Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791)

Horn Concerto No. 2 in E-flat Major, K. 417

1. Allegro Maestoso
2. Andante
3. Rondo

Mozart’s so called “second” horn concerto (in reality it was the first he completed) was one of four written for his friend Joseph Ignaz Leutgeb (1745-1811). Leutgeb was the principal horn in the orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg when Mozart grew up, and many of the virtuosic horn parts in Mozart’s early symphonies would have been written with him in mind. He gave up professional music in 1777 and moved to Vienna to open a cheese shop - a venture partially funded by a loan from Leopold Mozart. This was apparently a successful business providing him with a living and the opportunity to make occasional concert appearances as a soloist. In 1781, Mozart settled in Vienna and they renewed their acquaintance. Their relationship must have been a curious one as Mozart frequently made fun of Leutgeb’s slowness of wit. He is even reported to have scattered some sheets of manuscript around the room in order to make fun of Leutgeb’s awkward attempts to pick them up. The dedication on the original manuscript of the concert reads "W. A. Mozart took pity on Leutgeb, ass, ox and fool in Vienna on 27 May 1783." Despite all the taunting they remained friends for life and indeed Leutgeb helped Constanze in organising Mozart’s manuscripts after his untimely death. Joking apart, Mozart must have regarded the horn playing of his gauche friend highly.

The concerto follows the usual three movement format, beginning with an Allegro maestoso with broad melodies well suited to the rich and noble voice of the horn. The movement demands both effortless breath control and considerable agility from the soloist. The second movement is lyrical and reflective, and explores the beauty of a sustained horn melody. The final movement is a lively rondo placing the horn in its most usual context - the hunt. At each return of the rondo theme, the soloist leads off the hunt closely followed by the full orchestra. The movement sustains the idiom of the chase throughout and is filled with fanfares and brilliant dialogue between the soloist and orchestral instruments.

Mozart's Horn concerto No 2 was performed by the Portobello orchestra on the 9th December 2006. The soloist was Nick Wolmark and the conductor was Anthony Weeden.