Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, K. 16

    Description by Michael Rodman

    "Because of Mozart," playwright Wendy Wasserstein once lamented, "it's all over after age seven." Indeed, Mozart's considerable legend even today owes its existence largely to the barely credible notion of a mere boy who, in the words of his father "[knew] in his eighth year what one would expect only from a man of forty." Yet while the boy's wunderkind exploits retain a central position in discussions of his life and works, it is perhaps more interesting to view his youthful efforts as the stepping stones -- and how gemlike they are -- of a composer finding his way toward a mature and more fully realized means of expression. Clearly the creative impulses of the young composer were occasionally susceptible to the lapses one expects of an inexperienced hand: "You will find three [forbidden] consecutive fifths in the violin part," father Leopold wrote of Wolfgang's first published work, "which my young gentleman perpetrated and which, although I corrected them [were] left in. . . . On the other hand, they are a proof that our little Wolfgang composed them himself, which perhaps quite naturally, everyone will not believe."

    As important still as refining his technical skill, young Mozart was expected and encouraged, as many young composers were, to do a kind of journeyman's work in the absorption of influence from the music of older, more accomplished, masters. While a number of these direct influences are well-known -- Leopold himself and the sons of Bach, for example -- the scope of influence upon Mozart was unusually rich. A fortunate result of the budding composer's extensive early travels was the contact it provided with a generous cross section of European musical traditions: German, British, French (though Leopold viewed that music with some suspicion) and Italian. It was in fact during Mozart's European tour of 1763-66 -- with his entire immediate family in tow -- that his earliest symphonic compositions took shape.

    The Symphony No. 1 is thought to date from the Mozart family's stay in the London suburb of Chelsea during the summer of 1764. This respite from London proper (made necessary by a severe inflammation in Leopold's throat) brought an immediate curtailment to the hubbub of activity which had crowded the Mozarts' schedule. Prior to his Chelsea sojourn, Mozart had been borne upon a whirlwind of travel, performances, and ritualized audiences before nobility -- the latter consisting mainly of the presentation of effusive praise and expensive gewgaws to the Mozart family. What this interruption did allow, however, was an opportunity for Mozart -- apparently of his own accord -- to try his hand at producing a symphony.

    The present work, likely the earliest of Mozart's efforts in this form, is fairly bursting with the bottled-up exuberance of an eight-year-old confined by close quarters and exhortations to not disturb the rest of his convalescent father. The structure of the work closely resembles that of a three-part overture (indeed, a number of his early symphonies and opera overtures functioned interchangeably), a central slow movement flanked by two of a more extroverted nature. The sprightly, kinetic impulse of the first movement gives way to a Baroque stateliness in the second, marked by a near-constant pulsation of triplets. Of particular note is what seems to be the earliest, albeit unobtrusive, appearance (in the first horn) of the "Jupiter" motive, the four-note figure which Mozart puts to prominent use in the final movement of his Symphony No. 41. The almost humorous mien of the final movement recalls the tradition of opera buffa, in which Mozart himself was later to play a pivotal role.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Molto allegro
    2. Andante
    3. Presto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875173752
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon / DG Deutsche Grammophon 4794306
    2015 K-Tel 136146
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Preiser Records PR 90818
    2014 Coviello Classics COV 91405
    2013 AAM Records AAM 001
    2013 ABC Classics 4810615
    2013 Dacapo 8201201
    2013 Dacapo 6220536
    2013 Naxos 8501109
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94295
    2010 Signum Classics / Signum UK 201
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Landscape Classics / Zebralution
    2009 Denon Records
    2008 Challenge Classics 72189
    2008 Haenssler 93230
    2008 Telarc Distribution 80729
    2008 Philips 4646602
    2007 Haenssler 93211
    2007 EMI Classics 87894
    2007 Archipel 392
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon 002894776134
    2006 Philips 4647702
    2006 Philips
    2005 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4775254
    2005 Real Sound (RS) 39
    2005 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 5004
    2005 Brilliant 92110
    2005 Brilliant 92543
    2005 Brilliant 92540
    2004 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 63970
    2004 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 82876587062
    2004 Naxos 8501107
    2003 Delta Distribution 40024
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 85589
    2003 CPO 999810
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80256
    2003 Brilliant 99730
    2002 DG Archiv 471666
    2001 Passacaille 930
    2000 Bongiovanni 5095
    2000 Agora Musica 197
    1999 Philips 422500
    1999 Past Perfect / Trumpets of Jericho 203300
    1997 Philips 454085
    1997 452496
    1996 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4532312
    1996 Arts Music 47100
    1995 Laserlight 35852
    1995 Naxos 550871
    1995 Madacy 5601
    1995 Madacy 7630
    1994 Madacy 1013
    1994 Madacy 29103
    1993 DG Archiv 437792
    1992 Vox 5070
    1991 Telarc Distribution 80300
    1990 Delta Distribution 15850
    1990 Laserlight 35860
    1990 Philips 422501
    1990 Laserlight 15647
    RIV 53
    Trumpets of Jericho 203301
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 431711
    LaserLight 15867
    Pilz 160176
    Brilliant 92625
    Brilliant 92110/1
    Brilliant 92625/1
    Brilliant 99730/1
    Brilliant Classics 8635/1
    Brilliant 92543/1
    MCA 9808
    Pilz 446411-2