Adagio & Fugue

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Adagio & Fugue in C minor

K546

About this work

The fugue of this pair was originally composed for keyboard duet (K. 426) in 1783, a period during which Mozart was greatly interested in studying and learning from the contrapuntal techniques of Bach and Handel. In 1788, Mozart arranged this austere fugue for string orchestra, prefacing it with what he termed in his thematic catalog "a brief Adagio" whose profundity of utterance belies its comparative brevity. In its two-part structure, the work belongs to the tradition of Viennese church sonatas found in the works of such composers as Fux and Tuma. Quite why Mozart returned to his earlier fugue is not clear, and no practical purpose for the new work is known. It is, however, perhaps worth recalling that the summer of 1788 witnessed the composition of the three great final symphonies, No. 39 in E flat, K. 543, No. 40 in G minor, K. 550, and No. 41 in C, "Jupiter," K. 551 (K. 546 was entered in Mozart's catalog on June 22, the same day as the E flat symphony). Perhaps it would not be too far-fetched to link the orchestration of the fugue with the composition of the greatest of all Mozart's contrapuntal essays, the Finale of the Jupiter Symphony.

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