Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Violin Concerto No 4 in D Major K218 (1775)

1. Allegro
2. Andante cantabile
3. Rondeau

Mozart composed his five violin concertos between 1773 and 1775 at a time when he had entered the service of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg as a court musician. It was a highly productive period for the young composer, who wrote many works - symphonies, string quartets, divertimenti, serenades and concertos - which are now recognised as masterpieces. Little is known about the early history of the violin concertos. It is thought that Mozart himself played the solo violin, and probably directed the orchestra at the same time. However there is no record of the dates and venues of the first performances, or of the reception they received.

The fourth violin concerto foreshadows the many great piano concertos that were to follow. The structure is modelled to some extent on the works of Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805), but there are radical departures from the conventional concertos of the time.

The first movement opens with a fanfare for the orchestra, followed by a succession of Mozart's delightful melodic ideas, from the whimsical to the dramatic. The violin soloist elaborates these ideas in ways that are original, elegant and graceful and often stunning in their virtuosity.

The slow movement, by contrast, is more relaxed, and rather reflective. It is filled with singing melodies which seem to be filled with the warmth of a summer's day.

The final movement is one of the most original that Mozart composed at the time. It is in rondo form, in which a theme stated at the outset returns, usually twice, separated by contrasting episodes. Mozart's rondo theme is built from two strikingly different ideas. A genial andante with a jaunty march-like quality, followed by an energetic jig. The contrasting episodes introduce new ideas, and in its final return the rondo theme is developed and varied with great skill and judgement. The whole movement seems to evolve as it goes on, while retaining its poise and continuity.

Mozart's fourth Violin Concerto was performed by the Portobello Orchestra on the 19th March 2016. The soloist was George Mattar and the conductor was William Church.