performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Josef Krips, or The Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood
(cover image by Brooke Lark)
We’re still in 1773, Mozart’s year of climbing toward greatness. The piece was dated October 3, 1773. The greatest source of information I found for this work was of program notes from the Redlands Symphony Orchestra. I’d like to credit a specific writer, but there was none cited. The writeup begins by telling us that this busy year of music, at least so it seems with the amount of compositions we’re discussing from around this time, marks some of the last music Mozart would write in Salzburg “before striking out on his own in Vienna.”
This eloquent writer, whoever he or she is, pleasantly describes this work in suitably Austrian terms:
The Symphony No. 24 in B-flat Major (1773), likely conceived in Vienna before being finished in Salzburg, is like the best Viennese pastries: sweet, light, even frothy, but requiring great technical skill and no less the work of a master than other forms of musical haute cuisine.
The piece, like the other symphonies we’ve discussed this week, is in three movements, as follows, and has a duration of less than nine minutes:
- Allegro spiritoso
- Andante grazioso
The first two movements are labeled the same as the first two movements of the previous symphony, of a few months earlier. The first movement of this work, as was the case in the previous symphony, takes up about half the playing time of the work, and it may or may not give you the impression that greatness is really on the way. That’s the impression it gives me. It feels robust and full and mature.
Again, it should go without saying that we have two main subjects for this first movement. The first is straightforward and crisp, itself consisting of two parts: a descending figure marked forte followed by a trilled response marked piano. It’s not heavy, really, but relative to some of his other work, maybe it is. The second subject is a little lighter and bouncier. Overall, though, it’s just… it’s not at all an exaggeration to say this music, especially the little dip into greater drama that the development gives us, is exhilarating.
The central movement, at a mere two and a half minutes. Redlands tells us that “the Andantino grazioso offers something of a palate cleanser with the gentility of muted violins and flutes and a polite, predictable rondo form.” The food allusion is continued, with this polite central movement referred to as a palate cleanser to the first movement, which had “a surprising amount of harmonic ambiguity here for a movement that is so brief.”
If you thought the central movement was brief, then the finale, coming in at under two minutes, is nothing more than a quick blast of excitement to top off the symphony. Redlands says that it “whips and whirls the symphony to its finish, the symphonic equivalent of Schlagobers (whipped cream).” I think that may suggest that this finale lacks substance or is just a bit of excitement tossed in at the end, but as with the previous movements in this very small symphony, it has weight and significance. That’s certainly not to say its anything historic or life-changing, but for a really pleasant, well-written symphony, it hits the spot, refreshing, invigorating, and very beautifully polished.
You see where this is going, don’t you? I hope you do. Stay tuned tomorrow for something you will almost certainly recognize, and thanks so much for reading.