The film Amadeus featured one of the movements from this much larger work, and now I’m going to take the time to actually listen to that entire work.
I’ll be listening to the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields led by Sir Neville Marriner.
Serenade in B Flat K. 361 “Gran Partita”
1. Largo – Molto Allegro
- Largo: Lots of syncopation.
- There’s kind of a dialog between the oboe and clarinet.
- Allegro: There’s a lot of the parallel harmony writing that has made me such a fan of Mozart’s wind writing elsewhere.
- There are no flutes here, so the sound is very reedy. The horns and string bass do add some roundness to the overall sound.
- This is another great headphones piece. It’s great hearing the pairs of players in stereo space.
2. Menuetto (Allegretto)
- The minuet section is made up of contrasting statements. The contrast is mostly in the dynamics, but there are some articulation changes. My sense was that the double reeds tend to be dominant during the more boisterous moments, while the single reeds take over more during the quieter moments.
- The trio is a series of nice moments with the clarinets and basset horn. The variety of articulations really show off the variety of tonal colors available here.
- Second trio uses all the instruments, but it’s definitely oboe dominant.
- Nice transition point between oboe and clarinet.
- Bassoon accompaniment is very present here. Big contrast.
- Amadeus movement.
- Syncopation accompaniment.
- That oboe line is lovely. I can see why it was called out.
- The swelling and receding dynamics are subtle but provide movement.
- This syncopated line gives it a bouncy rhythmic feel despite the adagio marking and otherwise lyrical melodies.
- The length of musical intention here is so long. Musical ideas take their time to develop.
- There are several layers happening at once, so it can be overwhelming. There are the solo lines being traded between the oboe and clarinet and basset horn. Then there’s the syncopated pulse from most of the other wind players. And then there’s the arpeggio from the bass and bassoons and sustained tones from the horns. There’s a lot of activity.
4. Menuetto (Allegretto)
- Charming minuet melody.
- Minor key trio section. Quasi dramatic, but I get more sexy vibe than other minor-key associated feelings.
- Second trio is a whirling waltz with a legato yet active melody from the oboe and clarinet.
- Workmanlike movement. Charming and pleasant.
5. Romanze (Adagio – Allegretto – Adagio)
- Also an adagio moment, but it’s much less active. Even when the pulsing bassoon starts.
- Great phrases beginning with solo clarinet and horns, adding oboe and then a crescendo to the arrival of the full group (especially that low note from the bass).
- Allegretto is an immediate contrast. In minor. Bassoon is heavily featured along with the clarinets.
- This movement just has a lot of very interesting moments.
- The coda – I believe – is very restrained dynamically but has a pulsing bass. Sounds lightly anxious as the final cadences approach.
6. Thema con 6 Variazioni (Andante)
- Theme and variations are fun.
- Clarinet is dominant melody-giver.
- Oboe gets the first variation. Not too wildly different.
- Third variation gets a cool moment where the clarinet introduces a line, followed by the horn and subsequently other instruments. Much more activity from accompanying instruments.
- Fourth variation in minor. Humorously dark. The basset horn and clarinet arpeggios sound lighthearted to me.
- Fifth variation sounds like a different piece entirely. Much sparser. Very beautiful.
- Ha. There are a few measures where the bass just plays a super chunky BOOM chuk chuk chuk line. Sounds great.
- And the last variation is in 3? Why not?
- Lots of activity from the main solo instruments.
7. Finale (Molto Allegro)
- Unison clarinet and oboe melody. Nice to hear them together.
- In Rondo form (ABACA if I heard it right, and rondo movements always require a second listen), and it’s breezing by.
- Each wind instrument gets moments where they’re emphasized. The bassoon solo is especially noteworthy due to the subtle clarinet accompaniment.
Cool piece all around. Like yesterday, this is a case where the instrumentation is novel in and of itself. The compositional choices are compelling though.
One overriding idea that I caught was a kind of tension between the oboe and clarinet as if the piece has them playing off of one another, and only at the end do they play their melodies together. At many points there are mini instrument groups of shifting composition, which are then answered by either the entire ensemble or by other mini group. The clarinets and basset horns are one such mini group.
Anyway, that’s a very compelling piece. Until next time.