Please allow me to start this «Musical Borrowing series» with a personal favorite of mine. The story of these simple four notes is quite fascinating. Here is the motif:


 The first time I came accross this theme was not the first time it was used in history. Not until much later did I discover that Josquin des Prez (c.1450/55-1521)the father of Western Modern Music (the theme of another Blog, perhaps) is prominently used in the Christe section of his Missa Pange lingua:

Closer to our time, Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) uses the same intervals in the Second Movement of his Harpsichord concerto in D, a delightful chamber piece: (the theme is transposed)


What fascinates me is that this little motif opens and closes Mozart’s symphonic output. It was certainly quite popular with him. Let’s see:

Andante of his First Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, K. 16, was written in 1764.


Credo in the Missa brevis in F major, K.192/186f, written in 1774. (Transposed, two excerpts)


Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, finished on 10 August 1788.

  • Trio of the Menuett (wait for the forte!)


  • Finale


Compare the writting of the Missa and the Finale


The British edition of that last Symphony was the first one to name it «Jupiter». It seems everyone agrees on the name, but especially Sir George Grove, who wrote: «It is for the finale that Mozart has reserved all the resources of his science, and all the power, which no one seems to have possessed to the same degree with himself, of concealing that science, and making it the vehicle for music as pleasing as it is learned. Nowhere has he achieved more.»

Yes, sir George Grove is the person who championed the mammoth Dictionary that still is a must in music research! Do you happen to know any more instances of this motif in music literature?

Let’s send this weekend off with this fantastic minute of glorious music. The Coda from the Finale is a feast for the ears and a delight for the intellect.

Just to leave with some thoughts to start more interesting conversations: Do you remember when they told us at school that Mozart never made mistakes and simply transcribed what was in his brain? Well, it is not only inaccurate (as some program notes out there…) but misleading. Mozart was a genius, but he also knew that hard work trumps talent when talent doesn’t work hard. The truth is that all his papers were burned, discarded, or plain lost after his death. For a lazy researcher that constituted proof enough that he didn’t make mistakes. Since we are not that lazy, just take a look to these 2 pages… Plenty of ‘mistakes’!

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Mozart’s Four Notes
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3 pensamientos en “Mozart’s Four Notes

  • Pingback: Our first Podcast: 1 Theme and 3 Mozartations | Carlos Andrés Botero

  • 23 de marzo de 2015 a las 23:05 11Mon, 23 Mar 2015 23:05:54 +000054.
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    Excellent research Carlos. I like the way you said, «Hard work trumps talent when talent does not work hard.» It is interesting to see similar note patterns in pieces earlier than Mozart’s, yet, I had always thought he originated the sound. Even more intriguing that he uses the same notes in several other pieces.

  • 25 de marzo de 2015 a las 10:17 10Wed, 25 Mar 2015 10:17:33 +000033.
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    Ilike this, it is a really great job!


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