About this Piece
Length: 8 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: December 14, 1967, Lawrence Foster conducting
This short, festive work was written in April of 1779, toward the end of that period Mozart referred to as his "degrading service" at the court of Hieronymous Colloredo, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg.
It is generally assumed that the G-major Symphony was intended as the overture to a dramatic work. Otto Jahn, an early Mozart biographer, surmised that it was written to preface the incidental music (K. 345) to the tragedy Thamos, König in Aegypten by one Tobias Gebler. The late Alfred Einstein was certain that it was the overture to the unfinished opera Zaide, K. 344, and went so far as to relate several of the Symphony's episodes to specific events in the opera.
Whatever the occasion for which it was written, the work does adhere to the common Italian opera overture layout of the time, a single, tripartite (fast-slow-fast) movement. It opens with repeated strong chords for the full orchestra with a soft response from the strings - a device Mozart was to employ again nine years later in the "Jupiter" Symphony. After a playful contrasting theme, at the point where we would normally hear a reprise of the opening theme, we are led directly into the slow movement with its pungent woodwind coloration. The tiny finale brings back the first movement's themes, but in reverse order. The "playful" theme is stated first, followed by the opening figure, which concludes the work in vigorous fanfare style.
It should be noted that Mozart's large orchestra here includes four horns rather than the two customary in a Classical symphony. Each pair of horns is crooked in a different key, thereby widening considerably the range of notes available to the instrument and lending to the work a particularly brilliant coloration and grand sonority.
- Herbert Glass, a former critic-columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is English-language annotator and editor for the Salzburg Festival. He is a contributor to numerous music periodicals in the U.S. and Europe