• Robert Saxton
  • Paraphrase on Mozart's Idomeneo (1991)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Glyndebourne Festival Opera

  • 2ob(ca).2cl.2bn/2hn
  • 10 min

Programme Note

Paraphrase on Mozart’s Idomeneo was commissioned by Glyndebourne to celebrate the life and work of Mozart on the 200th anniversary of his death. It is dedicated to the memory of Yvonne Dahms, who, with her husband Gary, worked for several seasons in the Glyndebourne Wardrobe Department, and who died young as I was writing the piece.

The music, which is scores for wind octet, follows the outline of the plot of Mozart’s opera. The opening states the march-like Ds with which Mozart begins his overture, before modulating to a G pitch centre for the oboe ‘aria’ representing Ilia. (Her first aria is in G minor). This leads to a passage introducing Idamante, on the first horn, which in turn leads to an angry outburst on the first clarinet, representing the furious Electra. Soon we hear the dignified but sad cor anglais as Idomeneo enters. The music then increases in tension, reaching a climax before the ‘ciaconna’. In the opera, Mozart composed a chaconne chorus; in my piece, the chaconne is the slow movement, and includes a duet between Ilia and Idamante (oboe and horn): Electra (clarinet) attempts to disrupt the proceedings at one point. The chaconne gives way to the storm – the bassoons are the rumbling sea, and oboes and clarinets the howling gale. We hear the clarinets flutter-tonguing as the sea monster appears. Ilia is heard singing lyrically once more, the bassoons enter as the ‘Voice’, after which Ilia and Idamante ‘sing’ a duet of hope and true love. The opening music returns, and the whole ‘plot’ resolves into D major, for a final passage of reconciliation. There are no quotations from IDOMENEO, but this section presented me with the greatest challenge of all – that of writing a final ‘burst’ of Eighteenth Century style wind music as an affectionate tribute to Mozart.

© Robert Saxton


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