Mozart-Day 4.: Gran Partita

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Solti Hall

Mozart: Serenade in B-flat major for winds ('Gran Partita’), K.361            

Conductor: Gábor Takács-Nagy

Performers: Gerda Rózsa, Ella Dániel oboe, Csaba Klenyán , György Puha clarinet, Ákos Pápai, György Salamon basset horn, Zsófia Stefán, Anna Beleznai fagott, Bálint Tóth, Máté Hamar,  Zsolt Kocsis A., Hunor Varga kürt, Vilmos Buza nagybőgő

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Serenade in B-flat major(Gran Partita), K 361

The work is dated to 1780 and the last period of Mozart’s residence in Salzburg by Ludwig von Köchel, the first compiler of Mozart’s works catalogue. This categorization is flatly contradicted by the appearance of the clarinets and even more so the rare basset horns in the full score: at that time Mozart didn’t have access to these instruments in Salzburg. Alfred Einstein proposed a later chronology, the spring or summer of 1781, that is, in the earliest months of Mozart’s residence in Vienna. However, the most recent research suggests that the B-flat major serenade is an even later composition than this.

The ‘Gran Partita’ phrase refers to the suite-like structure, the seven movements following on one after the other, and perhaps the greater magnitude of the piece. It is interesting to see that to a certain extent Mozart reached back to the themes of his other works for these movements: for example, to a childhood composition in the closing rondo of the seventh movement, that is, the four-hand Piano Sonata in C major written in London in 1765 when he was just nine. The sixth, variation movement of the Serenade in B-flat major is virtually the same as the Andantino of the Flute Quartet in C major composed in Mannheim, but it is not possible to say with certainty that the flute quartet was written earlier.

The need for variety is an important consideration in such an extensive composition with so many movements. The sequence of the seven movements already reflects the principle of character diversity: the opening allegro is followed by the minuet movement, then comes the adagio, then a second minuet; this is followed by another slow movement, and then a variation andante transposed from the flute quartet, and finally a quick closing rondo. Beside this, the multiple-trio minuets also satisfy the principle of contrast and variety: these typically counted among the serenade- and divertimento-genre movement types.

We find a surprising contrast effect in the fifth movement Adagio in the key of E-flat major. With its rapid tempo, burlesque-like quickening bassoon bases and ‘Turkish march’ tone, the Allegretto in C minor appears out of the blue, questioning the elegiac devotion of the Adagio.