Symphony No. 27

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No. 27 in G major

K161b, K199

About this work

The date of completion Mozart inscribed on his manuscript of the Symphony in G major, K. 199, is not clear, but it is either April 10 or 16, 1773. The work is one of a group of four symphonies Mozart composed between March 30 and May 19, 1773, only two weeks after returning to Salzburg from performances of his opera Lucio Silla in Milan, and two months before a visit to Vienna. The works may have been conceived as "audition" pieces for the court in Vienna. All four are in three movements, reverting to the pre-Haydn, Italian overture format of the symphony, probably reflecting Mozart's recent musical experiences in Italy. Another quality of Italian practice appears in the somewhat mechanical use of figurations, particularly in the fast movements.

The Symphony No. 27 in G major, K. 199, is scored for two flutes, two horns, strings, and most likely bassoon. The choice of flutes instead of oboes is unusual and contributes to an overall lighter sound than other symphonies composed at this time.

A sparkling, Haydnesque Allegro, in sonata form, opens the symphony. The brisk first theme, initiated by the first violins, gives way to a transition to the dominant, after which Mozart accompanies the highly contrasting secondary theme with the opening violin figure from the first theme. Repeated segments are subtly varied in the exposition. Despite the Viennese details, the feel of the movement is of Italian symphonic composition, with its typical string figurations. It is more like a movement from one of Mozart's symphonies of the 1760s than those of the early 1770s.

Elegance permeates the middle movement, an Andante grazioso. Here, Mozart's lyricism comes to the fore, momentarily eschewing the repetitive figurations of the first movement. Unlike the Allegro, the Andante looks forward to Mozart's later work. Details such as the isolated octave leaps that create a bridge from the end of the exposition to the development, the sighing, chromatic appoggiaturas and a subtle modulation to the dominant are the marks of a maturing composer.

The concluding Presto bursts with blithe, youthful energy. Beginning with only the violins, the movement becomes contrapuntal at various moments. The texture is much like that of a string quartet in that the writing, in spite of the flutes and horns, is generally in four parts.