Area of Study 1: Western classical music 1600-1899: Mozart 1st Movement, Symphony No.40 in G Minor

Set Work 2, that is to say Mozart's 1st movement from Symphony No.40 in G Minor.

Background to Symphony No.40 in G minor

Symphony No.40 in G minor

  • Written in G minor. The melancholy mood associated with this key is felt in the first movement.
  • The symphony has four movements, but the first, second and fourth are, rather unusually, all written in sonata form. The third is still Minuet and Trio though, and the tempos do vary in each movement:
  • I- Molto Allegro (very fast)
  • II- Andante (moderate walking pace)
  • III- Allegretto (slightly slower than allegro)
  • IV- Allegro assai (very fast indeed)


  • 1756-91
  • Appointed Konzertmeister and moved to Vienna in 1781 where he lived and work until his death.
  • He produced 41 symphonies, 30+ concertos, 27 quartets, 6 quintets and 7 masses.  
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Classicalness of Symphony No.40 in G minor

Classical Era

Symphony No.40 in G minor is a work written in the classical style. The classical style is a deliberate move away from the flamboyant, ornate nature of baroque music. The feautres of this style are:

  • Well-proportioned and graceful melody line written in regular phrases. These were usually eight-bars long and were question and answer; four bars are the question, and four bars are the answer.
  • As melody was of such an importance, melody-dominated homophony arose.
  • Balanced and symmetrical structure.
  • Structures defined by clear-cut schemes with regular cadences.
  • Functional harmony- chords were used for structural purposes.
  • More contrast in key and melody, and more varied dynamics.
  • The orchestra used became the standard orchestra. Harpsichord was redundant.
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Structure of a symphony


A symphony is comprised of four movements, each with a  different form and tempo. These are:


  • First Movement: Sonata form with a fast tempo.
  • Second Movement: Various forms including Ternary and Theme and Variations with a slow tempo.
  • Third Movement: Minuet and Trio.
  • Fourth Movement: Rondo or sonata form, maybe a set of variations with a fast tempo.
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Sonata form

First Movement: Sonata Form

There are two main ideas in sonata form: repetition and contrast. There are three sections: 

  • Exposition- first subject in the tonic key is presented. It is the most lively and rhythmic. There is then a bridge passage where the music modulates and leads into the contrasted second subject. this is contrasted in mood and key; the key will still be related (eg dominant key or relative major). It is then repeated.
  • Development-  one, or both of the ideas from the exposition is developed. The development can be based on the whole melody or a motif. The composer can mix motifs to crate variants of the original subject. There are various key changes, but the domiant and tonic keys are avoided. This section is changing and restless due to this modulation.
  • Recapitulation- balances with the expostion. Recaps the first subject in the tonic key. The bridge then follows but it does not modulate into the second subject, which is heard in the tonic key. It ends with a coda.
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Structure of the piece


  • Anacrusis (up-beat) in violin. Straight into first subject with no real introduction.
  • First subject- falling motif which has a repeated rhythm. In G minor, the tonic key. Violins handle it first. Played over a G pedal.
  • Bridge passage- modulates to Bb, the relative major. Forte dynamics.
  • Second Subject- Pathetiqué mood.
  • Codetta- descending scales based on the three opening notes.


  • Entirely based on the first motif of the first subject.
  • Constant key exploration- Em, Am, Dm, Gm, C, F, Bb (all a fourth apart).
  • Idea is shared by the woodwind and strings.
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Structure of the piece continued


  • Not a direct repeat of the exposition- extended bridgeno modulation as in contrast to the exposition it remains in G minor, the tonic key and developed coda.
  • Coda- builds as 3-note idea passed between clarinet, bassoon and flute. Final 'tutti' is homophonic chords of Ic-V-I which is a perfect cadence

The motif


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Essay points for 1st movement from symphony No.40


  • 1st movement in the symphony so it's fast.
  • Sonata form- exposition which introduces the subjects, development which is a further exploration of the first motif and recapitulation which balances the exposition.


  • Melody-dominated homophony. Melody leads the piece and chord changes follow.
  • Tutti at the end, which gives a homophonic texture.
  • There are some elements of a polyphonic texture.

Rhythm, Metre and Tempo

  • 4/4.
  • Molto allegro (very fast).
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Essay points for 1st movement from symphony No.40

Tonality and Harmony

  • Exposition- first subject in G minor, the tonic key. Second subject in Bb, the relative major.
  • Development- lots of modulation as is expected. Cycles through Em, Am, Dm, Gm, F and Bb. These keys are all a fourth apart.
  • Recapitulation- both subjects in the tonic key of G minor.


  • Mozart's orchestra was smaller and varied from the standard classical orchestra.
  • No trumpets or timpanis.
  • Woodwind and bassoons were reduced in number but there were two horns (Bb and G) so Mozart could access all the notes.
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