By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Composed in 1775
The fifth concerto for violin, K. 219, is one of a series of great works for Mozart’s “other” instrument. We associate Mozart, and rightly so, with the keyboard. But Mozart’s skills on the violin were quite accomplished. Scholars believe Mozart performed his own violin concertos.
This concerto was written in 1775, while Mozart was in his less-than-happy tenure in his home town of Salzburg. This period of Mozart’s output saw early successes in opera and a massive output of concertos — all five recognized violin concertos were written in 1775, in addition to the first of the great piano concertos.
The concerto begins with a fast orchestral introduction. The violin solo, however, enters in a more Haydn-esque, adagio tempo. What is unusual is that not only is the tempo momentarily changed, as if the violin solo entered suspended in time, but instead of the grand, pompous slow introductions of Haydn, this is almost like inserting a slow concerto movement right into the beginning of the piece. Everything picks up again quickly, and the violin solo plays a new theme, overlaid exactly on the material of the first orchestral introduction. This ability of Mozart’s reminds the listener of Bach, where the composer can have a complete musical idea or create an entire pre-existing movement, then add still another layer of music to this music, the final product working just as well as the original. (Mozart dramatically demonstrated this concept in his own arrangement of Handel’s Messiah.)
The slow movement of this concerto contains impossibly genial, nearly polyphonic textures and harmonic treatments, all within a framework of seemingly effortless, sublime “galant” grace.
The third movement carries the idea of sections with contrasting moods and tempi further. The easy triple meter gives way to an “alla turca” section, which some believe to be actually more Hungarian-inspired than Turkish.