Sunday Concert: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K 219, Turkish

Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219,  is the last violin concerto he ´wrote. He wrote it originally for his own use but re-worked it in favour of his friend the Neapolitan violin virtuoso Antonio Brunetti who succeeded  Mozart as concertmaster the following year after one Mozart fell out with his employer Prince-Archbishop Colloredo. Mozart not only regarded Brunetti as a friend he admired him as a musician. The admiration was mutual Brunetti when he heard Mozart’s violin playing described as being merely "passable" burst out:

"Cosa? Cazzo! Se suonava tutto! Questo era del Principe un puntiglio mal inteso, col suo proprio danno".

"What? Nonsense! Why, he could play anything! That was a mistaken idea the Prince persisted in, to his own loss".

From a musicological point of view K 219 because not only is it is a re-worked piece upon which Mozart plainly took pains so that it would be worthy of his friend but also because it’s one of those pieces that has a tempo marking "Allegro aperto" which, so far as I know, was invented by and is unique to Mozart. (The word "aperto" when you translate it from Italian means literally an "open"  or "frank" so we know that Mozart wanted it played in a frank and forthright manner.)1

Musically it’s his ne plus ultra for the genre with a warmth and serenity of the Adagio added to a wonderful blending of playfulness and tenderness in the theme of the last movement that is entirely delightful, but I’m getting ahead of  myself. There are three movements:

  1. Allegro aperto – Adagio – Allegro aperto
  2. Adagio
  3. Rondeau: Tempo di minuetto

The first movement (Allegro aperto) introduces us to the idea of an instrumental equivalent of an aria for a prima donna. The melody which consists of a set of clear and rather cheerful themes is played by the orchestra are the aria and the soloist’s marvellously expressive entry with  its musical surprise is analogous to the sort of bravura singing one would expect from a prima donna at the height of her powers. The development section is quite short, and the recapitulation is typical of the young Mozart.

The second movement (Adagio) is a two-part movement very melodious and with a charming simplicity which has taxed the skill of many a talented soloist who have found to their chargrin that is surprisingly difficult to play smoothly – when they do manage to bring it off it’s a piece of music so beautiful that the word "sublime" comes to mind.

The third and final movement (Rondeau: Tempo di minuetto) is a charming, cheerful, and sunny concluding movement during which the minuet theme is  repeated no less than seven times to my mind it’s sufficiently beautiful that it could carry the entire movement without growing stale but Mozart guards against even the possibility of ennui by introducing a "Turkish" contradanse with a vigorous Allegro theme in A minor that interrupts and enlivens that placidity of the movement. Enjoy :-).2

mfi


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219
I. Allegro aperto 00:00
II. Adagio 10:10
III. Rondeau: Tempo di minuetto 20:15
Hilary Hahn
Paavo Järvi: The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

Video Source: Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5 Hilary Hahn – YouTube. Published on Jul 17, 2015 by Classical Music For You.

Notes:

  1. Allegro aperto  is so far as I know invented by Mozart and is unique to him. It’s true that it’s been found in the tempo markings in music by both Krommer and Cartellieri but those markings were added later not by the composers themselves. Even within Mozart’s compositions Allegro aperto is a rare tempo marking existing only Ascanio in Alba K 111 andLa Betulia liberata K 118, both of which are very early pieces, it’s also found in  the first movements of his two of his Keyboard Concertos in B-flat major K 238 and C major K 246, both of which are from 1776 and his Oboe Concerto of 1777 which he revised in 1778 into his Flute Concerto No. 2, K 314, finally it is also found in the “Laudamus te” of his C minor Mass K 427. – mfi.
  2. James M. Keller wrote a superb introductory essay on this piece which goes into considerably more detail than I have for the San Francisco Symphony Youth it can be found here: San Francisco Symphony – MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, Turkish – mfi.

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