Mozart Symphony no. 30 in D, K. 202

performed by The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Josef Krips, or below by the Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood

(cover image by Grant Ritchie)

Here we are with our last Mozart symphony for a while. The 30th was written in Salzburg, and completed on May 5, 1774. Interestingly, a timpani part originally written for the symphony has been lost. I’m not sure how this happened, that it just wasn’t included in the score, or what, but it’s gone. The parts that remain, thankfully, are bassoon, pairs of oboes, horns, trumpets, and then strings.

This work is in four movements, as below, and has a duration of around 18 minutes, at least in Krips’ recording:

  1. Molto allegro
  2. Andantino con moto
  3. Menuetto & Trio
  4. Presto

The first movement, in sonata form, is not any longer than some of the previous first movements of his symphonies, but seems more complex. The first movement opens with a fanfare-like idea in strings, with this first sentence of sorts closing with a little trill, which is like the first ripple that turns into something grand later. There are multiple subjects, as we’d expect, but there are longer transitions, and a second “theme group” featuring both a Ländler and a minuet. This second one is rife with trills, flittering and buzzing almost comically throughout the ensemble. This is a more complex form than we’ve heard, but still in a relatively compact package, with little codas, revisits and explorations of the themes, all in just a few short minutes.

The second movement is for strings alone, in a miniature sonata form, but the refinement here, the layers of this orchestral writing gives it a sense of both depth and intimacy. It’s inspired, not just a slow movement for the sake of one, but an exquisite little movement. It sounds mature.

The minuet is broad and cheerful, elegant and “one of the more dance-like among those of Mozart’s more mature symphonies,” says Joseph Stevenson. Even in this cheerful minuet, though, there are wisps of the minor mode, ever so brief. Something that sets this symphony a little bit apart from the others around this time is that it’s not as tragic as the 25th, nor as pastoral and serene as the 29th; rather, it’s carefree and easygoing, and the syncopated, out-of-sync sounding trio is perhaps the most obvious case of this. Wait for an outburst, and the eventual return of the minuet’s themes.

The minuet is longer than any of the movements that bookend it, and the finale is quick and compact. The first theme is a buoyant march, a sprint really, with a lighter, rounder second theme, but still at this quick clip. The development suddenly takes from a playful, youthful Mozart to something of the seriousness of Beethoven’s Eroica. Things lighten up  at the end, though, and we end on a suitably light coda.

While this may not be one of the composer’s most famous pieces, it is an interesting midpoint of sorts, giving us greater complexity, more depth, but still a lighter, playful side of the young composer. We’re still chronologically some distance from the true late, mature, symphonies, but we’ve only a handful of symphonies to go before we get there, and things are really starting to get interesting. Say tuned next week for something entirely new from Mozart, though. Thanks so much for reading.


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