Classical Sunday: Mozart’s Musical Joke

What is it about April Fool’s Day and the fish, anyway? Must be a French thing.


Prepare yourselves: Don’t be fooled tomorrow!  And what is it about April Fool’s Day and fish out of water, anyway?  Must be a French thing.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Ein Musikalischer Spaß

A Musical Joke (in German: Ein musikalischer Spaß) K. 522, (Divertimento for two horns and string quartet) is a composition by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the composer entered it in his Verzeichnis aller meiner Werke (Catalogue of All My Works) on June 14, 1787.

The piece comprises four movements, using forms shared with many classical divertimenti:

1. Allegro (sonata form)
2. Menuetto and trio
3. Adagio cantabile
4. Presto (sonata rondo form)

Compositorial comedic devices include: asymmetrical phrasing, not phrasing by groups of four measures, at the beginning of the first movement; secondary dominants where subdominant chords are required; discords in the horns; whole tone scales in the violin’s high register; clumsy orchestration, backing a thin melodic line with a heavy, monotonous accompaniment in the last movement; and a pathetic attempt at a fugato, also in the last movement.

fish fool

5 comments on “Classical Sunday: Mozart’s Musical Joke”

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