Horn Concerto No.4

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Horn Concerto No.4 in Eb major


About this work

The only one of Mozart's four concertos to be included in his thematic catalog, K. 495 was entered on June 26, 1786, a few weeks after the first performances of Le nozze di Figaro. Such a date makes it, by currently prevailing chronology, the second in order of composition. Like the other three horn concertos, it was composed for his old friend Joseph Leutgeb (1732-1811), who had moved to Vienna from Salzburg (where he was member of the court orchestra) in 1777, four years before Mozart. Mozart described the concerto in his entry as being composed for Waldhorn (literally "woods or forest horn"), an alternative name for the French horn that reminds us of the instrument's associations with hunting. The partially incomplete score is notated in four different colors of ink, an idea that has generally been supposed to be another of the jokes Mozart made at the expense of Leutgeb. More recently it has been suggested (in the notes accompanying the New Mozart Edition) that the use of varying colors serves the purpose of coded instructions denoting refinements of dynamics and nuance. In common with all four concertos, the solo part contains many passages that present a considerable challenge to players on the natural (valveless) horn. Among these was the use of so-called "stopped notes," a procedure that involved the player inserting his right hand into the bell to enable him to play notes otherwise unavailable on the horns of the day. Mozart's horn concertos all include such stopped notes, in addition to bass notes obtained by the technique known as "overblowing," another skill developed by Leutgeb. Like K. 417, the first of the Leutgeb concertos (and to which it bears a certain resemblance), K. 495 is scored for two horns, two oboes, and strings, and cast in three movements: Allegro maestoso, Romance, and Rondo.