"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Music Tuesday: Mozart, Violin Concerto No. 5, 3rd Movement

I love this Violin Concerto. I know there are others that are ranked greater. Mozart composed his violin concertos when he was young, this his last at 19 years old. All five are bright and vivacious and written in a major key. This one does have its own Wikipedia entry.

Its full title is Violin Concerto No. 5, K. 219 "Turkish.”  The nickname “Turkish” comes from the third movement’s deviation from a minuet into an exotic melody associated with Turkish music, though not necessarily truly from Turkey.

I'm not going to post the entire concerto, just the third movement.  That’s where the Turkish excursion takes place.  I think it transforms the entire last movement.  The rondo form is based on a returning melody alternating with a cadenza.  This third movement uses a very stately minuet as its rondo melody, and then at about 3:45 transitions into the Turkish section, and that lasts for two and a quarter minutes, returning da capo to the minuet.

Here’s what the program notes from the Toronto Symphony says about this third movement. 

The finale is an urbane minuet that unfolds, at first, in a perfectly rondo form. But just when the end seems nigh, Mozart interpolates an episode even more astonishing than the Adagio in the first movement: a hundred and thirty bars of the sort of tongue-in-cheek “Turkish” music he used in works like The Abduction from the Seraglio. All of the conventional building-blocks of eighteenth-century “Turkish”music are here: the key of A minor, march-like 2/4 time, drone basses, “gypsy” violin writing, leaping themes, pervasive chromaticism, “exotic” melodic intervals like the augmented second, repeated notes, frequent ornamentation, and grotesque, and percussive scoring. This episode has a handful of melodies of its own, several borrowed from folk music, arranged to form a separate little movement—a rondo within the rondo. When it’s over, the minuet returns to complete its appointed rounds, and like the first movement the finale ends quietly, wittily, with a little arpeggio decorated with grace notes—a wink and a smile.

Programme Note by Kevin Bazzana © 2013

Yes, “rondo within a rondo” is the perfect way to describe it.  Besides the structural peculiarity, what really gets me is the sharp contrast between a reserved 18th century European classism with an exotic, exuberant, and wild foreignism. 

Here is the third movement with Gideon Kremer (soloist), Nicholas Harnoncourt (conductor), Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra.  Listen for the transition at just after 3:45, and after listening to the entire movement, try to answer this question: Is the "Turkish" excursion integral to the entire piece or does it sound like two separate pieces yoked together?


If you go to Youtube you’ll be able to find both the first and second movements.  If you have a half hour, listen to all three movements in succession as meant to be heard.  The recording I own is with ItzhakPerlman (soloist), James Levine (conductor), and also with the Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra and I highly recommend it.
So does it sound integral?  I think it does.


  1. I do think it sounds integral. No matter how "wild" or "foreign" that section, it still sounds like Mozart to me. It's like he can't hide, no matter what he writes, lol.

    the violinist is a little disconcerting to watch. that's just me, I guess. I couldn't stop thinking he looked liked an aged Napoleon Dynamite dancing around. eeek.

    Mozart to me is magical to play, with the exception of the bassoon concerto I had to play for a college recital. Hated it. But orchestral pieces, or woodwind quintet -- so much fun! Beethoven as well.

  2. Oh and sorry for the multiple comments, but I couldn't help think of this:

  3. Wow, loved the Brubeck. I wish I knew his work better. That does seem like it mirors the Mozart I selected. I can't put my finger on it but they do seem related.

    Yeah Gideon Kremer is disconcerting to watch. Probably because he's not that attractive...lol. I wanted to pick someone easier on the eyes, like Hillery hahn or Anne Sophie Mutter, but no one attractive played this on youtube. But I have to say Kremer is an excellent violinist.

    1. Oh yes, absolutely. Just need to close the eyes...:)