When he appointed the 16-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as concert master in his orchestra, at an annual salary of 150 gulden on August 21st 1772 the archbishop of Salzburg (Colloredo) made a fabuluous bargain. Over the following years Mozart produced many compositions for him including the majority of his concertante works for violin and orchestra such as the the Violin Concerto in B flat, K.207 (1773), the Concertone for two violins, oboe, cello and orchestra, K.190 (1774), and no less than four violin concertos – in D, K.211; in G, K.216; in D, K.218; and in A, K.219; in 1775. Four years later during late summer or early autumn of 1779 he wrote the final work the sublime Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, K.364.
It's a remarkable work which was probably composed for a special occasion and which – unusually for the genre is serious rather than lighthearted in nature. For me it's one of the (many!) highlights of Mozart's compositions apart from its scale which symphonic I love how it's also a full-blooded double concerto with a feel that is almost operatic. As you listen you here this 'operatic' element in how Mozart treats the soloists as though they were singers in a scene from an opera – the slow movement in particular could very easily be a duet, imagine it set to words, could it not easily be from one of his operas? It's also the only one that Mozart composed for the viola an instrument which he himself played and loved. Only a musical genius who really knew his instrument would have thought to produce the lovely transparent sound which so characterises the viola playing in the piece and which mixes so well with the violin by require the viola soloist to tune his instrument half a tone higher (this is the technique called scordatura. – mfi) Using this technique also means that the violinisy can use open strings which lifts the sound of his instrument above that of the orchestra. It's played below by Maxim Vengerov and Robert Kabara with the Sinfonietta Cracovia. Enjoy :-).
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