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DETAILS:

"Bella mia fiamma... Resta, oh cara," K. 528

Composed: 1787

Length: 9 minutes

Orchestration: flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings, and solo soprano

"Nehmt meinen Dank," K. 383

Composed: 1782

Length: 4 minutes

Orchestration: flute, oboe, bassoon, strings, and solo soprano

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances

It should come as no surprise that Mozart, one of the most gifted composers ever to write for the operatic stage, was, from the young age of eight, preoccupied with the aria as a form of expression. Even before his first tour of Italy (1770-71), he was composing arias in the Italian manner as a consequence of his encounter with the composer Johann Christian Bach and the singer Giovanni Manzuoli while on tour in London (1764-65). His earliest attempts at the form were practice pieces in setting texts from existing operas, but he soon began to write arias as interpolations into other composers operas, often to suit the needs of a prima donna or primo uomo unhappy with their given part. Eventually, he took up the form as an artistic statement in its own right, separate from the dramatic context of an opera proper. Over all, he composed more than 40 concert arias, spanning the years 1764 to 1791.

Mozart composed "Nehmt meinen Dank," K. 383 in April of 1782 for his future sister-in-law (and one time heartthrob), Aloysia Weber. He had always maintained great admiration for the flexibility of Aloysia's high coloratura voice, well-known for its range and quality. It is assumed that Mozart wrote this aria for her to sing at a farewell benefit concert, a kind of German licenze, that is, an aria originally placed at the end of an opera to address the most honored guest present. In Vienna the licenze became a scena sufficient unto itself. The author of the text is unknown.

The circumstances surrounding the composition of "Bella mia fiamma... Resta, oh cara," K.528 are those of Mozart basking in the successful premiere of Don Giovanni in Prague on October 29, 1787. He and his family were guests at the country home near Prague of the composer Franz Duschek and his wife, soprano Josepha Duschek, for whom he had ten years earlier composed the concert aria "Ah, lo previdi," K. 272. In a story related by Mozart's son, Josepha locked his father in a garden house, refusing to release him until he had composed for her an aria. Mozart, however, refused to hand over the score until Josepha agreed to sing the aria at sight, a daunting task given the harmonic and melodic complexity and the resulting emotional states both in the recitative and aria. In his book on Mozart, Alfred Einstein states succinctly, "Mozart used extreme means to represent an extreme situation…"

Steven Lacoste is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Archivist.