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Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" Harmoniemusik

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (arr. Wendt; ed. Block and Voxman)


This work is also known by its Italian title, La Nozze di Figaro.


General Info

Year: 1786 / 1791 / 1975
Duration: c. 4:00
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Breitkopf & Härtel
Cost: Score and Parts - €67.50


Instrumentation

Full Score
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
Horn in F I-II


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

Le nozze di Figaro/The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera that was completed in 1786. The opera was based off of the controversial play that was premiered in Paris in 1784 by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou Le mariage de Figaro. Due to the political and revolutionary content in the play, Viennese theatres were banned from presenting the work. Librettist Lorenzo da Ponte and composer W. A. Mozart were keenly aware of this controversy and decided to create an opera based on the play to be premiered in Vienna one year later. Due to the controversy, Mozart and da Ponte focused on relationship dynamics and the elements of humor from the play when creating the opera; but scholarship claims that leaders in the Viennese court had conspired to halt the opera’s production simply because of its radical origin.

The premiere of the opera did occur in Vienna on May 1,1786. The complete opera is set in four acts and the entire plot develops during one very action-packed day. The hurried and lively activity of the opera is musically depicted in the brief (four minute) “Overture.” The first theme is stated in a quiet and sneaky manner that leads to a second motivic theme that is abrupt, a bit jarring, and loud. The extreme contrasts in mood, dynamic, and energy are all purposeful to set the tone for the opera. After several themes are quickly presented in the “Overture,” the sequence is repeated; with a brief coda and an exuberant final cadence.

Arrangements and transcriptions of popular operas were very fashionable during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, especially for the court Harmonie ensembles (pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns, and bassoons, sometimes with added double bass or contrabassoon). Johann Nepomuk Wendt created the Harmoniemusik arrangement of Le nozze di Figaro shortly after the opera premiere. Wendt was an oboist in the Venna opera orchestra (the same orchestra that premiered Le nozze di Figaro) and was one of the original members of the court Kaiserlich-Konigich Harmonie, created by Emperor Joseph II. According to several sources, Wendt transcribed the entire suite for Harmoniemusik with the consent and approval of Mozart. Scholarship of David Whitwell states that this transcription was created in 1791, five years after the opera premiere.

Robert Block and Himie Voxman edited Wendt’s Harmoniemusik manuscript that is currently housed at the Biblioteca del Conservatoria “Lugi Cherubini” in Florence, Italy. The edited Harmoniemusik version reflects Mozart’s articulation and dynamic indications from the manuscript of his opera score (Wendt’s Harmoniemusik arrangement has discrepancies that some believe are simply inadvertent). Additionally, pitch variants are changed to reflect the pitches in the opera manuscript. The edited Block/Voxman Harmoniemusik score was first published in 1975 and is the edition that is most commonly performed today.

- Program Note by Temple University Wind Symphony: Chamber Winds concert program, 15 July 2015


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References