GCSE Music Area of Study 1 - Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor

Edexcel GCSE Music Area of Study 1: Western Classical Music 1600-1899

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Mel
  • Created on: 16-04-12 10:55

The Classical era (c.1750-1830)

Music from this era echoes the architecture in that it uses a clear-cut and balanced structure. Simplicity and clarity of the line also became a feature of the music in the emphasis placed on a graceful and regularly phrased melodic line.

This period was dominated by three Viennese composers: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91), Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

1 of 12

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)

  • Born in Salzburg on 27 January 1756 
  • His father Leopold was court composer at the archiepiscopal court and a gifted violinist too 
  • From the age of four, he began to study keyboard and composition from his father 
  • He became famous from a very young age 
  • Following employment in Salzburg as Konzertmeister to the archbishop, Mozart moved to Vienna in 1781 where he spent the rest of his life as a composer and performer 
  • He wrote famous operas such as Le Nozze di Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), Cosi fan tutte (1790) and Die Zauberflote (1791) 
  • He produced twenty-one piano concertos, five violin concertos, four horn concertos, concertos for clarinet and other wind instruments, forty-one symphonies, twenty seven string quartets, six string quintets and seventeen Masses, including his last work, the incomplete Requiem Mass of 1791
2 of 12


During the early Classical period, the orchestra was established as a standard instrumental ensemble and the harpsichord became redundant and gradually fell out of use. Its primary function – to provide a chordal support – was effectively taken over by the wind instruments.

At the start of the Classical period, the orchestra was still small – strings plus two horns with either flutes or oboes (either one or two of each). It then soon began to grow with the addition of the wind instruments complete with the bass instrument of the family – the bassoon. By the end of the 18th century, the newly invented clarinet joined the woodwind ranks. The brass section used two trumpets and two horns with percussion provided by the timpani drums.

  • Strings: Violins, Violas, Cellos, Double basses 
  • Woodwind: Flutes (2), Oboes (2), Clarinets (2), Bassoons (2)
  • Bass: Trumpets (2), French horns (2) 
  • Percussion: Timpani
3 of 12


The word ‘symphony’ itself is derived from the Italian for ‘sounding together’. Early examples of symphonies can be traced to the Italian three-section sinfonias for strings and continuo. These were arranged in a fast-slow-fast structure

First movement: Fast tempo and usually written in sonata form (often called ‘first movement’ form).

Second movement: Slow tempo. Various forms used, including ternarytheme and variations.

Third movement: Minuet and trio (or scherzo and trio).

Fourth movement: Fast. Written in either rondosonata form (sometimes even a combination of the two: sonata rondo form) or even a set of variations.

4 of 12

Characteristics of Sonata Form

The first movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor is written in sonata form. The word 'sonata' comes from the Latin sonare meaning 'to sound'. Sonata form is used to structure a single movement of a work.

The two fundamental ideas expressed in sonata form are: 

  • repetition 
  • contrast 

The structure developed from the two-section binary form, except that sonata form includes a repeat (recapitulation) of the first section. The three sections:

  • exposition 
  • development 
  • recapitulation
5 of 12

Sonata Form Structure


  • First theme (first subject) is always in the tonic key 
  • Usually the most lively and rhythmic 
  • There follows a short linking section (bridge passage) which the music modulates (changes key) and reaches the contrasted second subject 


  • Central section where the composer 'develops' the ideas from the exposition 
  • Section can be based on the complete melody or a fragment (motif) 
  • Section features various keys but deliberately avoids the tonic and dominant keys
  • Often adventurous as the drama unfolds and is constantly changing and restless because of the exploration of different keys
6 of 12

Sonata Form Structure (cont.)


  • Final section balances with the opening exposition 
  • Recaps the first subject in the tonic key 
  • Bridge section then follows to balance with the opening section but does not modulate as the second subject is now heard in the tonic key as the work is drawing to a close 
  • The work concludes with a short rounding-off section called the coda
7 of 12

Key Features of Classical Music

  • Emphasis on well-proportioned and graceful melody lines written in regular phrases of often eight-bars duration (four bars as a question, answered by four) - Periodic or regular phrasing 
  • A melody-dominated texture became popular (melody-dominated homophony), although polyphony was also used 
  • Musical structures employed had a sense of symmetry and balance 
  • Structures were defined by clear-cut key schemes with regular cadences
  • Harmony was functional, i.e. chords were used for structural purposes (based on chords I, IV, V, II and VI) 
  • Ideas of contrast in terms of key, melodies and more varied dynamics
  • Orchestra was established as a standard instrumental ensemble during this period and the harpsichord became redundant 
  • New instrumental musical genres emerged - sonata for a solo instrument, concerto, symphony, string quartet 
  • Constant tempo
  • Regular metre
8 of 12

Symphony No. 40 in G minor Instrumentation

  • 7 woodwind players (1 flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets and 2 bassoons) - sustain harmony but shares melodic material as well, like in the second subject
  • 2 horns - one in B♭ and one in G - sustain harmony and add texture
  • This is to give him the notes G-B♭-D (G minor tonic chord) and B♭-D-F (B♭ major tonic chord)
  • Strings dominate
  • Violas accomapny
  • Cello and double bass provide bass line
  • Modest instrumentation, Mozart does not use trumpets or drums!
9 of 12

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Symphony No. 40 in G min

First subject (bars 1-20)

  • Repetition
  • Question and Answer-like style
  • Arch shaped
  • Descending sequence 

Second subject (bars 44-72)

  • Chromaticism introduced by semitones
  • Antiphony
  • Call and Response
  • Falling figures at 44-45 give the effect of sighing
10 of 12

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Symphony No. 40 in G min

  • Molto allegro
  • Simple quadruple time (4/4)
  • Anacrusis (pushing across bar line)
  • Quavers and crotchets in the first subject
  • Striking and dotted rhythms in the bridge
  • Dotted rhythms and longer note values in second subject
  • Repeated quavers in accompaniment to add urgency
  • Augmentation in coda
11 of 12

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Symphony No. 40 in G min


  • G minor - Double bass first note bar 1 is a G to emphasize key
  • Modulates to B major (relative major) in the bridge passage (bars 20-44)
  • Development starts in F and includes rapid modulations through the circle of firths in bars 118-128
  • Back to G minor for the recapitulation
  • Functional harmony and imperfect cadences used, with some pedals, e.g. bar 221 cello and bassoon play repeated dominant pedal
  • Four G minor chords to finish emphasizing ending


  • Mostly homophonic but some counterpoint in the development
  • Octave doubling of melodies is used, e.g. bar 89 in woodwind
  • Second subject is a dialogue between strings and woodwind -anacrusis
12 of 12


Samuel Richardson


Excellent detailed notes here on the Classical Period and Mozart's 'Symphony Number 40 in G Minor'. 

Similar Music resources:

See all Music resources »See all Mozart resources »