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Mozart Symphony n.40 K550 – Movements 2-3

Last updated Jan 30, 2024 | Published on Dec 10, 2020

Winner of a fellowship at the Bayreuther Festspiele, Mr. Griglio’s conducting has been praised for his “energy” and “fine details”. Mr. Griglio took part in the first world recording of music by composer Irwin Bazelon and conducted several world premieres like "The song of Eddie", by Harold Farberman, a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize. Principal Conductor of International Opera Theater Philadelphia for four years, Mr.Griglio is also active as a composer. His first opera, Camille Claudel, debuted in 2013 to a great success of audience and critics. Mr. Griglio is presently working on an opera on Caravaggio and Music Director of Opera Odyssey.
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Table of contents

Mozart: an analysis of the 2nd and 3rd movement of the Symphony K550

Second movement: Andante

In case you don’t have it at hand, here’s a quick link to the score.

“The key of passionate grief” that dominates 3 out of 4 movements of the symphony – G minor – leaves room here to the warm and regal key of Eb major.

This movement has a constant pulse of eight notes: it’s the beating heart of the piece. In my imagination, I also picture it as a king entering a hall full of courtesans, respectfully bowing with elegance.

Exposition

The tempo marking is Andante which means, literally, going, or moving. This gives you the idea of not too slow of a tempo. The first phrase is a perfectly balanced 8 bars phrase, split exactly in half. The beating heart starts in the violas

Mozart 40 mov 2-analysis - ex 1

followed by the 2nd violins one bar later, then the first, and finally the horns, unfolding one bar after the other.

Look at harmonic wonders: we start on Eb major obviously. The Eb is held by the violas in the second bar its function changes becoming a 7th built of the second step of the Eb major scale. But that 7th is missing the 3rd, the C, which comes first as a Cb in the cellos and basses and then as a C natural, leading us into the dominant seventh of the following bar which then resolves on the tonic.
The second half of the phrase is a sequence of elegant reverences. It also includes the first appearance of an element that will be used times and again throughout the entire movement

Mozart 40 mov 2-analysis - ex 2

Technical tip

The tempo is where it gets tricky: the phrase is obviously in 2. But, conducting-wise it’s quite a slow 2 and could become quite unclear in many passages. You could do it all in 6, but that would either result in quite a slow tempo, defeating the phrasing; or it will inevitably slow down throughout the movement.

What you need to have is a mix of 2 and 6: the general stroke is in 2 but the inner pulses will ensure clarity for the players.

Watch the video to see where the pulsing occurs.

For a full technical analysis of the 4th movement, look up the video in the repertoire section

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Notes

Cover image by Lucas Craig from Pexels

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Gianmaria Griglio is an intelligent, exceptional musician. There is no question about his conducting abilities: he has exceptionally clear baton technique that allows him to articulate whatever decisions he has made about the music.

Harold Farberman

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