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About this Piece

Composed: 1773
Length: c. 18 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 horns, and strings

First LA Phil performances

Mozart composed symphonies through almost a quarter-century of great change in the genre, as it morphed from entertainments grounded in serenades and opera overtures to serious art works that were the principal attraction of subscription concerts. In the spring of 1773 and a couple of months back in Salzburg after his second trip to Italy, the 17-year-old composer wrote a handful of symphonies, most of which reveal elements of this broader transition as well as Mozart's own development.

This Symphony in G is an ambivalent work in some ways. Overall, it is in the older, Italianate style of overture-oriented symphonies three movements, without a minuet and trio, and very basic employment for limited winds. But the briskly dancing opening is a compact sonata form, though its short development section is more a dramatic transition than a rigorous working out of motivic ideas.

The second movement is very much an Italian opera serenade, the violins singing sweetly prominently doubled and echoed by the flutes over the plucked lower strings. But it too echoes sonata principles of recapitulation and tonal resolution. Mozart ends the “development” section with a little joke, the cellos and basses with run-on octaves, and an embarrassed pause before the violins launch the recapitulation. (He reprises the joke at the end, this time in the violins.)

For his Finale, Mozart stirs some Northern counterpoint into the Italian mix, with a motif derived from the first movement. But it is really a sort of faux fugue, two-part polyphony that suggests more than it delivers and is quick to slip into a sly jig. Not surprising in context, it too is a sonata form of sorts, with a blithe coda.

— John Henken