinfonia in G major (Neue Lambacher) LMV VII:G16)
Aljoscha Zierow, trumpet; Fabrice Millischer, trombone; Carsten Duffin, horn; Philipp Römer, horn
bayerische kammerphilharmonie, Reinhard Goebel, conductor
OEHMS Classics OC 1844

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