Violin Concerto No.5

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Violin Concerto No.5 in A major

K219 • “Turkish”

Recommended recording

Curated by Maryna Boiko, Primephonic Curator

About this work

Each of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's successive violin concertos is longer and more epic than the one that preceded it, and by the time he reached the last of the authentic ones, the Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219 (the "Turkish" Concerto), Mozart had managed to create something very nearly in line with the instrumental concerto of the next century. Though the piece itself is clearly within the Classical chamber concerto tradition, its scale (better than 25 minutes, usually) and the degree of its technical demands mark the work as something new for the violin. Many pieces with equal or greater raw physical demands had already been composed by the time of the Concerto No. 5, but none of them has survived the test of time, and certainly none is as formidable a piece of music -- it is not without reason that this is the only one of the five to regularly receive as much attention from musicologists and historians as do the crown jewels of Mozart's piano concerto catalog. A warhorse of the student repertory and a staple of the professional's diet, this may well be the most frequently played violin concerto ever written.

The dramatic scope of the Concerto No. 5 is truly impressive: it is very nearly an opera in concerto guise, with the soloist as protagonist. Mozart no longer asks the soloist to be content merely to slip into the first movement after the orchestra has made the requisite exposition of the main material, but instead actually stops the Allegro aperto movement altogether at the point of the solo violin entry and provides a wonderfully rich six-measure Adagio. The Allegro aperto almost immediately begins anew, but the fact that the solo violin had the power to halt the entire ensemble at so unlikely a juncture remains fresh in the mind throughout the rest of the concerto -- and it is worth noting that even as that Allegro aperto opening music takes off again, the violinist supplies a completely new melody, a high-flying, electrifying one, to go along with it.

The Adagio is a superb movement, longer by a considerable span than the slow movements of the previous four concertos. The melody tumbles along sublimely, and in the central portion we are treated to one of the most astoundingly beautiful passages ever conceived.

Mozart turns again to the French Rondo finale that he used in the third and fourth violin concertos for his third movement (Tempo di menuetto). In a French Rondo, the basic movement is interrupted in mid-stride by a section that contrasts with it in every way, and it is from this contrasting section -- a wild, frenzied Allegro -- that the "Turkish" Concerto gets its nickname.