Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No.3 in G major, K.216

The Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216, is dated September 12th, 1775.  Correspondence between Wolfgang and Leopold documents two performances of the work. One by Amadeus himself, who describes its performance at an informal concert in a monastery near Augsburg: ‘During the dinner I played my Strasbourg Concerto, which ran smoothly. Everyone praised my beautiful pure tone’. The other documented performance was by the virtuoso Italian violinist Antonio Brunetti (Mozart’s colleague in the Salzburg Chapel, who took his place as concertmaster after his departure). Leopold wrote to his son: I was at a performance on Saturday. As there was a French epilogue, Brunetti had to play a concerto while the actors were changing, and he played your Strasbourg Concerto most superbly. But he sometimes played the wrong notes in the two allegros, and once he failed in one of the cadenzas.” Nowhere, however, is there any mention of a first performance. It may reasonably be assumed that Mozart wrote the work for himself.

The concerto is nicknamed “Strasbourg” not because of any special connection with that city, but because of the Alsatian motive in the third movement’s finale. The piece is in three movements. It begins with a brilliant allegro in sonata form with vivid and plastic dialogues between soloist and orchestra. In this movement Amadeus uses a theme from his opera Il rè pastore (performed a few months earlier that year in Salzburg). He did so not because he lacked inventiveness, but for the sake of the theme itself, which sounds more charming with the voice of the violin. The second movement is a beautiful Adagio with a dominant monologue by soloist. “As if dropped from the sky,” Alfred Einstein, a Mozart researcher, would call it. In the ethereal accompaniment here, the composer substitutes flutes for oboes (the leading winds in the orchestra in movements I and III) to give a more velvety ‘silver’ sound. In fact, it was customary in the Salzburg Chapel for all the flutists to play the oboe as well. The third movement, a graceful rondo, begins with the aforementioned ‘Strasbourgeoise’ theme. Amadeus moves spiritedly between refrains through episodes of little gavotte, a jaunty minuet and ends not with the soloist’s apotheosis but with an unexpectedly playful orchestral finale. In each movement he places indications for solo cadenzas but has not written them out. Thus the performer must improvise or compose appropriate cadenzas himself, as was once the practice.  Many famous violinists wrote their own cadenzas for the Concerto No. 3, K. 216, such as Eugène Isai, Leopold Auer, Bronisław Huberman, Joseph Szigeti, Henri Marteau,Tor Aulin, David Oistrakh, Remy Principe, Martin Wulfhorst, Arthur Grumiaux, Julia Fischer and others.

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