Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Serenade No. 10 in B-flat major, K. 361 “Gran Partita”

April 23, 2017


Published on Oct 27, 2015

– Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 — 5 December 1791)
– Performers:
Oboe – Stephen Taylor (principal) & Melanie Field
Clarinet – William Blount (principal) & Daniel Olsen
Bassett Horn – Gary Koch (principal) & Mitchell Weiss
Horn – Stewart Rose (principal), Scott Temple, William Purvis, and Russell Rizner
Bassoon – Dennis Godburn (principal) & Marc Goldberg
String Bass – John Feeney
– Conductor: Sir Charles Mackerras
– Year of recording: 1994

Serenade No. 10 for winds in B flat major (“Gran Partita”), K. 361 (K. 370a), written in 1781.

00:00 – I. Largo. Molto Allegro
09:18 – II. Menuetto – Trio I – Trio II
19:35 – III. Adagio
25:06 – IV. Menuetto. Allegretto – Trio I – Trio II
30:28 – V. Romance. Adagio – Allegretto – Adagio
37:49 – VI. Tema con Variazioni
47:22 – VII. Finale. Molto Allegro

Mozart’s 10th Serenade for winds is scored for thirteen instruments (twelve winds and string bass). The piece was probably composed in 1781 or 1782 and is often known by the subtitle “Gran Partita”, though the title is a misspelling and not from Mozart’s hand.

– The opening movement begins with a slow introduction in B flat major in which tutti syncopated rhythms are set in opposition to solo passages for clarinet and oboe. This leads into the Allegro moderato, which is a monothematic sonata form. The first theme of the exposition opens, originally presented in B flat major in the clarinets, later returns in F major in the basset horns and oboes in a modified form as the second theme. This theme continues to be explored in the development and returns in the recapitulation, this time in B flat major both times.

– The second movement is a minuet featuring two contrasting trio sections. The minuet section is in B flat major and uses all the instruments extensively. The first trio is in E-flat major and employs only the clarinets and basset horns. This section leads into a repeat of the minuet section. The second trio section is in the relative minor, G minor, and extensively uses the solo oboe, basset horn and bassoon.

– The third movement, described by Goodwin as “virtually an ‘operatic’ ensemble of passionate feeling and sensuous warmth”, marked Adagio, is in E flat major. A syncopated pulse occurs almost throughout the movement while solo lines alternate between the solo oboe, clarinet and basset horn.

– The fourth movement is a second minuet; like the second movement, it has two trio sections. The fast, staccato minuet section is in B flat major. The first trio, by contrast, has fewer staccato notes and is in the parallel minor, B-flat minor. After the minuet section is repeated, the second trio is played. This section is in F major and is largely legato.

– The fifth movement, labeled Romance, returns to the slow tempo and E flat major tonality of the third movement. The movement begins and ends with an Adagio section in the tonic and in triple meter with many long notes in the melody. Contrasting with these sections is an Allegretto section between them, which is in C minor and features constant pulse in the bassoons.

– The sixth movement is a set of six variations on an andante theme in B flat major. The theme is presented primarily by the solo clarinet. The variations make use of various rhythmic motives and often feature solo instruments; for example, the first variation features the solo oboe. Unlike the other variations, all of which are in B flat major, the fourth variation is in B flat minor. The last two variations are in different tempos from the rest of the movement: the fifth is marked Adagio, while the sixth is marked Allegretto. The last variation is also in triple meter, in contrast with the other variations, which are in duple meter. This movement, without variation three, was adapted by Mozart as the second movement of the Flute Quartet in C major (K. 285b).

– The seventh and last movement is a rondo. The movement employs many tutti passages in which the oboes and clarinets play in unison, particularly in the rondo theme. The episodes between the returns of the theme feature a greater degree of interplay between the instruments.

There is a famous reference to this piece in the film “Amadeus” (Milos Forman 1984). Salieri’s first encounter with Mozart is at a performance of this piece, where he listens to it and is overwhelmed. This is his fantastic quote on the 3rd movement (Adagio): “On the page it looked nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse – bassoons and basset horns – like a rusty squeezebox. Then suddenly – high above it – an oboe, a single note, hanging there unwavering, till a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was a music I’d never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing, it had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the very voice of God.”