Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Mozart's Early Symphonies

Recently I was listening to a tape on the "Mozart Effect". On the tape, Don Campbell plays the first movement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony No. 1 in E Flat Major, K. 16.

This got me interested in Mozart's early work. His Symphony No. 1 was written when he was only eight years old in 1765. In all he wrote four symphonies that year. These are not staggeringly large compositions - the first symphony lasts around eight and a half minutes - but they show an amazing amount of talent for an eight year old. (His next symphony is only a little more than seven minutes long.) His first four are three movement pieces; after that he would compose four movement symphonies.

According to the biography Mozart by Marcia Davenport published in 1932 Mozart composed his first symphony when his musician father Leopold fell ill and silence was prescribed. Mozart used the quiet time to compose the work, with his sister by his side to "remind me that I give the horns plenty to do."

It's pretty hard to find recordings of his early symphonies. Usually you find them in collections of his complete symphonies, such as this one. At that link, however, you can hear parts of his early symphonies to get a taste of what they are like.


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