Analysis: Mozart String Quartet no.15 in D Minor K.421 – I. ‘Allegro’

Mozart’s K.421 string quartet in D-minor is the second of six string quartets dedicated to Haydn. There is little first-hand documented evidence for the dating of K.421, however, there is anecdotal evidence of Mozart working on this quartet while Constanze was in labour with their first child, Raimund (Irving, 1998, p.13). This would place its origin on 17th June 1783. Bonds (p.13) noted that a dedication to Haydn, the highest regarded composer of the day, “was in itself a good selling-point”.

Table 1 (below) provides a structural, topical and tonal overview of K.421 no.1. It outlines the phrase groups, key and the topics present within each subsidiary structure to that of the exposition, development and recapitulation.

Table 1 Mozart K.421

Mozart introduces his D-minor quartet with a diatonic descent of a tetrachord, connoting the ‘lament’ topic. The first violin leaps down an octave, establishing an inverted tonic pedal point. This repetition of the tonic anchors the descending bassline in D-minor, setting the tonality of this movement. The bassline in the consequent phrase is a chromatic alteration of the antecedent. The use of secondary dominants serves to destabilise the D-minor tonality, driving it to G-major. Then a German 6th on G# reverts to D-minor, functioning as a dominant preparation chord. The expectation of the arrival on the dominant is heightened by its avoidance in bar 2, the six-four harmonisation of ⑤ is “entirely tonic in its function” (Caplin, 2014, p.440). However, the function of the arrival of the dominant in bar 7 is not cadential, as it returns to the tonic before the true cadential progression in bar 8. Instead, this harmony brings us back to the D-minor tonality after it has been undermined by the chromatic alterations in the consequent phrase. The consequent phrase is also transposed an octave higher, increasing its intensity. This, combined with a dynamic change to f, evokes a tempesta / Sturm und Drang atmosphere to contrast with the antecedent’s ombra character. The alteration of the cello to partake in the quaver accompaniment harmony rather than to continue with the minims further causes sonic priority of the first violin’s now frantic expression.

Caplin (2014, p.450) provides an interesting interpretation of the metric position of the closing cadences of the aforementioned antecedent-consequent phrases. The antecedent phrase on first inspection looks to resolve on beat 1 of bar 4 as a weak perfect cadence. However, the consequent phrase cadences in the middle of bar 8. This metric discontinuity is unusual, causing Caplin to posit a possible solution. Throughout the movement many cadences appear in the middle of the bar, this suggests that “we are dealing with a situation of what eighteenth-century theorists called ‘compound meter’, whereby each notated measure consists of two simple measures” (p.450). If we consider this also to be true of bar 4 then “we would have to hear the arrival on the A in the melody as articulating dominant harmony (despite the lack of bass voice)”.

The transition is arrived at through imitative descent through the quartet with an octave between each instrument. This antiphonal imitation causes inevitability of change as each instrument is accounted for, therefore this imitation could only possibly happen 4 times for a string quartet, each instrument has played, and each iteration has descended by octave. Mozart, in effect, runs out of octaves and runs out of instruments.

The second subject contains much more periodic phrasing (8+3+4 see Table 1). Written in the relative major from D-minor, the F-major tonality evokes a warmer, milder tone (Ishiguro, 2010). The bustling semiquaver accompaniment gives energy to the second subject, to contrast with the more languishing first subject and transition.

Irving (1998) makes reference to Forkel’s concept of musical oration when discussing the opening and development of K.421. When likening Forkel’s Erfindung to Quintillian’s inventio as “the stuff of inspiration” (p.63), Irving states this may be harmonic as well as melodic. This may in part account for the opening theme introducing each major section in the movement; exposition, development, recapitulation. Irving notes the harmonically driven nature of the development, such as the modulations from Eb-major in bar 42, to A-minor at bar 46, a tritone. The use of the flattened supertonic key to begin the development section is perhaps unusual, however its effect is strong as the increase in flats creates a duller sound on string instruments, by lessening sympathetic resonances and avoiding open strings. This serves to further achieve the ombra topic.

Bars 46-49 are firmly in the learned style. The quartet is split between the two violins creating suspensions, and the viola and cello alternating the ‘trill motif’ and a sustained dominant pedal (see extract 1). Suspensions of the ninth occur with the second violin leaping over the first violin, creating an illusory stepwise ascent. This form of suspension also appears in the beginning of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (Sanguinetti, p.131, 2012). This passage also presents yet another almost completely chromatic descending tetrachord.

Extract 1 Mozart K.421

The opening melody is developed imitatively in bars 53-58. Each repetition of the melody highlights an ascending sequence within the D-minor harmonic scale of A-Bb-C#-D – ⑤⑥⑦①, followed by the continuing ascent acting in G-minor (D is now ⑤ rather than ①) ⑤⑥⑦①. This, of course, counters the previous connotations of the opening melody with a descending figure in the accompaniment. This learned thematic development contains a prolonged dissonance offensive to the Italian composer Guiseppe Sarti, that of the A with Bb in bar 54. This was evidence enough for Sarti to label the “author (whom I neither know nor wish to know)” as “nothing more than a piano-forte player with spoiled ears, who does not concern himself about counterpoint” (Quoted from Irving, 1998, p.77). Of course, this dissonance is “logical in its imitative context”, however its reception is notable.

Mozart’s treatment of the recapitulation is “straightforward” (Irving, 1998, p.34). The extended transition in the recapitulation serves as a ‘secondary development’ section. Here, Mozart develops ideas not dealt with in the development section, and he must make up for the missing half-bar arising from the opening theme. He does this in bar 84 with the addition of a tentative, syncopated, stacattisimo quaver section. The Neapolitan chord at bar 97 adds harmonic colour to the alteration of the second subject, (Caplin, 1998). A “brief, additional coda” (Irving, 1998, p.34) at 112b-117 rounds the movement off nicely, “highlighting upper and lower chromatic neighbour tones to the tonic note, D”.

Sarti was not Mozart’s only critic, King (1968, p.20) quotes the Vienna correspondent of the Magazin der Musik as claiming Mozart’s quartets to be “too highly seasoned – and whose palate can endure this for long?”. Dittersdorf, in a conversation with Emperor Joseph II in 1786, allegedly likened Mozart to Friedrich Klopstock, Haydn to Christian Gellert. This was due to how “Klopstock must be read repeatedly in order to understand his beauties, whereas Gellert’s beauties lay plainly exposed to the first glance” (Irving, 1998, p. 78). Although these views may well have prevailed during Mozart’s life, it is in part due to his chromatic tendencies and hidden “beauties” that his compositions have endured.



Braunbehrens, V. (1991). Mozart in vienna. (T., Bell, Trans.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1986).

Caplin, W.E. (1998). Classical form. New York: Oxford University Press.

Caplin, W.E. (2014). Topics and formal functions: the case of the lament. In D. Mirka (Ed.) The oxford handbook of topic theory (pp. 415-451). New York: Oxford University Press.

Edward Klorman [Edward Klorman]. (2016, Mar 30). Video 2.4 Momigny, vocal arrangement of Mozart, quartet in d minor, k. 421, allegro moderato [Video file]. Retrieved from

Galand, J. (2014). Topics and tonal processes. In D. Mirka (Ed.) The oxford handbook of topic theory (pp. 453-473). New York: Oxford University Press.

Gjerdingen, R.O. (2007). Music in the galant style. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Irving, J. (1998). Mozart ‘the Haydn quartets’. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

King, A.H. (1968). Mozart chamber music. London: BBC.

Mirka, D. (Ed.) (2014). The oxford handbook of topic theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Momigny, J.J.D. (1803-1806). Cours complet d’harmonie et de composition. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/conno/Desktop/Uni/2nd%20Year/Music%20in%20Vienna%201770-1830/Score-2.4-Momigny-Vocal-Arrangement-of-Mozart-Quartet-in-D-Minor.pdf

Mozart, W. A., & Finscher, L. (1962). String quartet in D-minor, K421. London, England: Bärenreiter.

O’Hara, W. (2017). Momigny’s Mozart: Language, Metaphor, and Form in an Early Analysis of the String Quartet in D Minor, K. 421. Mozart society of America, 21 (1), 5-10. Retrieved from

Ratner, L.G. (1980). Classic music: expression, form, and style. New York: Schirmer Books.

Rosen, C. (1971). The classical style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. London: Faber and Faber Limited.

Sanguinetti, G. (2012). The art of partimento. New York: Oxford University Press.


Analysis: Haydn Andante and variations in F minor, Hob XVII:6

Written in 1793 in Vienna “between his two stays in London” (Ax, 2012), the ‘Andante with variations in F minor’ “underwent several revisions” (Sisman, 1993, p. 193). It was an “alternating strophic-variation set in six parts” intended to be a movement of a sonata (Sisman, 1993, p. 193). This was later changed to a reprise of the theme and a coda, drastically changing the piece’s dynamic.

Haydn (born in modern day Croatia) may well have been influenced by the Slavonic dance, the ‘dumka’. This dance alternated melancholy with “joyous exuberance without any real transition” (Johnson, 2014). This neatly aligns with the unmediated shifts of character in the F Minor Variations. The double variation form creates an almost operatic dialogue with alternating minore and maggiore sections. An interesting feature of this form is the sudden return of the minor key after the major, it accentuates the agitated hesitancy of the minore (see Table 1). It is “as though a cloud has passed over the sun” (Johnson, 2014).

Table Haydn F-Minor Variations

The music begins with the left hand in two voices, establishing the F minor tonality by alternating between chords I and V. The right hand enters hesitantly on beat ‘2 ½’ in the style of an anacrusis. This traverses through a descending F minor triad landing on the tonic, proceeding to reiterate the tolling dotted-semiquaver demisemiquaver motif (see Figure 1). This creates an inverted pedal point on the tonic representing a “statement”, as opposed to the opening repetitions of the dominant, building “cadential drive” (Ratner, 1980, p. 65). The lack of melodic variety within this opening phrase prioritises the dotted rhythm, “the single most rhetorically powerful gesture of the piece” (Sisman, 1993, p. 194). It provides a stable harmonic basis against the shifting harmonies in the accompaniment and provides much room for transformation in the subsequent variations. Meanwhile, the walking chordal accompaniment continues from a G half-diminished 7th through F, which acts as a secondary dominant to Bb minor.

Fig 1 Haydn

Bar 4’s ‘turn’ is built from the raised 6th and 7th scale degrees of the ascending F minor melodic scale, over a C dominant 7th (see Figure 2). This is followed by the use of the descending F minor melodic scale, with G, Eb and C acting as a succession of appoggiaturas. In bar 5 Haydn uses an Italian 6th chord of Db. However instead of the natural resolution to the dominant (C major) we are forced to wait until the second beat of the bar. The ♭^6 resolves onto ^5 however the #^4 and ^1 stubbornly remains, creating dissonance. A fourth voice is added to resolve this chord, however it is an Ab which is added, evading the dominant. Finally on the 2nd beat of bar 6 we have a full resolution to the dominant. The B♮ resolves to C acting as a leading note, Ab and F fall to G and E♮ respectively.

Fig 2 Haydn

In bar 6, the inner voice begins a stepwise descent (see Figure 3). This continues all the way through the left hand’s version of the opening melody and beyond into bar 11. This second phrase sees various sequences such as the suspensions in the inner voice and melodic sequence in the left hand. The right hand resumes the processional accompaniment through a series of 7th chords modulating to the relative major, Ab.

Fig 3 Haydn

The opening two bars of the maggiore B section capture the mood and character of this second half of the double theme. It is “more playful, gentle, more elegant” (Johnson, 2014) than the melancholy minore. This “lightly-worn virtuosity” (Sisman, 1990) is displayed through arpeggiated flourishes (always beginning on the 5th degree of that chord) and frequent ornamentation (see Figure 4). The change in texture of the first half of the maggiore from two parts (except at cadential points) to three in the minore section provides a lighter, more transparent texture. In performance, preferential treatment given to key notes through the arpeggiated chords can present a three part texture. The texture begins to change in bar 37 (except from the cadential point at bar 33) with the modulation to the dominant, C major. The repeated Cs give priority to the melody and bassline.

The ascending chromatic motif is a main feature of this B section, albeit having a very different sonic quality to the A section’s chromaticism. The chromatic notes always rise, evoking a more positive, playful quality. The accompaniment throughout this section is dominated by the leap of an octave, in the first 10 bars it occurs 8 times. It is always a third or tenth lower than the right hand melody, and underscores the arpeggios with a 1st inversion of the chord.

Fig 4 Haydn

The change in character of the maggiore also occurs through more conventional phrase lengths: 4, 6, 4, 6, rather than the minore’s; 6, 6, 5, 5, 7. The extra two bars of the longer phrases in the B section serve as modulation. First from tonic to dominant, then in the second set of ‘6’, there are a series of smaller modulations passing through the subdominant (B♭) and its related minor (Gm), to the inevitable return back to the tonic (F). The modulation to the dominant is achieved through the use of a sequence on the arpeggiated figuration using chords of F, Dm and Bdim. The D minor chord is used as a pivot chord acting as VI in F, and II in C. This makes the use of chord VII in C (or #IV in F) feel more natural, whilst providing modulatory tension.

The coda begins as silence. Reprise of theme A is cut short 8 bars early, and we are left in suspense for a whole bar. This empty bar in the theme was inhabited by a C dominant 7th chord, returning to the tonic. Haydn instead repeats the previous dotted motif and modulates into G♭ major through use of a D♭ dominant 7th chord. This modulation makes reference to the Neapolitan 6th at bar 25, only 3 bars after where the reprise has been cut short. Therefore this modulation to G♭ still occurs, however it is approached more conventionally.

The augmented 6th taken from bars 5 and 6 recur throughout this coda in different keys and with different motifs, such as the parallel ascending first inversion chords at bar 172. The chromatic ascension of first inversions continues from G♭ major to C♭ major, where this rising motif halts and returns back to B♭. The melody during this C♭ chord leaps down a diminished 10th to A♮, which then rises as a leading note to a chord of B♭ (see Figure 5). The A♮’s direction is vital as it aids in the identity of this chord. It is a German 6th of C♭ in first inversion, Haydn has modulated to the relative minor of G♭, E♭ minor. Postponement of the ascending pattern and subsequent repetition provides a tonal sense of place, which is important to both player and listener when confronted with a series of chromatically rising parallel chords.

Fig 5 Haydn

Haydn then continues the chromatic ascent where he left off, from C♭ major to F♭ major, (once again acting as a German 6th to E♭ major) he modulates to A♭ minor. Then he begins the chromatic descent from E♭ to C but once again gets stuck. The subsequent alternation between C major and D♭ (acting as a German 6th, but missing the D♭) in contrary motion continues for almost two bars (see Figure 6).

The final quaver beat of bar 179 shouts a C dominant 7th chord at fortissimo. The dominant 7th is at the exact inversion and beat position as the C dominant 7th in bar 6 just after the Italian 6th. The following “cadenza-like outburst” (Sisman, 1993, p. 194) repeats the tolling tonic F from bar 3 over the transformed bar 1 accompaniment, which is this time in demisemiquavers with a slower harmonic rhythm – 1 bar rather than 1 beat. The ‘melody’, is in fact an inversion of the left hand’s closing motif from bar 29 of section theme A.

Fig 6 Haydn

The closing bar of the piece ends with a ghostly repetition of the broken octave ‘melody’, this time pianissimo. The naked octaves in dotted rhythm perhaps depict the ‘funeral march’ walking further into the distance, moving gradually out of sight.

This piece may have been written for the death of Mozart (Schiff, 2016) as it was dedicated to one of his pupils, Barabara Von Ployer (Renouf, 2012). Or perhaps it was for the “sudden death of Maria Anna von Genzinger” (Wigmore, 2009). Below the final bar, written by Haydn were the words “fine laus deo” – “the end – praise be to God” (Renouf, 2012).


A Schiff [Royal College of Music]. (2016, May 05). Sir András Schiff piano masterclass at the RCM: Alexander Ullman [Video file]. Retrieved from

Ax, E. (Director). (2012, May 8). Andante con variazioni in F minor, Hob.XVII:6 by Franz Joseph Haydn, [Programme] The Gilmore, Michigan.

Harrison, B. (1997). Haydn’s keyboard music: studies in performance practice. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Haydn, F. J. (2009). Un piccolo divertimento: Variations. [Recorded by Michael Korstick]. [CD]. Germany: Oehms Classics.

Haydn, F. J., & Sauer, E. (1942). Andante with variations in f minor. Pennsylvania: Universal Edition.

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Rosen, C. (1971). The classical style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. London: Faber and Faber Limited.

Sisman, E.R. (1990). Tradition and transformation in the alternating variations of Haydn and Beethoven. Acta Musicologica, 62 (2/3), 152-182. Retrieved from

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Analysis: Don Giovanni no.15, trio ‘Ah! taci, ingiusto core’

We join Donna Elvira in Act II at her balcony, scorning herself for still loving the notorious philanderer, Don Giovanni. Meanwhile, the Don has set his eyes on his next conquest, the maid of Donna Elvira. To be successful in this latest exploit, he must lure Elvira away. Don Giovanni and Leporello exchange outfits and Leporello, “disguised as his master is commanded to court Donna Elvira” (Fischer, 2007, p. 144). Don Giovanni remains hidden and calls to Elvira, begging for forgiveness and promising her “faithful love”. Elvira’s opposition weakens and she “rushes from her balcony” to be reunited with the one she believes to be Don Giovanni.

It is rare for an ensemble to come so close to the “precise plan of sonata form, for a single dramatic action rarely falls precisely into the sonata-form dynamic” (Kerman, 1952, p. 86). However, ‘Ah! taci, ingiusto core’ is a trio which conforms to the sonata principle in both music and drama; through opposition, intensification and resolution (Rosen, 1988).

Table 1 Don Giovanni

The baroque tradition of ‘da capo aria’ was a rather limited form in causing dramatic motion. The returning ‘A’ section was a return in emotional state as well as musical. Ratner (1980, p. 408) states ‘Ah! taci, ingiusto core’ as a “fully worked-out compressed da capo number”. This may well be due to not utilising existing themes for the development section. However according to Kerman (1952, p. 84) “the situation changes, and everybody feels differently; this was never so within a baroque aria or chorus”. On this subject of sonata form in Mozart’s operas, Rosen (1971, pp. 301, 302) views the relationship between drama and the “sonata aesthetic” to be “indissoluble”. The plot certainly reflects this form in ‘Ah! taci, ingiusto core’, Donna Elvira begins by scorning herself for having feelings for Don Giovanni in the exposition, to hating him when he appears at the development, to once again falling for him at the recapitulation. We follow Elvira in her emotional journey, stabilised by a coherent musical form.

The trio opens with bare orchestration (strings only) aiding the setting of Donna Elvira standing alone on her balcony, her feelings exposed to the audience. Elvira’s opening musical line is intermittent, only lasting for two bars adjoined by two bars of rest. It is “not properly a melody”, further conveying her conflicted state of mind (Johnson, 2007, p. 181). After the ascent of a 4th the melody inevitably falls downwards, she is losing the battle of her emotions (see Figure 1). The accompanying violins and violas have a syncopated two-quaver motif, perhaps representing the heartbeat Elvira is trying to keep under control.

                         Fig 1 Don Giovanni
Bar 14 sees a change in orchestration, motif and personnel as Don Giovanni and Leporello begin a dialogue with one another. Mozart sets this “in a rapid buffa style” (Johnson, 2007, p. 183), with undulating movement of adjacent scalic intervals. It is a vivid depiction of Don Giovanni and Leporello muttering out of earshot of Elvira. The antiphony created as the motif is passed round the orchestra evokes the sense of real conversation between the Don and his servant. Once again there is a pedal point on the dominant, this time in the first violins with an ostinato of C# to D in the second violins. This fluid, murmuring passage also illustrates the movement of Don Giovanni and Leporello, rather than the stagnant, broken line of Elvira. The repetition of the semiquaver passage (heard eight times) has the effect of acceleration. This is preparing for the dialogue between Don Giovanni and Donna Elvira carried out in the same melody she has sung, but in the dominant, E major. Modulated to by descent down a perfect 4th in the manner of a passus durisculus, the higher, brighter E major “quickens the attention without drawing attention” (Johnson, 2007, p. 181). The previous silences in Elvira’s version of the melody now provide space for Elvira to reply. Giovanni manages to musically shapeshift depending on whom he is with, “slipping into buffa when he is with Leporello, a virtuosic seria style with El­vira” (Johnson, 2007, p. 181).Figure 1: Bar 3. Top to bottom – Horns, 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, Donna Elvira

A horn in octaves on the dominant is introduced as Elvira begins to sing which is then passed to the flutes in bar 5, still on the dominant. This inverted pedal point on the dominant builds “cadential drive” (Ratner, 1980, p. 65), seeking a resolution to Elvira’s inner turmoil.

The opening 4 bars repeat with shortened note values, each quaver in the violins and violas is replaced with two semiquavers. This highlights both Elvira’s fervency to keep her emotions under control, and that she is proving unsuccessful, her heartbeat is in fact quickening. The first perfect cadence encountered in ‘Ah! taci, ingiusto core’ is in bar 12, until that point kept waiting for a resolution through a series of imperfect cadence. However in bar 12 the chromatic movement of thirds in the violins, clarinets and bassoons (derived from the consonant ascending thirds of bar 4) blur the tonic chord. Therefore it is bar 14 where we find a strong, perfect cadence landing on the tonic. This of course does not simply aid the drama on stage, it creates the drama. The implication of a lack of musical resolution transmits to the audience that Elvira herself is looking for a resolution to her feelings for Don Giovanni.

A notable feature of the development section of ‘Ah! taci, ingiusto core’ is the “bold” modulation of E major to C major (Johnson, 2007). The new C major key is remote from E major, however the modulation is smooth through the violins, flutes and bassoons descending chromatically from G# to the third of C major, E. This ♭VI modulation often appears “in Mozart’s seduction scenes” (Kerman, 1952, p. 82) and C major plays an important role within the axial tonal structure in Don Giovanni. It is the mid-point between the central tonality of the opera, D minor and its relative major, Bb. Often this remote C major is used for imbroglio, a high point of tension and confusion. This modulation therefore makes much sense when thought of in the sonata dynamic, as the development section is regarded as the point of tension (Rosen, 1988). Don Giovanni hasn’t yet won over Elvira, Donna Elvira hasn’t decided whether to return to Don Giovanni, and Leporello may ruin Giovanni’s scheme by revealing his identity through laughter. It is important to note that this development section does not develop existing musical themes in the manner of instrumental sonata forms. There are of course elements of previous themes referenced such as the ‘heartbeat’ quaver patter in the first violins of theme, but it is primarily the musical drama which heightens.

Aside from the modulation to C, Mozart conveys the drama particularly vividly in bars 46-54. After Don Giovanni’s “amorous sentiment” (Ratner, 1980, p. 408) is expressed on a new melody, Elvira interrupts him in “sudden agitato” passage (Kerman, 1952, p. 82). There are blustering demisemiquavers in the string section outlining chords of I, V7, I over a pedal point of C in the cellos and double basses (see Figure 2). This static C may well depict Donna Elvira’s resolve that she would never return to Don Giovanni. Awkward leaps of a 7th and a tritone in her vocal line along with short note values with syllabic treatment of the libretto express her outrage at the ‘barbarian’. The music modulates rapidly with overlapping phrases of the characters, Giovanni’s “increasingly ardent”, Elvira’s “a little hysterical” (Kerman, 1952, p. 82).

                Fig 2 Don Giovanni

In bar 49 Mozart uses the secondary dominant of A to create what Kerman states as “the highest point of tension” (Kerman, 1952, p. 83). The bassline descends from C to A through stepwise motion, being caught at bar 50 and 51 alternating chords E7 and D minor. Elvira becomes silent, and Leporello, who often provides the “rhythmic base upon which the more serious actions can play themselves out” (Rosen, 1971, p. 181), laughs his way back to the tonic, A major. This laughter is evocatively depicted through narrow intervals and descending undulating semiquavers.

Mozart ensures that the recapitulation of ‘Ah! taci, ingiusto core’ is not simply a restatement of the exposition. There are alterations to the orchestration, expansion of themes and even changes of the character to those themes. There are subtle alterations to the orchestration, such as the horns spelling out the A major triad at bar 55 and a now divided flute harmony at 58, 59. But the most striking difference of the recapitulation is the combined use of Elvira, Giovanni and Leporello. Up to this point in the trio, the three characters have not sung simultaneously. There has been much dialogue, where “two voices alternate phrases”, which Ratner (1980, p. 168) describes as “a distribution of solo material”. But it is in the recapitulation where voices, ideas and actions unify through vocal harmony and counterpoint. This technique makes dramatic sense as well as musical, all characters are communicating to the audience as an aside, they are expressing their thoughts and emotions on a scale not previously realised before this recapitulation.

For example in bar 60 (see Figure 3) Leporello is providing the rhythmic and harmonic basis for Giovanni and Elvira to harmonise (Rosen, 1971). This is illustrated clearly in bars 56-61 where Leporello repeats the note dominant note E, with rhythmic values of quavers and crotchets. With servantly obedience he accompanies Don Giovanni and Donna Elvira harmonising together on the reiteration of the opening theme. This manner of harmonisation often connotes joint thought or expression. In bar 60 this is of course linked to Elvira’s decision to reunite with Don Giovanni, entwining the paths of the two characters once again.

                   Fig 3 Don Giovanni

There is an interesting transformation at bars 62-66, equivalent to bars 9-13 of the exposition. Mozart expands the “chattering” descending demisemiquaver motif in the violin to take a short detour to the subdominant, D major (Kerman, 1952, p. 83). A major plays the role of secondary dominant until we return to the B theme at bar 67. The significance of this is that the first time we hear bars 9-13 it signalled the first perfect cadence. Once again we are forced to wait for resolution until the coda at bar 79 as the ascending chromatic thirds return. The romantic chromatic thirds, previously withholding the perfect cadence at bar 12, do so again at the coda. The close of this trio has Elvira sing a motif (bar 80) newly embellished, harking back to bar 13, the first complete perfect cadence. This once again refers to her resolution, previously to forget the Don, but now she has once again given in to his seduction and descends to meet with the one she believes to be Don Giovanni.

Mozart uses every conceivable element of music not just to interpret the drama, but to create the drama.  Mozart “could embody the character or situation for himself in music, and needed the words only to…define it beyond doubt for the audience” (Abraham 1965, p. 283).


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