“What a depth! What a boldness and what a grace!” This is how Pushkin defined the essence of Mozart’s genius. Indeed, such a composition of classical perfection and boldness of thought, such infinity of individual decisions on the basis of exact and clear laws of composition, will probably not be found in any other musical artist. Sunny clear and unfathomably mysterious, simple and yet – infinitely complex, deeply human and universal, such is Mozart’s art. It is no coincidence that Tchaikovsky said of him, “It is my deep conviction that Mozart is the highest, culminating point to which beauty has reached in the sphere of music.”
Mozart wrote most of his string concertos between 1773 and 1779, but it is not known who commissioned the works or what the occasion was. The date designations are also unclear. Analysing the composer’s handwriting, documents and the notes he left on the scores, researchers believe that the dates on the five violin concertos were changed several times. For example, the year of composition of the Fifth Concerto, ‘1775’, was crossed out and corrected to ‘1780’, and then ‘1775’ was written again. Mozart did not use the tonality A major again until he wrote his 12th piano concerto.
The Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, numbered according to Koechel 219, is also known as the Turkish Concerto. It is the last and most famous concerto written for this instrument by Mozart. Extremely popular with performers and audiences alike, it is a must-have in the repertoire of any accomplished violinist. It is no coincidence that the work is one of the three Mozart violin concertos that the performers admitted to the second round of the world-famous Tchaikovsky Competition are obliged to play.
The work was composed in 1775 and premiered during the Christmas celebrations in Salzburg. The concerto has the typical musical structure of the period: fast-slow-fast movement.
The composition of the orchestra is: 2 oboes, 2 French horns and strings. The parts are as follows:
Allegro aperto – Adagio – Allegro aperto
Rondeau – Tempo di minuetto
The indication “aperto” to the first movement is rare for Mozart’s instrumental music (two of his piano concertos, the Piano Concerto No. 6 in C major and the Piano Concerto No. 8 in C major, have this designation, as does his Oboe Concerto in C major); it appears much more frequently in his operas. This suggests that the work should be performed more broadly and majestically than the simple designation ‘allegro’ requires. The first movement begins with the orchestra playing the main theme, a typical Mozart melody. The solo violin comes in with a short but sweet passage from the Dolce Adagio in A Major with simple orchestral accompanying. (This is the only instance in Mozart’s concert repertoire in which an adagio interlude of this kind appears upon the soloist’s first entry into the concerto.) The main theme then returns to the solo violin playing a different melody over the orchestra .
The second movement is a lovely ten-minute adagio in which the violin engages in a delightful dialogue with the orchestra, as if the exquisite phrases alternate question and answer.
The finale of the concert is a rondo written on a minuet theme that is repeated several times. In the middle of the movement, the meter changes from 3/4 to 2/4 and a section of Turkish music is played, characterized by the change to A minor (from the original A major) and the use of grotesque elements such as unison chromatic crescendos, repetition of very short musical elements, and collage playing of cellos and double basses. It is this movement that earns the concerto the nickname ‘Turkish Concerto’ . The famous Rondo alla Turca from Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A Major includes the same tonality and similar elements.
Mozart later composed the Adagio in E major for violin and orchestra, K. 261, as a substitute slow movement for this concerto.