Mozart Symphony no. 16 in C, K. 128

ASMF/Marriner, who I believe also plays in the video below:


Of the sixteenth symphony, Wikipedia says “The form is that of a standard three-movement Italian overture,” unlike yesterday’s work. Both the first and second movements are ‘essays in sonata-allegro form,’ but the second movement is strings-only. The third movement is “a cheerful dance cast in an altered rondo form, with a coda.”

The first movement begins with two crisp forte chords from the whole orchestra, followed by quiet triplet runs in first violins, giving the impression of 9/8. The C major theme builds until most of the orchestra is triplet-ing along, and it’s only when we modulate to G for the second subject that the listener gets slapped in the face with the realization of 3/4, a sudden apparent change of meter. It’s an effective contrast, and the exposition is repeated.

The development section is, like yesterday, quite brief, but “but filled with dense modulations,” making it tense and exciting, one of the most riveting sounds of a Mozart symphony we’ve heard yet.

The second movement, interesting, as stated above, is also in a sonata-allegro type form, which seems a little… hefty for such a short symphony. There’s no minuet, but this sonata-form works, I suppose, as a slow movement because, well, it’s slow. Winds are tacet, giving the small work a compact, almost baroque feel. The lines of each of the voices interlock and work well together. It’s nothing riveting, but another of those well-executed things that Mozart seemed to be just full of.

The ‘altered rondo’ third movement seems, with its first theme, to be almost a nursery-rhyme type theme, but the second subject, that’s interesting. It’s rhythmically unique, even odd-feeling, off-kilter, a bit of a head-scratcher, but very creative. There’s contrast and excitement in this work, some tension, and our recently-returned oboes and horns lend some additional color to the movement. Things like sixteenth note runs and interesting harmonic changes make this a vibrant, playful. Our horns get a nice chance to sing toward the end of the movement, to wrap it up with a feel that it’s more significant than a little “three movement Italian overture” style work of a sixteen year old.

If this work itself doesn’t make you want to listen to it again, it should hopefully at the very least make you curious to skip ahead a few years to see what this composer was up to in his later years. And we’ll get there eventually, I promise, and once we do, we won’t be taking his symphonies five at a time like we have been. Stay tuned.

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