It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I.

– Mozart 

CHAPTER AIMS: To follow a fugue in action

 

10.25-11.13   Fugue finale  

 

Kandinsky's Fugue

Kandinsky’s Fugue

In our final Mozart chapter we’re going to track the fugue Mozart uses to conclude this final movement of his final symphony. We’ll use musical notation to describe the various voices: for a quick overview of notation, you can explore  Shostakovich 3.

And for an explanation of just what a fugue, check out  Fugue

 

Following a fugue is not exactly easy, but this one is short (just over 20 seconds). So short indeed that it’s termed a Fugata or ‘little fugue’. All of which means if you’ve never encountered a fugue before, this is a good place to get acquainted.

And since we’ve met almost of the themes comprising this fugue in previous chapters, they should by now have become more familiar to your ears. Which will really help when we come to try to identify the themes within the fugue itself.

 

 

Fugal Mozart

By the time of the Classical Age of Mozart, music had become lighter in density. That meant less polyphony so popular in the Baroque age, where individual voices or melodies were often laid across each other. Now individual melody ran the roost, and the fugue in particular had come to embody old-fashioned crustiness and over-complexity.

Which makes Mozart’s sudden flamboyant twirl of the art-form in the final bars of his final symphony all the more remarkable.

 

Here is that final section again in its entirety:

10.25-11.13   Fugue finale   

 

It’s a fugue made from five separate elements, or voices. Now let’s break the fugue up into each of these five separate elements, and follow each of them through to this thrilling and unexpected climax.

 

 

 THEME 1 

We start naturally with our first four note theme, right from the very beginning of the piece. Here that is if you don’t remember:

0.00-0.03   Theme 1  

And here is the musical notation for this theme:

Jupiter theme No. 1

Let’s just follow this theme as it makes its way through the orchestra. We begin in the cellos:

10.25-11.13   Fugue finale   

  • 0.00-0.04 – Cellos
  • 0.04-0.06 – Violas
  • 0.07-0.10 – 2nd violins
  • 0.11-0.13 –  1st violins, together with flute and oboes.
  • 0.14-0.17 –  Double basses, with bassoons.
  • 0.17-0.20 –  Cellos, with bassoons
  • 0.20-0.23 – Violas

If you have managed to follow the progress of that theme, you can see how it has made orderly progress up through the strings, before going down to the depths with the double bass string, and then climbing back up to the violas (which had already played the theme earlier).

Once you have the hang of that, let’s move on to our next theme…

 

 

 THEME 2 

Our second theme is a jaunty sprightly affair, six ascending notes with a trill on the forth note.

We first heard it, played three times by the violins inside the first minute of the piece:

0.46-0.51   Theme 2  

Here is the musical notation for the theme:

Jupiter theme No 2

This theme is easy to pick out as it enters – twice each time – firstly with the cellos, before making its way upwards through the strings:

10.25-11.13   Fugue finale   

  • 0.04-0.07 – Cellos
  • 0.07-0.10 –  Violas
  • 0.11-0.13  –  2nd Violins
  • 0.14-0.16 –  1st Violins and flutes
  • 0.17-0.20 –  Double basses and bassoons
  • 0.21-0.22 –  Cellos and bassoons
  • 0.22-0.23 – 2nd violins

The theme should still be fairly easy to follow until the end, which comes in rather a hurried tangle…

 

 

 THEME 3 

It’s the smallest, and hardest theme to discern.

Jupiter theme No 3

Since the notes are fairly widely spaced, it’s not a melody that rings out. Here is the first appearance of the theme, in the oboes. It comes just after the strings (0.01 below), and comes in the background of the sound.

You can hear it again (at 0.06), as the phrase is repeated. But it’s even fainter.

Theme 3  

 

If you’re finding that hard to spot, here is the phrase as played by the violins towards the end of the fugue. It’s high and fast:

Theme from fugue  

 

This light, jumpy four note sequence is really hard to discern amongst everything else going on, so don’t panic if you can’t make it out!

10.25-11.13   Fugue finale  

  • 0.08  Cellos (requires really sharp ears in the the tangle of notes)
  • 0.11   Violas (quiet so also hard to hear)
  • 0.14   2nd Violins and oboes (again tricky to hear)
  • 0.18  1st Violins and flutes (the clearest of all, rings out)
  • 0.22  Cellos and bassoons (tricky to pick out)

I have to use a score to discern bits of it, there’s just so much else happening. If you can read scores, click here to see a marked score of this section with the voices of the fugue coloured differently.

The next theme will be rather easier to deal with…

 

 

 THEME 4 

Our fourth theme is a little easier to make out, at least at its initial entry in the piece. It’s the tumbling theme we discussed last chapter, and it first appears right near the start of the movement:

0.15-0.17   Theme 4  

Jupiter theme no 4

 

10.25-11.13   Fugue finale  

  • 0.11  Cellos (hard to hear)
  • 0.15  Violas (really hard to hear)
  • 0.17  2nd Violins (much easier to hear, especially its beginning)
  • 0.21   1st Violins & Flutes (easiest to hear)

A theme that becomes easier to discern as it rises in pitch with the violins towards the end.

One final theme to go to make up our five-voice fugato…

 

 

 THEME 5 

This final theme was first introduced by the violins back at just over a minute into the piece:

1.02-1.04   Theme 5  

Jupiter theme no 5

 

I think this is the most satisfying theme to follow, so let’s just list the entries of this fifth and final theme. It begins with the violas, the very first notes of the fugue:

10.25-11.13   Fugue finale  

 

 

  • 0.00  Violas
  • 0.03  2nd Violins
  • 0.06  1st Violins
  • 0.10  Double basses
  • 0.14  Cellos (harder to discern with all the other material flying around)
  • 0.18  Violas (again harder damn those midtones!)
  • 0.21  2nd Violins and oboes

 

The architecture of the fugue should now be more apparent, with the various themes chasing at each other’s tails throughout this whole section. Remember, you can click here to see the score for this fugue, with the different voices marked in different colours.

 

 

Take a breath…

10.25-11.13   Fugue finale   

Phew. Just a few seconds, and music of such a fluent intensity! This is the power of music of the densest complexity.

 

Now listen to the section once more. By all means, follow any of these themes as they spin and scatter across the orchestra. Although structurally complex, the overall effect of the sound is natural and pleasing. It’s unbelievable that Mozart can maintain such a level of musical discipline whilst never stifling the melodic nature of his music, the way it sings.

The sound is dense, but it is never mushy. Clarity and complexity are both maintained in perfect balance. Again comes the image of the swan, apparently gliding effortlessly across the water whilst underneath the legs pedal away!

 

It may sound simple, but it’s very complex. How appropriate that these few perfect bars make up the final moments of the final movement of Mozart’s final offering to the symphony form.

 

Next chapter…Beethoven is coming!

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

  • Here is an excellent tutorial of a Bach organ fugue.

 

  • QUIZ: Bach Fugue in C major – the start of which appears in scored form near the top of this lesson – is the very first of his 48 Preludes and Fugues. And this is a graphic representation, in visual, scored, and analysed dimensions, thanks to the excellent Stephen Malinowski.
  • Fugues can be dense, and I have to confess that with the attention span of a gnat I can find them tricky to follow.  Bach’s Organ Fugue in Gm is a favorite of mine, however, because of its relative lightness and melodic clarity. Again thanks to Stephen for the graphical feast.
  • You wouldn’t exactly say the fugue has exploded onto the musical scene in recent years. Here is Glen Gould’s contribution to the genre, light entertainment for any Frasier or Niles Cranes out there. Incidentally, you should know by now the theme played in the violins at 2.41-2.46…do you recognise it?