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Mozart: C-minor Serenade, K. 388

Please see today's blog post from Dave Wacyk, one of our graduate conducting students, who will be conducting the first two movements of the Mozart C Minor Serenade on our next concert on November 5. Enjoy!

1781-1784 was a productive year for Mozart’s contribution of repertoire for winds. It was during this time that he wrote his Serenade in C-minor. In 1782 Emperor Joseph II (who loved the sound of wind instruments) set forth to create his Kaiserlich-Königliche Harmonie, or Imperial-Royal Harmonie. "Harmonie" refers to a group of wind instruments: doubled oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns. By this time, the practice of nobles creating their own court wind ensemble was standard. The C-minor Serenade, K. 388 was written the same year for another nobleman, Prince Liechtenstein.

I am thrilled that I will be conducting the first two movements of Mozart’s Serenade in C-minor, and I look forward to meeting and working with members of this rotation for UMWO. Below is an excerpt from program notes by Brian K. Doyle taken from the CBDNA website-pertaining to the history of the piece and the first two movements.

Mozart left no indication of the compositional circumstances surrounding K.388. As musicologist Alfred Einstein noted, "we know nothing about the occasion, nothing about the person who commissioned it, nothing about whether this client desired so explosive a serenade or whether that is simply what poured from Mozart's soul." However, scholar Robert W. Gutman posits that the Serenade in C-Minor, in all likelihood too serious for Emperor Joseph's tastes, might have been intended for Prince Alois Joseph Liechtenstein, a musical connoisseur, who ruled his lands by proxy while living in Vienna.

Without preamble, Mozart launches into the opening movement with dramatic flair. The phrases of the first key area of this sonata form are closely argued, creating an almost neurotic shift in emotional quality which finds resolution only as the transition to the second key area commences. The second key area, in Eb major, contains a singular, more restive oboe theme, augmented by the horn. The fiery debate is re-established during the transition to the close, finding conclusive rest in the final cadence of the exposition. The brief development makes use of canon which traverses the keys of Bb and Eb major as well as G minor before returning to C minor tonic. In the recapitulation, the transition is elongated allowing for a C minor second theme, transforming the once restive oboe melody into something far more brooding in nature.

The second movement, a sonata form in 3/8, has a gracious and delicate affect. The Eb major theme in the clarinets contains suspensions reminiscent of the more gentle phrases in the first key area of the previous movement. The second theme, especially in its embellished repetition, is the most light-hearted melody of the work, with the possible exception of the last variation of the finale. In the transition to the close of the exposition, the murmuring clarinets herald the return to the nocturne-like atmosphere while the oboe continues the melody. The development unfolds as a series of "unsuccessful" attempts to return to the tonic theme, attaining Eb major only upon the fourth try.

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