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Possibly as a result of the natural development of Mozart's style, or through a wish to accommodate his changed circumstances, the extravagance of Mozart's ‘late Salzburg’ works gave way, after his permanent move to Vienna, to leaner, more transparent textures and a less ornamental manner. This is true particularly of the six accompanied sonatas published in December 1781 (although only four of them, k376–7, 379 and 380, were composed there; k296 was written at Mannheim, and k378 at Salzburg in 1779 or 1780). At the same time, however, they are broader in conception than the earlier sonatas, with greater forward thrust and, in k380, a deepened sense of rhetorical contrast between full chords and rapid passage-work. Above all, they display a new relationship between the instruments. Although they remain piano sonatas with accompaniment, and contain passages where the violin part could be omitted without damaging the sense of the music, the violin nevertheless increasingly carries essential material, melodic or contrapuntal, and engages in dialogue with the keyboard. The violin part has even greater prominence in k454, composed for Regina Strinasacchi, while in k526, arguably the finest of Mozart's accompanied sonatas, the two instruments are equal in importance. The same trend is evident in the piano trios k496, 502, 542 and 548.
This new equality of partnership is best reflected in the string quartets and quintets of the early to mid-1780s, including the six string quartets dedicated to Haydn, which Mozart described in his dedication of 1 September 1785 as ‘the fruits of a long and laborious endeavour’, a claim borne out by the relatively large number of quartet fragments from this time as well by numerous corrections and changes in the autographs (fig.14; the thorny question of the textual relationship between Mozart's autograph and the first edition, published by Artaria in 1785, is described in Seiffert, N1997). That Mozart sought to emulate Haydn's quartets op.33, but not to imitate them slavishly, can hardly be doubted: like Haydn's, Mozart's quartets are characterized by textures conceived not merely in four-part harmony, but as four-part discourse, with the actual musical ideas linked to a freshly integrated treatment of the medium. Later critics described them as prime examples, together with those of Haydn and Beethoven, of the ‘classical’ quartet, as opposed to the quartor concertant or quatuor brillant. According to Koch, they were the finest works of their kind.
Counterpoint in particular takes on a new aspect in the quartets. In the first movements of k421 and 464, each of the principal themes is subjected to imitative treatment; the Andante of k428 follows a similar procedure, supported by increased chromaticism (which is characteristic of the quartet as a whole). The coda of the first movement of the ‘Hunt’ Quartet k458, like the coda of the earlier A major Symphony k201, draws on the latent imitative potential of the movement's main thematic material, while the famous introduction to the ‘Dissonance’ Quartet k465 represents an extreme of both free counterpoint and chromaticism. Similar effects can be observed in the C major and G minor quintets of 1787, k515 and 516.
The finale of k387 represents a different use of counterpoint, which is treated not so much as a texture in and of itself, but as a structural topic. Here the main, stable thematic material is represented first and foremost by fugatos, while transitional and cadential material is generally composed in a melody-and-accompaniment buffo style. This procedure is reversed in the final movement of the Piano Concerto k459, where fugato represents transition and is explosively elaborated in the double fugue of the central episode. The hidden, but inherently contrapuntal nature of Mozart's material in general is already adumbrated in the C minor Fugue k426 for two pianos and its later version for strings k546, where the seemingly commonplace Baroque subject erupts at the end of the movement in the previously unimaginable guise of a melody accompanied by aggressive sawing-away in the upper parts. No doubt Mozart had conceived this possibility as early as 1782 while arranging for string quartet several fugues by Bach and Handel: a similar procedure is found at the conclusion of his version of the D minor fugue from book 2 of Bach's Das wohltemperirte Clavier.
The wind music, including the three substantial serenades k361, 375 and 388, shows Mozart's interest in texture in different ways, including the use of novel combinations of instruments (Peter Shaffer, in his play Amadeus, puts into Salieri's mouth an evocative description of the opening bars of the Adagio from the Serenade for 13 instruments, k361). The C minor Mass k427, meanwhile, includes grave choruses (some in eight parts, as well as the customary four), among which the ‘Qui tollis’ is built on an ostinato bass of the Baroque descending tetrachord pattern. Several solo items, such as the ‘Domine Deus’ duet and the ‘Quoniam’ trio, are almost Handelian in their counterpoint, figuration and bare continuo textures. The Trio for clarinet, viola and piano k498 and the Quintet for piano and wind k452 are both uniquely scored.
Mozart's deliberate attention to even the smallest details of texture, scoring, rhythm and articulation as elements of both affect and style is evident from the numerous erasures, changes and revisions in his autographs. At bar 106 of the first movement of the D minor Piano Concerto k466, for example, he originally wrote the upper string parts as alternating quaver rests and quavers, continuing the pattern of the previous two bars, but he changed these to straight quavers in anticipation of the approaching imperfect cadence. The second movement was initially conceived to begin with the orchestra (as an erased piano marking in the first violin part shows) and to include trumpets and drums, and in a possibly related correction, trumpets and drums were omitted from the two final bars of the first movement. In the final movement, at bar 181, Mozart for the first time writes slurs in the accompanying second violin, viola, cello and double bass parts, possibly because their figure here ascends where previously it had descended.
That texture is also a matter of formal significance for Mozart is especially clear in the case of the piano concertos. The structures of the first movements have been related to sonata form, Baroque ritornello forms and aria forms. Although varied in their structural details, they nevertheless follow a broadly consistent outline, consisting of seven large units: (1) an opening ritornello including a first theme, a more lyrical group and a concluding group; (2) the first solo, reiterating the first theme and then modulating to the dominant for a secondary group and a coda; (3) a medial ritornello, usually based on the opening ritornello; (4) a development-like section, representing the first part of the second solo; (5) a recapitulation, representing the second part of the second solo and largely following the first solo (but omitting the modulation); and (6) a concluding ritornello, using material from the medial ritornello and interrupted by (7) a cadenza. The second and third movements are more varied. The former include romances, binary movements, rondos and variations; the finales, although mostly sonata rondos, also include variations and sonata forms.
Viewed chronologically, the piano concertos make increasing use of dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra (both as a whole and in its individual sections); the solo keyboard writing, meanwhile, becomes increasingly varied and demanding. A new feature is the use of a soloistic continuo part in the orchestral outbursts that interrupt the large solo sections. (For a fuller discussion of structural aspects of the concertos, see Concerto, II.)
While the model of the early operatic aria is at least partly relevant to Mozart's Viennese concertos, it does not apply to Die Entführung or the three Da Ponte operas, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte: by the 1780s Mozart had more or less left earlier aria forms behind (Webster, M1996). Several different formal types can nevertheless be identified, including binary forms (Die Entführung, ‘Traurigkeit’), ABA forms (Don Giovanni, ‘Dalla sua pace’, Così, Un ‘aura amorosa’), complex two-part forms (Figaro, ‘Aprite un po' quegl'occhi’ and Don Giovanni, ‘Vedrai, carino’), one-part undivided forms (Die Entführung, ‘Im Mohrenland’), rondo (in the modern sense; Così, ‘Donne mie’) and rondò (Figaro, ‘Dove sono’; see Webster, J1991). In every instance, however, a formal scheme is designed to express the text. The solo arias, rather than representing action, simultaneously portray a variety of complementary or conflicting emotions, one of which usually gains the upper hand. ‘Non più andrai’ is not so much about Cherubino's implied growth from adolescence to manhood as about Figaro's overwhelming need to gloat; the conflict between achieving peace of mind and inflicting punishment on Belmonte is resolved, in ‘O, wie will ich triumphieren’, in favour of strangulation; and Don Giovanni's rampant sexual desires overwhelm ‘Fin ch'han dal vino’, as the final phrase spins, like him, nearly out of control, unable to cadence. Otherwise, the arias often reflect differences in the standing of the various characters – Bartolo's ‘La vendetta’ is blustery and parodistic, the Count's ‘Vedrò, mentre io sospiro’, menacing – or express social tension: Figaro's ‘Se vuol ballare’ is a good example (Allanbrook, J1982).
The ensembles sometimes carry more complex kinds of expression: the Letter Duet in Figaro is a dramatic tour de force, the music representing the dictation of a letter, with phrases realistically repeated and a condensed recapitulation serving for the reading-back of the text. But it is the finales in particular that, following opera buffa tradition, carry the action forward: changes in tempo, metre, tonality and orchestration resolve existing tensions while creating new ones, always closely allied to the action. Whether they represent meaningful or intentional tonal structures, however, is uncertain. By the same token, the notion that the operas exhibit large-scale tonal planning from start to finish has recently come under attack; many of the key successions cited as evidence of high-level organization are fairly common among Viennese opere buffe in general (Platoff, J1997). In at least parts of some individual operas, however, tonal planning appears to be deliberate. The Act 2 finale to Don Giovanni, for example, mirrors almost exactly the tonal action of the opera's overture and Introduzione. Both begin in D (minor–major in the overture, major in the finale) and then proceed by way of F (Leporello, Don Giovanni's dance band) to B (Don Giovanni is chased from Anna's bedroom and confronts her father, Elvira confronts Don Giovanni) before returning abruptly to D. The similarity is reinforced by the virtual avoidance of a strong A major in both sections, while the conclusion of the action and the final sextet reverse the minor–major progression of the overture. Strikingly enough, it is the two outer sections of the opera that correspond to the traditional Don Giovanni story; the action ‘inside’ this frame is the unique contribution of Da Ponte and Mozart.
Shortly after the completion of Figaro, and hard on the heels of k503, the last of the concertos composed between 1784 and 1786, came the first of Mozart's ‘late’ symphonies, the Prague k504. While preserving much of the traditional D major brilliance, this work depends more on the arrangement and development of motifs than on thematic material; its surface is more varied, and more complex, than that of any previous orchestral work by him. The first movement in particular has a structure of great originality. The second-group idea starts as a chromatically inflected variant of the first, with a contrapuntal and sequential continuation, before a distinctive lyrical theme appears, while the development includes contrapuntal workings of various of these motifs and elides with the recapitulation, which fuses the two groups in unexpected ways. The variety of topics and figures alluded to, the integration of learned and galant counterpoint, and the rhetorical strategies of the Prague all make it a ‘difficult’ work, both conceptually and in terms of performance (Sisman, L1997). No less difficult are the final three symphonies, k543, 550 and 551, composed in the summer of 1788. k543, like the Prague, includes a long and at times sharply dissonant, tonally wayward introduction, the very sound of which – including clarinets but not oboes – is unprecedented for the time. This was, probably, the most hastily written of the three: the autograph is among Mozart's most careless, showing numerous mistakes of an elementary sort (instrumental lines are misidentified, necessary clefs and accidentals are omitted, and many parts are written on the wrong staves). More than the G minor or the ‘Jupiter’, the E major Symphony relies on instrumental doublings, although this, too, contributes to its weighty effect. No less remarkable is the enharmonic writing in the A major Andante con moto, where E is reinterpreted (in bars 92–3) as D , leading to an outburst in B minor. Similar enharmonic and chromatic writing is found in the development of the first movement of the G minor Symphony, which begins with the first-group material in F minor; in the finale, the development begins with a tonally disorientating flourish before embarking on a four-part contrapuntal working-out of the material, ending in the remote key of C minor, where the music pauses before being wrenched back to the tonic for the recapitulation. It is the finale of the ‘Jupiter’, however, that is best known, although its supposedly ‘fugal’ writing does not strictly merit that description; rather, it represents an example of musica combinatoria, for the various independent motifs heard earlier in the movement are brought together in the coda to create a fugato in five-part invertible counterpoint. In all three of these works, as well as the Prague, the disposition and handling of the orchestra are unique. Building on his experience with concerto and opera, Mozart brought to the symphony orchestra a new understanding of its possibilities both as a corporate body and as a collection of individuals. The textures and gestures range from the most grandiose and ‘symphonic’ to the most intimate and chamber music-like; the obbligato orchestral ensemble achieves its first perfection in these works.
Mozart's return to the symphony, no doubt related to the increasing prestige of the genre in the mid-1780s, may reflect a fundamental change in his persona as a composer and his ideas of self-presentation. The final triptych forms a natural conclusion, both stylistically and biographically, to this period. But it is also fair to identify a similarly fundamental change in the works composed from 1784 onwards: beginning with the Concerto k450, Mozart's music is significantly more complex, more expansive, larger in scale and more difficult than previously (that Mozart himself may have been in some way aware of this is documented perhaps by the thematic catalogue of his works that he began at this time; fig.6). This change is apparent from a comparison between the earlier three of the six quartets dedicated to Haydn, written in 1782–3, and the later three, written in 1784–5. Similarly, the Concerto k449, completed in February 1784 but, as the autograph shows, probably begun over a year earlier, is stylistically more akin to the less ambitious early Viennese concertos (k413–15) than to its successors.
During the 19th century, this division of Mozart's works into two stylistic phases, the first up to the end of 1783, the second from 1784 onwards (a division tacitly recognized by theorists, who almost exclusively cite the later works), fused with then current biographical views of the composer as a divinely inspired genius – by implication a paragon of balance, regularity, symmetry and logic – to endorse a view of the ‘Classical style’, and Mozart's relationship to it, that has persisted in writings on the composer until the end of the 20th century. As a result, several anomalous works, chief among them the final three symphonies and the C minor Concerto k491, are sometimes seen as representing a social rebellion, a ‘critical world view’, or Mozart's disillusionment with the Viennese musical public (see McClary, M1986, Kerman, M1991, and Subotnik, J1984, but in light of Powers, H1995). It is just as valid, however, to see these works as assertions of self-awareness. Mozart's plays of wit and his elaborate musical sophistication are not restricted to a handful of works: the abrupt shift from B major to B minor in the central episode of the finale of the Concerto k456 or the precipitous modulation from B to F minor in the first movement of the Trio k563, the introduction of new themes in the development sections of the quartets k458 and 464, the three simultaneous dances in the Act 1 finale of Don Giovanni and the over-elaborate, almost decadent, ornamentation in the slow movement of the Concerto k450 all testify to a style that in general is concerned less with thematic unity and regularity than with disjunction and surprise. The final apotheosis of the ‘Jupiter’ does not represent a revelation of the symphony's teleological goal, nor is it a comment on the social ‘norms’ implied by that formulation. Rather, it signifies a self-realization of ‘the intellectual force that activates the structure of the work … that side-steps the coherence of form’ (Chua, L1999). In this respect, it is not wayward, but typical of Mozart's music of the mid-1780s.
Mozart: (3) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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