Fantasia in D minor, KV 397/385gPiano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, KV 595
Divertimento No. 5 in F for three basset-horns, KV 439b
Symphony no.40 in G minor, KV 550
Incompletion and imagination
Late or not-so-late style
Obscurity and rarity
A (second) canonical masterpiece
Driving cross rhythms in the Minuet make it abundantly clear that this is no ballroom dance; it is as serious as any Beethoven Scherzo. Even the relative relaxation of the Trio seeming strongly dependent on still greater musical complexity elsewhere. In his analysis of this movement, Leonard P. Meyer rightly pointed to the phenomenon of ‘relational richness,’ arguing that ‘such richness (or complexity) is in no way incompatible with simplicity of musical vocabulary and grammar’. In Mozart, they will more often than not prove to be two sides of the same coin. As in so much of this programme, woodwind play a crucial sinuous role, both in consoling and in potentialities of harmonic dissolution.
The finale again shows Mozart at his most harmonically radical yet formally assured, again not unlike its counterpart in the B-flat major Piano Concerto. From the opening ‘Mannheim rocket’ phrase, G minor is both insisted upon and lain open to contrary, dissolving tendencies. One passage in the development of breathtaking chromatic and rhythmic disjuncture delineates a sequence of eleven out of the twelve pitches in the chromatic scale, omitting only the tonic G. The omission is anything but accidental, for it only serves to heighten the necessity, the tragic inevitability, of return. Sonata forms are, for the moment, reinforced, by such extremity. It is not in this work, for all its radicalism, that Mozart elects to play with genre.
(This essay was first published as a programme note for the 2017 Salzburg Festival.)