Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra (Mozart)
At the time of its composition in 1779, Mozart was on a tour of Europe that included Mannheim and Paris. The composition's complex orchestral dynamics reflects the increasing technical competence of the European orchestra of that era and was strongly influenced by the Chevalier de Saint-George; whom he met while in Paris and whose Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Op. 5, No. 2 Mozart quoted in the final movement; as well as by Mozart's visit to the Mannheim court orchestra during his European tour of 1777 to 1779. Mozart had been experimenting with the sinfonia concertante genre and this work can be considered his most successful realization in this cross-over genre between symphony and concerto.
The solo viola part is written in D major instead of E flat major, and the instrument tuned a semitone sharper (scordatura technique), to give a more brilliant tone. This technique is uncommon when performed on the modern viola and is used mostly in performance on original instruments.
It has also been arranged for cello in place of the viola part.
This Sinfonia Concertante has influenced many arrangers to use these themes. In 1808 an uncredited arrangement of the piece for string sextet Grande Sestetto Concertante was published by Sigmund Anton Steiner. All six parts are divided equally among the six players; it is not presented as soloists with accompaniment.
The Sinfonia Concertante was mentioned in William Styron's 1979 novel Sophie's Choice; after a stranger molests Sophie on the subway, she hears the Sinfonia Concertante on the radio, which brings back memories of her childhood in Krakow and snaps her out of her depression.
Variations on the slow second movement were used for the soundtrack to the 1988 Peter Greenaway film Drowning by Numbers by composer Michael Nyman. The original piece is also heard after each of the drownings in the screenplay.
The American composer and bassist Edgar Meyer was so interested in this work that in 1995 he wrote a double concerto for double bass, cello and orchestra that, while very different in style, closely mirrors the structure of Mozart's Sinfonia concertante.
- Mordden, Ethan. A Guide To Orchestral Music: A Handbook for Non-Musicians (Oxford, 1980).
- Smith, Erik. Notes to Mozart Sinfonia Concertante K364 (L.P. DECCA 1964)
- i.e. with the scordatura the solo viola is treated as a transposing instrument (in D flat); in real notes (concert pitch) the part is in E flat, which is the key of the work of course; writing it in D major allows the solo violist to use the fingerings he or she is used to without being confused by the instrument being tuned a half-step up
- Mozart Sinfonia Concertante: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Sinfonia Concertante in Es für Violin, Viola und Orchester: Score and critical report (German) in the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe
- Viola in music - Sinfonia concertante for violin, viola and orchestra
- Grande Sestetto Concertante - Grande Sestetto Concertante for String Sextet after the Sinfonia Concertante, K.364. Edited by Christopher Hogwood.