Mozart Serenade no. 4 in D, K. 203, ‘Colloredo’

performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner, or below with Pinchas Zukerman and the English Chamber Orchestra

(cover image by Alex Block (also here))

We’re moving away from the more famous form of the symphony, at least for a little while, and getting back to some of these other genres. This serenade was composed in August of 1774 “for ceremonies at the University of Salzburg,” says Wiki, citing Neil Zaslaw.

As you may expect, the Colloredo name comes from one Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, Mozart’s patron at the time. He famously had a turbulent relationship with Mozart, and this is portrayed, or Colloredo is at least represented, in the 1984 film Amadeus, which I can mention freely now that we’ve discussed the 25th symphony. You can read more about their relationship here.

The piece is scored for two oboes (which double flutes), bassoon, two horns, two trumpets, and strings. It is interestingly in eight movements:

  1. Andante maestoso – Allegro assai
  2. [Andante]
  3. Menuetto
  4. [Allegro]
  5. Menuetto
  6. [Andante]
  7. Menuetto
  8. Prestissimo

You may have realized here in Mozart’s entertainment pieces (the serenades and divertimenti), as well as in comparable works by Beethoven, that these works have many more movements than a typical symphony or similar piece would, and that’s due in part to the prevalence of minuet movements, as you can see above. Charlotte Gardner, writing for BBC, describes it this way:

A serenade was basically entertainment music, midway between a symphony and a suite with its many movements.

She goes on to call into question (or at least suggest some uncertainty regarding) the statement that it was written for Colloredo: “Nobody knows for sure for whom Mozart wrote his K203 Serenade in 1774…” That detail isn’t really important though. Back to those eight movements.

You can almost think of this as one of those concept albums where the tracks rearranged in a different order have a different meaning, or where they belong to different groups and are intertwined together. Let me explain.

It was common for Mozart to create a ‘serenade symphony’ from his orchestral serenades, where he’d pluck out a few movements from the larger work and put them together and make a symphony. He did that here, giving us a four-movement symphony made of the first movement and the last three. As you’ll see, those four markings make up the pieces of a pretty standard symphony. But wait! There’s more!

There’s also a prominent role given to a violin soloist in three other movements, the second, third and fourth, “forming a three-movement violin concerto within the serenade,” says Wiki. So the only movement left out of this double-duty situation is the fifth, which is the second of three minuet appearances. Mind you, it’s not the same minuet, but each of the other sort of.. subsets in this serenade already has a minuet.

The first movement gives us a brief introduction, very slow, before the two themes of this genial exposition get underway. The development is mostly marked by slipping into the minor key. There’s nothing too terribly special here, but there is some exciting writing for strings to round out the exposition and recapitulation.

The second movement is the first of the three that make up the little violin concerto within the work. It’s a slow movement, the first of two, so this work probably wouldn’t stand as its own three-movement work like the symphony could. What follows is the first of three minuets, and the violin waits until slightly later to enter, more or less just featured in the trio.

Next is the finale for our mini-violin-concerto, an allegro. This is the most convincing of the three as far as its form and the role the violin soloist plays, how it ends, etc., and then we’re given the second of three minuets, the only movement that doesn’t belong to any of these subsets. These two minuets (the first and second) are the shortest of the work, but this one, without a violin solo, is a bit more robust. Instead, in the trio, we have solo flute and bassoon, for a very delicate, sweet middle passage.

The second of the two slow movements begins the rest of the movements that make up the symphony subset, and features an oboe solo. The third and final minuet is by far the most exciting of the three, and the boldest. It may remind us that this piece was likely composed for the ceremony in Salzburg, so perhaps there was a programmatic nature to its timing, featuring different solos or faster and softer passages. The oboe features again in this minor key trio, but the excitement of this boisterous minuet has nothing on the finale.

Suitably marked prestissimo, the finale gives us the same sort of crisp, exciting contrast we’d expect from a symphony or piece of entertainment music. I obviously don’t have anything terribly insightful to say about this work, but really, neither do many other sources, including Naxos. We’ve yet much more to see from Mozart, so be patient, or go visit the symphonies from last week; there’s one you probably know. Hope you’re not sick of Mozart yet. I’m not. Stay tuned for more of him and thanks so much for reading!

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