Eine kleine Gigue

About this work

The year 1789 was particularly fallow by Mozartian standards, producing from his pen only two substantial works, the String Quartet in D, K. 575 (the first of three quartets composed for the cello-playing King of Prussia) and the sublime Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581. During the spring, by this time in serious financial straits, Mozart undertook a concert trip to Germany in the hope of reviving his fortunes. Traveling with the music-loving Prince Carl Lichnowsky, a fellow-freemason who had offered him free passage as far as Berlin, Mozart first stopped in Prague, the going onwards to Dresden, Leipzig, and Potsdam. By May 8, Mozart and Lichnowsky were back in Leipzig, where he gave a concert on the 12th. Despite plans to leave Leipzig on May 16, Mozart was obviously still there the following day, on which occasion he noted in his thematic catalog (which he always carried with him): "17th May in Leipzig. A little Gigue for the piano in the commonplace book of Hr: Engel, court organist to the Elector of Saxony." This little piece (a revival of a Baroque dance form rarely used by Classical composers) runs to only thirty-eight bars, but is remarkable for the spare, angular quality of the writing. It is a piece, that for all its brevity, has an important place in Mozart's interest in the Baroque. Significantly it follows in the wake of his arrangement of Handel's Messiah, the last performance of which had taken place in Vienna the day before he set off on his German tour.

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