In 1775, between April and December, Mozart composed five violin concerti (and possibly two more) which, along with the Concertone for Two Violins and Orchestra and the Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola, collectively represent his entire output for violin in this genre. It is speculated that these concertos were composed as a group intended for Antonio Brunetti, an Italian violinist from the Salzburg orchestra.
A product of his early years, the violin concertos owe much to the style of Pietro Nardini, a violinist/composer whom Mozart’s father much admired. The first two in particular reveal a strong affinity with pre-classical traditions; however, in the course of the composer’s development and his determination to leave behind traditions that had already begun to stagnate, Mozart succeeded in finding not only himself, but also new means of expression fully in keeping with the spirit of the time.
The advance in quality of the last three violin concerti (in G major, D major, and A major respectively) over the first two indicates that what would undoubtedly have taken others years to accomplish was brought about by Mozart within months. The abundance of melody and joyous cantabile phrasing which we find in the Violin Concerto in A major could perhaps be expected from the hand of a genius of 19. The warmth of sentiment and serenity of the Adagio added to the wonderful blending of playfulness and tenderness in the theme of the last movement, however, are the product of a depth of soul which one would hardly expect to find in a person so young.
Musicologist Abraham Veinus wrote that the Violin Concerto in A major “opens with a kind of spacious simplicity which Mozart, unlike any other composer, seems to manage almost inadvertently.” The first movement is built on the plan of an aria with bravura passages developed out of the chief motives. It begins with a joyous Allegro aperto with the orchestra playing the clear cheerful themes of the movement. When the solo violin enters, it unexpectedly introduces a short expressive Adagio, full of tender yearning, before it takes up the Allegro theme, proceeding with the rest of the exposition. The development section is short, and the recapitulation is characteristic.
The sublimely beautiful Adagio is a melodious two-part movement of charming simplicity, requiring smooth performance. The third movement, Tempo di menuetto, has the form of a rondo with a mood of cheer throughout. In this unusual rondo, the ingratiating minuet theme is repeated seven times. Contrast is found in the fiery contradanse of a “Turkish” flavor, with a spirited Allegro theme in A minor which interrupts the placid flow of the movement.
Veinus sums up the mood of the entire Concerto by saying, “There is something magnificently childlike about this concerto, a kind of innocent grandeur, illuminated by flashes of wit, good humor, and moments of the most immaculate lyrical poetry.”
Program notes edited by Ileen Zovluck, January 2000 (courtesy of Columbia Artists Management).