Leopold Kozeluch



Leopold Kozeluch was born on 20 June 1747 at Velvary in Bohemia, some twenty miles north-west of Prague (and no distance from the hamlet of Nelahozeves, where Anronín Dvořák was born nearly a century later). He was baptised as Jan Antonín, but about 1773 adopted the name of Leopold to distinguish himself from his cousin and teacher Jan Antonín Kozeluch, who was born in Velvary in 1738 and was Kapellmeister of St Vitus’s Cathedral in Prague from 1784 until his death in 1814. After receiving his basic musical training at school in his native village he read law at the university in Prague, bur continued his musical studies with his cousin and with Mozart’s friend, the composer and pianist František Dušek (1731-1799). Several of his ballets and pantomimes were successfully performed in Prague between 1771 and 1778, in which year he moved to Vienna, where he quickly established himself as a composer, pianist and teacher, numbering among his pupils the blind pianist Maria Theresia von Paradis, Archduchess Elisabeth of Württemberg (later the first wife of Emperor Franz II) and the Emperor’s daughter Marie-Louise, who was to be Napoleon’s second wife. By 1781 he had sufficient repute in the Imperial capital to be able to decline the invitation to succeed Mozart as court organist to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, and in 1792 he was appointed Imperial Chamber Conductor and Court Composer. In 1784 he founded his own publishing house, the Musikalisches Magazin, later to be managed by his younger brother Antonín Tomáš. His compositions were also published more or less simultaneously by other houses, and Kozeluch’s business contacts included English publishers such as John Bland, Robert Birchall, and Lewis, Houston & Hyde; he also worked closely with George Thomson of Edinburgh on arrangements of Scottish, Welsh and Irish folksongs. He died in Vienna on 7 May 1818.

In the fourth and last volume of his General History of Music, published in 1789, Dr Charles Burney described Kozeluch as

an admirable young composer of Vienna, whose works were first made known in England by the neat and accurate execution of Mademoiselle Paradis... in 1785. And his productions have since greatly increased in number and in favour. They are in general excellent, abounding with solidity, good taste, correct harmony; and the imitations of Haydn are less frequent than in any other master of that school.

Apart from an early oratorio, Moisè in Egitto, most of Kozeluch’s works for church and stage (which include six operas) have not survived, and his achievement must be judged by his purely instrumental compositions: symphonies, concertos; chamber music (duos, trios, quartets); and piano pieces (including some fifty sonatas). Of the eleven symphonies now authentically ascribed to him are the three recorded here (all scored for strings and pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns), of which the autograph scores are lost but which were first published under the composer’s own imprint in Vienna and therefore obviously with his authority and blessing, early in 1787 – the year of Don Giovanni – and soon after in Leipzig and Paris.

Symphony in D major

1. Adagio – Allegro
2. Poco adagio
3. Menuetto. Vivace - Trio
4. Presto con fuoco

The Symphony in D is the one of only two symphonies by Kozeluch to begin with a slow introduction, in this case a short but arresting Adagio. It prefaces a sonata-form Allegro in lively 6/8 metre with, exceptionally, no repeat of the exposition, whose second subject, presented by the strings alone, encloses an episode in F(!); there is a vigorous development section based on the first subject. The second movement, in A, is a slow rondo, with a shapely refrain and two contrasting episodes that venture into minor keys. A strapping Minuet frames a Trio in which the horns are silent and the first oboe doubles the first violins, and the bassoons double the cellos and basses. In the spirited sonata-form finale the second subject is virtually an extension of the first, the dramatic development, based on the first subject, leads into the recapitulation via a succession of Haydnesque pauses.

Symphony in G minor

1. Allegro
2. Adagio
3. Presto

The key of G minor produced a handful of remarkable symphonies in the second half of the eighteenth century, at least partly under the influence of the pre-Romantic Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) movement in German literature: by Haydn (No. 39, c. 1776-77), J.C. Bach (Op. 6 No. 6, 1770), two by J.B. Vanhal (1771 and after), Mozart (No. 25, 1773 and No. 40, 1788); and, yes, Kozeluch (1787) – his only one in a minor key. It has no minuet, and in the outer movements the two horns are crooked in G and B flat, in order to provide wider harmonic scope. The two themes of the opening Allegro are closely related in shape but contrasted in mood: one nervous, the other (in B flat in the exposition but in G minor in the recapitulation) lyrical. The soft sustained line for the violas in bars 14-15 and 115-19 and for the bassoons in bars 41-50 and 147-57 suggest the influence of Mozart. The development is unusual in making use of both subjects, and as in the Symphony in F there is a substantial coda. The eloquent Adagio in E flat major is in condensed and modified sonata form, with a central ‘episode’ rather than a development section as such, but with a sonata-form key-scheme (tonic-dominant in the exposition, tonic in the recapitulation). The concluding Presto, again in sonata form, has the tense, agitated spirit of the first movement, but is shorter, and sparer in texture.

Symphony in F major

1. Allegro molto
2. Poco adagio
3. Menuetto. Allegretto - Trio
4. Presto

The Symphony in F begins with a substantial Allegro molto in sonata form and with two very similar themes, both of which are derived from the broad eight-bar ‘introduction’ in octaves (not repeated literally in the recapitulation which follows the widely modulating development). The movement ends with a coda that brings the wind instruments into unexpected prominence. Next comes an ornate, delicately scored Poco adagio in B flat and in sonata form but with no repeat of the exposition; a varied recapitulation follows a development that separates the various components of the main theme. A stately Minuet encloses a gentle Trio, in which the winds are silent, except for the first bassoon, which doubles the violins an octave lower. The busy sonata-form finale has an unusually appealing second subject, which, however, plays no part in the largely contrapuntal development.

Robin Golding (1999)