Symphony No. 6

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No. 6 in F major


About this work

The Mozart family arrived back in Salzburg from their three and a half year tour of Europe at the end of November 1766. During its course Mozart had composed his first symphonies, three-movement works without a minuet and trio that owe a substantial debt to the Italianate galant style of the symphonies of Carl Friedrich Abel and Johann Christian Bach he had encountered in London. The ambitious Leopold, Mozart's father, was soon making further plans to bring to notice his extraordinary prodigies, Wolfgang and his sister Marianne (Nannerl). This time the destination was rather closer to home. The family had visited Vienna five years earlier, on which occasion the six year-old Mozart had appeared at the court of the Empress Maria Theresa. On September 11, 1767, the family set off for the capital, arriving there four days later. Four weeks later a smallpox epidemic broke out in Vienna, causing Leopold to hastily leave the city with his children for the safety of the Moravian city of Olomouc, a flight that also included a stay in Brno, where the brother of the Archbishop Schrattenbach of Salzburg had arranged a concert. Leopold's precautions were to no avail; both Mozart children contracted smallpox during the stay in Olomouc, and it may have been during the time he was convalescing that he completed the present symphony. The autograph score has "à Olmütz" crossed out and replaced by "à Vienne" in Leopold's hand, suggesting that the symphony was worked on in both places. Unlike all the symphonies Mozart had composed up to that time, K. 43 has four movements, making it his first truly Viennese symphony. Mozart expert Neal Zaslaw has pointed to the expansion of orchestral scale and scope in the works composed for Vienna (the same happened after the mature Mozart settled in Vienna in 1781). The F Major Symphony is no exception, since although it is scored for the standard orchestra of pairs of oboes and horns, and strings it is more ambitiously planned than the symphonies which precede it. The opening Allegro, in modified sonata form with only the lyrical secondary theme returning after a brief development, is followed by an Andante which borrows its theme from one of the numbers of the Latin serenata Apollo et Hyacinthus, K. 38, composed in Salzburg earlier in 1767. As was not uncommon practice in "slow" movements, the oboes are here replaced by flutes. The Minuet, less robust than some Mozart composed around this time, is succeeded by an Allegro finale in two-part (binary) form.