Symphony No. 29 in A major, K. 201

“Her Majesty the Empress was very amiable to us,” wrote Mozart’s father from Vienna in 1773, “but that was all.” Mozart’s third visit to the Austrian capital had the same purpose as most of his journeys: to secure some sort of appointment at court, and, failing that, to make some money. Like the other journeys, this one would end in disappointment.

Just before their return home to Salzburg, his father wrote: “That the money I had with me is now all gone to the D– you can well imagine…. Wolfgang has nothing to write as he has nothing to do, so is going round the room like a dog with fleas.”

After three months in Vienna, Mozart spent over a year in Salzburg before his next tour–to Munich for the production of his opera La Finta Giardiniera (K. 196). During that time, he wrote four symphonies, including K. 201, which he finished on April 6, 1774. He was eighteen years old.

Most of the commentators find a new maturity in Mozart’s symphonic style in the work. Joan Brown detects “none of the unsureness of youth.” Alfred Einstein writes: “The strings become wittier, the winds lose everything that is simply noisy, the figuration drops everything merely conventional.”

“Astonishing” is Georges de Saint-Foix’s word for K. 201, the third and last of Mozart’s A major symphonies, “a symphony that may be considered one of Mozart’s instrumental masterpieces, one in which he is already completely himself.”

Serenade for Strings in C major, Opus 48

The Serenade for Strings was written in just seven weeks during the fall of 1880, at the same time as the 1812 Overture. “My muse has been benevolent of late,” Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck. “I have written two long works very rapidly: the festive overture and a Serenade in four movements for string orchestra. The overture will be very noisy. I wrote it without much warmth or enthusiasm; and therefore it has no great artistic value. The Serenade, on the contrary, I wrote from an inward impulse; I felt it; and I venture to hope that this work is not without artistic qualities.”

Tchaikovsky again wrote to his patroness: “The first movement is my homage to Mozart: it is intended to be an imitation of his style, and I should be delighted if I thought I had in any way approached my model.”

Biographer John Warrack says “the opening movement used the strong opening descending scale figure again at the end, and the Waltz, justly one of his most famous, and Elegy both base their tunes, so different in effect, on a rising scale. The Finale makes use of two Russian themes. The second of them is again built out of a descending scale, and Tchaikovsky subjects it to delightfully varied treatment on each of its repetitions…. At the end, he brings back the descending scale theme of the very opening before blowing it away with a last statement of the second, boisterous Russian theme.”

— Notes by Charley Samson, copyright 2022.