The Janissaries (Janitscharen) in Mozarts music

I am preparing these days for my upcoming concert with Strasbourg Philharmonic, where I will perform on the 3rd of July the Violin Concerto Nr. 5 in A Major "The Turkish" under the baton of Theodor Guschlbauer. In the third movement of this concerto exists a "Turkish" part - where the Cellists and Bassists of the Orchestra are supposed to throw their bow sticks on the string to create a percussive character, always in the same rhythm, |: Ta - Ta - TiTi - Ta :|

If you look at the famous "Rondo alla Turka" you can find the same rhythm again. So where does it come from?

Wikipedia tells us:

The Janissaries were elite infantry units that formed the Ottoman Sultan's household troops, bodyguards and the first modern standing army in Europe.The corps was most likely established during the reign of Murad I (1362–89). They began as an elite corps of slaves made up of kidnapped young Christian boys who were forcefully converted to Islam, and became famed for internal cohesion cemented by strict discipline and order. Unlike typical slaves, they were paid regular salaries. Forbidden to marry or engage in trade, their complete loyalty to the Sultan was expected. By the seventeenth century, due to a dramatic increase in the size of the Ottoman standing army, the corps' initially strict recruitment policy was relaxed. Civilians bought their way into it in order to benefit from the improved socioeconomic status it conferred upon them. Consequently, the corps gradually lost its military character, undergoing a process that has been described as 'civilianization'. The corps was abolished by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826 in the Auspicious Incident in which 6,000 or more were executed.

Maybe some of you also remember the choir in Mozarts "Entführung of the Serail":

Perfect Opera Material, isn't it?

Wikipedia continues:

It seems that at least part of the entertainment value of "Turkish" music was the perceived exoticism. The Turks were well known to the citizens of Vienna as military opponents, and indeed the centuries of warfare between Austria and Ottoman Empire had only started going generally in Austria's favor around the late 17th century. The differences in culture, as well as the frisson derived from the many earlier Turkish invasions, apparently gave rise to a fascination among the Viennese for all things Turkish—or even Ersatz Turkish. This was part of a general trend in European arts at the time; see Turquerie.


Recent Posts

See All