performed by the Capella Istropolitana under Richard Edlinger, or as below by La petite bande under Sigiswald Kuijken
(cover image by Alistair MacRobert)
This piece was Composed in Salzburg on July 26, 1773, and Naxos says of its composition:
probably intended as a tribute to Maria Anna Elisabeth von Antretter, wife of the Salzburg Court War Counsellor, for whose son Mozart was to write a celebratory Serenade later in the year, to mark the completion of his university studies.
The work is written for a pair of horns, as well as “a single violin line, viola, with bassoon, cello and double bass.” The piece is, depending on who you ask, in either five or six movements, as follows, with a duration of about 18-19 minutes:
- Largo – Allegro
- Finale- Presto
In some recordings, the first movement, with its two sections, is listed as being two movements, so the finale is then numbered as the sixth movement. That could just be the Istropolitana recording.
In that recording, the largo and allegro together play for about five minutes, making for the longest movement (or two) in the work. There is a breathtaking, arresting, remarkable tenderness to the opening largo, which at 30-ish seconds, is pretty clearly just a slow introduction to the allegro. This piece doesn’t suffer from the awfully odd orchestration of K. 188, but it’s still noticeably not a typical orchestra. The exposition is repeated, without the largo, and there are the tiniest flashes of minor-mode passages. It’s quite a charming little piece, but the standout is by far the bit of drama that ushers in the development section, which is itself barely more than a passing idea.
The central adagio is bookended by minuets, the first of which relegates the low voices to barely more than pedal tones in the background, and disposing of winds entirely for the trio section. This perhaps was part of the ceremony where the music was more background than front and center. It’s regal, but not terribly eventful.
The adagio is the longest movement of the entire work besides the allegro with its largo introduction. Naxos says that in this movement, “the viola is given a fairer share of melody than is often the case.” If you were to guess at what sort of event in the modern era this movement may be played, your mind might first go to something more like a wedding, and maybe not even that. Really, though, in so many of these movements, especially in the slow movements of these entertainment-style pieces, I want so badly to be whisked away by a piano soloist, who obviously never appears. I’m looking forward to getting back to the concertos.
The second minuet is much more heavy-handed, and slightly longer, than the first one. Something here in this movement sounds familiar, and I promise you it can’t be because I know this piece from anywhere else. Regardless, the trio of the second minuet finally puts the horns to some good use, even if only momentarily, and they always do a good job, especially in these smaller ensembles, of giving a greater sense of breadth and depth to the sound. Their stately announcement is contrasted with a shadier response from the strings, and the movement is quickly over.
The opening of the finale is the first place in the work where it doesn’t sound like Mozart’s re-orchestration of the work because half of the orchestra didn’t show up that day. It’s fuller, more orchestra-esque, not pared down to be more mobile or fit in a small space or meet whatever needs this event may have demanded. It’s playful, even if obviously a bit repetitive. To emphasize that this is background music seems to belittle it or negate it, but as background music goes, it’s excellent. There’s nothing duller than a silent social function. Music keeps everything lively, doesn’t it? Even if no one’s actually consciously paying attention, which is another reason (along with the undeniable greatness of what he would later write) why you probably don’t often hear this in a concert setting. Horns get a bit more love in this finale in another little conversation with the strings, who really pull all of the weight here.
That’s it for today, folks, but we have… do I even need to say it at this point? Stay tuned and thanks so much for reading.