W. A. Mozart (1756-1791) 

Adagio & Fugue in c minor KV 546

Adagio and Fugue in c minor for strings came into being over a period of time. It began as a fugue written for two pianos in 1783. In previous months Mozart has thrown himself into an enthusiastic study of J. S. Bach's music as a result of the Sunday morning music gatherings of Baron Van Swieten in Vienna. An Austrian Diplomat, the Baron had, as an Ambassador to London, become acquainted with the music of Handel and in Berlin had even studied with Philip Emanuel Bach. In Vienna he began to introduce J. S. Bach's music at his musical gatherings. Mozart was overwhelmed by Bach's compositions and as a result began himself enthusiastically to write a number of contrapuntal works like the fugue in c minor for two pianos. In 1788, the year Mozart produced the Coronation Concerto, the g minor and Jupiter symphonies (the previous year he had written Don Giovanni) he arranged the fugue for strings. There is firm evidence that he intended it for string orchestra and not for string quartet since the first page of the autograph shows (in Mozart's hand) 5 staves. He also added towards the end 6 bars marked 'Contrabassi'. In 1788 he also wrote the Adagio for strings to proceed the Fugue. It is a most wonderful Adagio moving daringly, but surely from one minor key to another with an extraordinary sense of different colours in each group. This sense of string timbre is especially dramatic the last time all the sections enter in turn - first the 2nd Violins, followed by the 1st Violins and then the Violas, the latter beginning a haunting dialogue with the 2nd Violins rather like whispering but resonant voices in the vast expanse of a Gothic Cathedral. This is accompanied by the 1st Violins and the celli and Bassi. The Adagio ends on a peaceful G major chord before breaking into the c minor Fugue, which flows, powerfully to its dramatic end. In regard to the Fugue it is interesting to note that autograph contains almost no dynamic markings.

copyright Lygia O'Riordan