Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364: An Enlightened Operatic Reading

Roberto Alonso Trillo


In his biographical book on Mozart Julian Rushton states that dialogic writing is an inherent feature
of Mozart’s concertos, but one that “usually occurs between the soloist and the orchestra, rather than
between two individual ‘characters’”, a fact that leads Rushton to envision the Sinfonia Concertante
[K. 364] as a brief consolation “for the lack of an opportunity to write an opera”. This article morphs
that statement into a question: why and how could have Mozart channelled his operatic yearning
through the Sinfonia Concertante? In an attempt to find an answer, I will analyse a number of aspects
of Mozart’s approach to the genre of sinfonia concertante from two main perspectives. First, I will
introduce a brief historical background on Mozart’s K. 364 as the basis for the consideration of Barry
S. Brook’s understanding of the concertante as an enlightened genre and Mozart’s potential interest in
the aspects that might have made it so, an argument that is actually related to and based on Mozart’s
exploration of dramatic dialogue. Second, I analyse the interplay between the operatic and instrumental
elements found in the second movement of K. 364, mapping them to a selection of Mozart’s operatic
works, particularly those composed at the same time and right after the Sinfonia Concertante. I also
contrast Simon Keefe’s interpretation of the dialogic-dramatic dimension of Mozart’s instrumental
music, the influence of opera on his piano concertos, to Charles Rosen’s study of the influence of the
formal developments that Mozart adapted from his instrumental music to his operatic writing.

Keywords: Sinfonia Concertante, Enlightenment, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, sonata-theory,
musical dramatism, opera.

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