performed by Isabelle Faust and Il Giardino Armonico under Giovanni Antonini, or below by Johannes Leertouwer and La Borea
(cover image by Brooke Lark)
The second of Mozart’s five legitimate (numbered, verified) violin concertos also dates from 1775, is also in three movements, and also has a duration of about 20 minutes, as follows:
- Allegro moderato
- Rondeau, Allegro
John Palmer says of the work, and its siblings:
Between April 14 and December 20, 1775, Mozart composed five violin concertos. In style, they are related to his serenades from the same period. Aside from two concertos incorporated into serenades, these represent Mozart’s only authentic concertos for violin and orchestra.
This work, though, while not as famous, I guess as any of the subsequent concertos, is one I listened to on repeat quite a few times. It feels like a much shorter work than it is, if that makes sense.
Take a listen to the opening of the allegro first movement, hear the trills and the ornateness, but also the cleanness? It has a cheerful bounce but this stirring sense of lightness and propulsion. Palmer says of this work:
[it] recalls the style of the late-Baroque, resembling works by Tartini; it strikes an awkward balance between bravura flourishes and thematic presentation and development for the soloist.
He speaks also of the “abundance of melodies” in each movement, and while they may not plumb the depths of the soul like the piano concertos, they are wonderfully pleasant, to me far more so than the serenades in that they’re irresistibly charming.
The violin enters, again, exactly when you’d expect, introducing the material the orchestra had just stated. Palmer even mentions a ‘ritornello,’ something we’ve discussed only in relation to Bach’s work. It’s a ‘little return,’ a recurring passage in a movement from the Baroque era. You can hear that very clearly in Bach’s violin concertos. (Palmer does note that Mozart takes “a great deal of license in the returning statements of the ritornello, varying them in several ways.”)
There are some more dramatic passages, but overall, the orchestra merely gives support to the soloist who sings sweet melodies in our ear for eight minutes. I’m not complaining at all. This first and longest movement is more charming and delightful than the serenades. At least we have something to pay greater attention to, to be led along by the solo part that the composer himself would have played.
The second movement is an abbreviated sonata form, having two subjects but no development section. It’s aria-like, which really… makes it not unlike a serenade, in a sense. It may not be all that groundbreaking or very exciting, but it’s subtle and pleasant.
The finale is to me the gem of this concerto, and an example of how people’s opinions differ, because opinions aren’t fact. Of it, Palmer says that “the seriousness and ingenuity of the first movement make this Rondeau seem especially unambitious.” Hmmmm.
It’s by a wide margin the shortest movement of the concerto, and begins charmingly and rather reservedly, but this rondo-form finale has some passages that sound like Bach (or at least more Bachian than Mozart usually sounds). It’s not boisterous or mischievous, both of which it certainly has room to be, but the elegant and intoxicating triple-meter theme is just brilliance to me, by far the most memorable and enjoyable, and closes this otherwise only-just-pleasant concerto with a refreshing, joyful finish.
This piece was posted late, as will our next few posts, but we’re coming right up on the end of the year, and there’s only one more Mozart post, so hang on, stay tuned, and thanks so much for reading.