Sample Programme Notes

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

Symphony No. 29 in A, K. 201

1 Allegro moderato
2 Andante
3 Menuetto
4 Allegro con spirito

This symphony was completed by the adolescent Mozart in April 1774, and belongs to a group of three written in Salzburg after his return from a brief visit to Vienna in the autumn of 1773, and prior to a journey to Munich at the end of 1774 for the staging of his new opera La finta giardiniera.

Scored for an orchestra of strings with pairs of oboes and French horns, the first movement (Allegro moderato) begins with a wonderfully eloquent melody given to the first violins and made up of a series of repeated notes and falling octaves. Its caressing gesture is all the more remarkable for its reappearance soon afterwards when it is heard in close imitation between upper and lower strings. A more extended second theme appears, decorated with trills and grace notes, and after the repeat of the first section a short developmental passage explores two fresh ideas; one characterised by imitative scale figures, the other by the sequential treatment of a new theme. In a concise coda, initially unsure of its direction, Mozart recalls the principal theme in a masterstroke of imitation between first violins, violas and cellos.

An intimacy of expression permeates the second movement (Andante) where muted violins present two closely related themes supported by the discreet but telling use of oboes and horns. Like the Andante, the sprightly Menuetto’s distinctive use of dotted rhythm colours the opening theme – given out here initially by violins – which closes with a witty tag from oboes and horns in unison, and is smoothed away by a glowing central trio.

The finale (Allegro con spirito) is impetuous, festive and brilliant in mood. Sharp contrast is created between the fiery opening theme, with its distinctive octaves and rising semiquaver flourish, and a lilting secondary idea on the lower strings with accompanying chirping from the first violins. In its forward momentum, it has the character of a chasse – a hunting finale with vivid horns dominating the impulsive closing pages. The work’s dramatic strength, which anticipates Mozart’s later symphonic achievements, is all the more remarkable for being the work of an eighteen year old.

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