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Symphony No. 24 in B-flat major, K. 182, was completed on October 3, 1773, two months after returning from an important trip to Vienna with his father. The trip did not produce the court appointment that had been hoped for, but it did afford the young Mozart the opportunity to study Haydn’s latest quartets, gaining much knowledge in the process, knowledge which he immediately put to use in the various commissions that resulted during and after the trip.

Although the composer was still 17 years old, composing his Symphony No. 24 amply exhibits the mastery over forms that Mozart had already acquired: a growing breadth of expression and expansion of technique are also very much in evidence in this work. The style is that of the Italian overture-symphony (a fact that leads scholars to believe that it was part of a group of symphonies commissioned by a wealthy music lover in Milan, the city for which Mozart had composed his latest Italian opera Lucio Silla). The form of the symphony is also Italianate, being in three movements instead of four.

The initial Allegro spiritoso is quite lively and exhuberant. The first theme contains two motivic cells: the first is a bold and assertive motif played by the entire orchestra and consisting of a descending arpeggio, the root of which is missing; the second motif is characterized by soft violin trills. This is followed by a variation of this initial theme with a bridge section attached to it, and built upon pentatonic scales. Two more themes come into play in the first movement. The next is marked by an insistent pedal point figure, played first in the higher octave and then in the lower one. This leads to the third and last theme, which is a contrasting melody, unusual in its Lombardic rhythm (a dotted figure where the dotted note is preceded, instead of followed, by its complementary short value). These three themes and the material from the bridge section combine in a number of different ways to provide a jovial first movement.

The Andantino grazioso provides a sharply contrasted timbre from that of its flanking movements. Mozart achieves this by having the violins play with mutes – much in the style of a serenade – and by changing the key to E-flat. The beautiful and graceful main melody is for the most part entrusted to the pair of woodwinds, supported and harmonized by the strings, and underlined by a pizzicato bass line. This delicately orchestrated movement is built upon a simple cantilena in A-A-B-A form, much in the style of an Italian opera aria.

The concluding Allegro is a whirling episode in triple time. This lively jig-like movement is cast as a rondo structure. The main episode is dominated by a question-and-answer theme of an imitative nature, and marked by sharp changes of dynamic levels. The brilliant and exciting proceedings are very much akin to Mozart’s own opera buffa style.

Program notes edited by Ileen Zovluck, January 2000 (courtesy of Columbia Artists Management).