Theme and Variations - Mozart (1756-1791)

The theme and variations which form the second movement of Mozart's Flute Quartet (flute and string trio) in C were re-worked by the composer to form the sixth movement of his great Serenade in B flat for thirteen wind instruments. The piece performed by the The Aeolian Duo was arranged for flute and harp by David Sumbler, and draws on both of Mozart's versions.

In most cases the themes used by composers for sets of variations tend to be simple and perhaps, in themselves, not of great interest. However, the theme used by Mozart here is endlessly fascinating, and contains a number of unusual changes of dynamic, texture and harmonic "pulse", as well as a modulation.

The first four variations follow a fairly orthodox pattern, although they naturally reflect the interesting characteristics of the theme itself. After the fourth variation, which is in the minor mode, major tonality is re-established with a simple C-major chord, and the Adagio fifth variation follows. For a time in the second part of this variation time seems to stand still as the harp plays an oscillating figure over a single bass-note and the flute slowly explores the possibilities of a simple C major arpeggio. After four hypnotic bars, we are brought back to reality when the harmony again moves on.

After this magical fifth variation the atmosphere is lightened by a rather flippant variation in the style of an Austrian lšndler (a sort of rustic minuet), and the piece ends with a brief coda, still in the lšndler tempo.

Programme notes copyright David Sumbler 1998. You may use them elsewhere, but please credit the author, and also inform Aeolia by e-mail.

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