Mozart Violin Concerto in G K216
During six months in Salzburg in 1775, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote four violin concertos; between June 14, when he completed the D major Concerto K211, and September 12, when the G major K216 was finished, he made one of his growth spurts as a composer. The G major is a greater work in every way and it soon led on to the D major K218, and the A major K219.
Unusually, two performances of the G major are documented in the correspondence between Mozart and his father Leopold, one by the new Salzburg concertmaster Antonio Brunetti and one by Mozart himself; but there is no mention of a first performance. We can reasonably assume that Mozart wrote the concerto for himself to play; and as he was the concertmaster of the Prince Archbishop’s orchestra, it would be perfectly natural for him to give the premiere soon after its composition.
The concerto opens with a theme that Mozart had used in the aria ‘Aer tranquillo’ in his serenata Il rè pastore, performed in Salzburg earlier that year; this Allegro is in sonata form and features a good deal of dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra, with oboes prominent. For the Adagio in D major, the oboes are replaced by two flutes – the original players would have been able to double on both instruments but modern orchestras have to hire flutes for this movement. The effect is to impart a softer, more silvery quality to the Adagio, emphasized by the muting of the orchestral violins while the cellos and basses play pizzicato.
The graceful Rondeau goes through a number of episodes, one of which, a folky tune in G major just after the brief gavotte, has been identified by the musicologist Dénes Bartha as the ‘Strassburger’ which gives the concerto its nickname – it used to be thought that K218 was the ‘Strassburg’ Concerto but his researches have resolved the matter.
On October 6, 1777 Leopold Mozart wrote to his son, who was then visiting Munich on travels with his mother: ‘On Saturday I was at the play. As there was a French epilogue, Brunetti had to play a concerto while the actors were changing dresses, and he played your Strassburg Concerto most excellently. But in the two Allegros he played wrong notes occasionally and once came to grief in a cadenza.’
On October 23 Mozart wrote from Augsburg: ‘In the evening at supper I played my Strassburg Concerto, which went like oil. Everyone praised my beautiful, pure tone.’ Mozart left no cadenzas for K216 and those who have written their own sets include Eugène Ysaÿe, Bronislaw Huberman, Sam Franko and David Oistrakh.