Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony no. 1 in Eb (K. 16)

Performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Neville Marriner (from their boxed collection of all Mozart symphonies)
This one is short enough that I listened to it three times. It’s one of the earliest symphonic works I’ve listened to, and obviously Mozart’s earliest. The boy was already known as a performer, but Wikipedia says, he “had composed little music.” Looking at the Köchel catalogue, the K. #s before this one were keyboard pieces (allegros, minuets, andante), four violin sonatas, and six sonatas for harpsichord, violin, (flute) and cello. Almost all of his works before the harpsichord pieces were written in Salzburg. Beginning with the harpsichord sonatas, he was in London, specifically in Chelsea. His first symphony was also written there, on the family’s “grand tour of Europe”. According to an anecdote, little Mozart was getting restless, but he was given specific orders not to touch the piano. So instead the boy wrote a symphony. Not much sense here in coming down on an eight-year-old composer; he’s only a child, but then again, that’s more than I can do NOW, much less at 8. In the next 7 years, he wrote at least a dozen more symphonies, considered his “childhood symphonies.” Although most parents would be astonished or at least pleased with their eight-year-old’s accomplishment, this was apparently a much more serious era, and Papa Mozart criticized the piece for being too basic and picked out a few errors in his musical theory. I agree that it’s simple, but it is nice. It was surprising to hear a harpsichord chime in, but that was the time. The Bachs made an impression on him apparently. I don’t know what errors were made in music theory that Leopold Mozart took issue with; I don’t know that I could find them if I tried. This one is simple enough, and I appreciate what Wikipedia says about this piece. It mentions that some of these themes even in his earliest work get used again in his later output. I wonder if it was intentional or an unintentional common thread in his writing style (although one would think it would be more obvious if that were the case). What can be said about a twelve minute symphony? It’s better than anything I could write at more than three times the young boy’s age… I have a goal of making it through all of his symphonies eventually, although it must be said… The classical era is not my favorite. I wonder if there were more listeners of the time who could appreciate the musical quality (use of music theory and structure, sonata form, counterpoint, etc.) in this kind of music at first listen. On the whole, I don’t find this music nearly as stirring or emotionally gripping as that from the Romantic period. It is beautiful music, for sure, and my referring to all of the classical period collectively is not to say it is all the same. It is genuinely beautiful music, but I find it better as background music or good for study in music theory (such as sonata form, where the rules are clearly followed and easy to observe) than something I listen to like I would watch a movie, attentively and engaged. But again, I suspect that part of this may be that I cannot appreciate musical theory by listening alone. As an amateur, I rely more on emotion or familiarity when listening, and don’t hear all that a professional ear would. But there are also plenty of professional musicians who can’t stand Mozart or Haydn or Bach, and there are those that detest any music that came after them. Opinions are like…….


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