Program Notes: Mozart Serenade No. 12

by Jack Bryce

board member and
Carleton College
professor emeritus

The Bratislava Wind Octet performs in the recording below:

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Norbert Nielubowski (bassoon), John Snow (oboe), and Susan Billmeyer, (piano) performing at MPR's studio with Alison Young.

Norbert Nielubowski (bassoon), John Snow (oboe), and Susan Billmeyer, (piano) performing at MPR's studio with Alison Young.

I hate to admit this, but music for winds really does tend to be ever so cheery, and frequently dwells happily amid both the shallow and the mindless.  But Mozart’s Serenade #12 in C minor, K. 388, (July 1782 or late in 1783) is the ultimate cure for any tendency towards woodwind frivolity.  We do not know exactly when or for whom it was written, but it’s a glorious masterpiece, that’s for sure.  Though serenades in general were written as backgrounds for entertainments, often in five or six movements, this one has precisely the form of a symphony in four movements.  The first, Allegro, begins with a stern minor theme, but the second theme is major and very sweet.  The short development is adventurous and intriguing, and the conclusion stirring.  The second movement, Andante, is a delightful waltz-like journey through spring meadows and over rippling streams.  In the Minuet we hear a virtuoso display of Mozart’s contrapuntal talent, with normal canons in the first, minor sections; and then in the four part second section, which is in the major mode, a double canon for oboes and bassoons with the two parts of each playing in contrary motion.  The Allegro finale has a theme and eight variations, starting in the minor mode.  After a delightful, major interlude, the piece seems to return to minor with a spectacular bassoon variation; but the minor is shortlived, and there is a terrific outburst of jollity to conclude.

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