I’m feeling kind of ill today, so I’m looking forward to listening to Mozart. This is his “Paris” symphony, which he wrote while touring in Paris at the age of 22. Wait… Mozart had written 31 symphonies by the time he was 22? I know they were shorter then, but wow.
I’m listening to Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker. I’m only listening to the Andantino version of the second movement (he wrote several).
Couldn’t find a YouTube video of this specific recording.
Symphony 31 in D Major K. 297 “Paris”
1. Allegro assai
- Huh. What to even write about this movement?
- Ok, this movement feels like an introduction that never ends. It begins in forte with triumphant chords with the rhythm getting progressively subdivided.
- Then the scales start. They’re almost all ascending and fast, and while they do telegraph the harmony, they seem almost like musical fireworks. (Ah yea, this is a version of the “Mannheim rocket”, one of the musical techniques developed in the early Classical Period).
- There are almost no real melodies to speak of. There are little turning motives, but they don’t really get developed.
- Woodwinds have very simple parts, often playing light chords in the background.
- Honestly, I bet this is a crowd pleaser at the right moment, but if you’re looking for much musical nuance or evidence of Mozart the musical genius, then this movement doesn’t quite provide it. At least after my first concentrated listening. Perhaps my opinion will change.
- Much scales, such rocket.
- Much more gentle.
- Some fun chromaticism.
- Some tasty appoggiaturas.
- The use of grace notes remind me of some of his music during the wedding in Le nozze di Figaro.
- Again, there’s lots of very pleasant music here. I especially enjoy when it modulates to minor just because it shows these motives in a new light. But I’m not seeing Mozart the melodist or the expert developer. A lot of the melodies seem abbreviated and a little awkward (the staccato endings, for example).
- Which is not to say anything of the musicians playing and Maestro Abbado. This recording of this particular movement is excellent and instructive on how to phrase Mozart. Listen to the endings of phrases, or how the orchestra moves as one. Look at the sheet music and see how much is written vs. unspoken and yet accomplished. As a musicians, it’s a real lesson to hear that.
- Yea, more of the same.
- Very boisterous. I actually like this better than the first movement, but it’s another example of big league loud/soft contrast, but mostly loud. Some of the scale passages he gives to the strings are exciting, and near the end when the whole orchestra plays nearly in total unison, that is a cool effect. But it does feel like a climax that hasn’t entirely been earned.
Well, I think you know how I feel about this piece after my initial listen through. I have to wonder if he was composing for a very specific taste in Paris, and I suppose I’ll only find out by listening to the preceding and following symphonies to get a better sense of the context of this work in his development.
In any case, I look forward to listening to the other symphonies on this recording, because the performers are excellent.
Until next time.