Symphony in G minor (Köchel, 550)
I. Allegro molto
III. Menuetto: Allegro
IV. Allegro assai
A crowning marvel of this symphony is its seraphic union of form and feeling. This perfection, transparency and grace can even deceive us as to the passionate import of the music. The agitation and for-boding of the opening movement give place to the mystical tenderness and seraphic melancholy of the Andante. The Menuetto, formal as it is, and set in strict designs of the dance, has nevertheless a special energy, and the lovely middle part is the lovelier for the contrast. The last movement, beginning with a figure familiar enough in Mozart’s day, develops with a wholly exceptional brilliancy and dramatic fire. The profundity of Mozart’s music is embodied in the apparent simplicity of its style.
The G minor symphony has no introduction. The agitated first theme (1) is played by the violins. The connecting episode begins twenty-eight measures later (2) , with bold accents of the full orchestra, and leaps of the strings, followed by rushing scale figures. Two sharp chords, followed by a short pause, prepare the entrance of the second theme (3) The first theme was in G minor, the basic key of the symphony. The second is in the key of B flat, known as the “relative major.” This melody is of an entirely different nature from the first, Ind is colored differently by the instruments, the strings alternating with wind instruments in its statement. Brilliant figures and reminiscences of the first theme make the “codetta” (4) and bring. the Exposition to an end. The Exposition is now repeated, but this time its finishing chords, with an abrupt change of key, switch us into ‘the Development section (5), which is de-voted entirely to the dramatic treatment of the first theme. These opposed elements contess, as it were, for the mastery, until, with sighing dialogue of strings and wind, a most adroit and graceful return is made to the first theme in its original form, and we are arrived at the Recapitulation (6) This Recapitulation follows strictly the dictates of the Form. The material of the Exposition is repeated and filled out somewhat. The second theme (7) appears now in the same key as the first, a Id with some extension of the episodic matter. To the material of the Recapitulation is added the dramatic is coda (8), which is short, very poignant and expressive, and based, in turn, upon the same agitated theme which has preoccupied the composer through the course of the whole movement.
The Andante is composed in the “abridged sonata form.” In this variant of the form there are first (9) and second (10) themes, but they are not so strongly contrasted as in the complete sonata movement and they dispense with connecting episodes. In fact, this movement of Mozart partakes of the natures of both the sonata and the. elaborated song form which often makes the second part of the symphony. That form consists in a first division of sustained melody, then a more animated contrasting passage, and’ there-after a return to the melody of the first part. The principal difference between the song form and the “abridged sonata” design exists in the fact that in the latter instance the contrasting part is genuine Development (I I) of themes previously heard, instead of new contrasting material; and so it is in the slow movement of this symphony, which gives the impression of one central thought, expanded and developed by’ the composer.
The Menuetto in dance rhythms is in three-part form, with each section subdivided into three smaller parts. It is thus a succession of dance figures, so arranged and developed as to effectively balance each other. The divisions and sub-divisions are readily recognizable. The first part announces an energetic motive (12), a few bars in length, then develops it (13) , then returns to the initial idea (14) in variation and with a codetta. The second part follows the same tripartite design, distinguished by a first (15) motive, a second (16) , and a return to the first (17) . There-after comes the repetition of the first part which completes the movement.
The last movement opens with a theme (18) cast in the intervals of a simple chord leaping upward, arpeggio-fashion. The theme is repeated. Then comes the customary (19) episode, and later the same preparation as in the opening movement for the second theme (20). Its song is given the first violins over the accompaniment of second violins and violas. After repetition and extension by progressions for the wind . instruments the development section (2 t) starts with brusque announcement in unison, by all the instruments except the horns, of a variation of the first, phrase of the “rocket” subject. [The ascending arpeggio figure, used by many composers of the period, as also by Beethoven, came to be known as the “Mannheim rocket”.] The Recapitulation (22) , led into by a version of the theme in the bass, brings the movement to an end.
Symphony in E flat (Köchel 543)
I. Adagio; Allegro
III. Menuetto: Allegretto
IV. Finale: Allegro
This is the first of the three symphonies in-E flat, G minor, and C major which Mozart finished, within less than six weeks’ time, in the year 1788. That was a year of misfortune and of gigantic creation. Each of the three masterpieces referred to has distinctive qualities which put it apart from the others. The symphony in E flat takes a special position, due in the first place to its inherent worth, and in the second to the fact that it is a link of exceptional significance between Mozart and Beethoven. It prophesies nothing less than the towering “Eroica.”
It is altogether probable that Beethoven was familiar with this work of Mozart’s, and that he had given it careful study before he composed the third of his nine compositions in the same form. Whether or not that is the case, we have here a remarkable example of the manner in which one great master springs from and builds upon the achievement of the other.
The first movement of Mozart’s E flat symphony is identic not only in key but in the rhythm, unusual for an opening symphonic movement of that day, of 3-4, with the first part of the “Eroica.” There are close relations not only-of themes but of harmonies. The harsh dissonance which makes a famous feature of the first movement of the “Eroica”the E set shrilly against the F, as see a later chapteris present in the same chord, though in a different key, in measure eighteen of Mozart’s introduction. The first theme of the “Eroica” had already been anticipated by the eleven-year old Mozart in his operetta, “Sebastien et Sebastienne.” But if measures twenty-nine to thirty-two of the allegro of Mozart’s first movement are examined, there will be found, note for note, with only slight difference of accent, Beethoven’s transformation of his opening theme in the scherzo of the “Eroica.” Going farther along in Mozart’s score, one finds in measures sixty-four to seventy, large as life, the quick energetic rhythmic figuration that Beethoven uses as episodic material in the “Eroica’s” corresponding movement.
It should be added that the E-flat symphony of Mozart stands in no need of the references to Beethoven to proclaim its greatness. The opening movement has a magnificent substance and concision. The richness and depth of melodic expression in the next movement are such as Haydn at his riches: could hardly attain. The brilliant Menuetto, which with its gallant pulse and swing can well suggest a blazing ball-room of Mozart’s time, is one of the most popular movements he ever composed. The sparkling finale has the humor and the touches of adroit and amusing instrumentation that come straight from Haydn, whom Mozart held in such gratitude and esteem.