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Mozart - Symphony No. 40: movement 1

In the following pages we will look at the first movement of Symphony No. 40 in more detail. Remember this movement is in sonata form, so it has three sections: exposition, development and recapitulation.


The symphony opens with the first subject played on violins accompanied by the violas, cellos and double basses.

First subject

Look at the first subject. Notice the:

  • tempo marking – molto allegro (very fast)
  • 4/4 time signature
  • key signature of G minor (two flats)
  • dynamic marking p
  • melody starting on the fourth beat, a weak beat of the bar – this is known as an anacrusis
  • shape of the melody and its use of two quavers followed by a crotchet - a falling semitone motive (or motif)
  • question and answer phrasing – a four-bar phrase answered by another four-bar phrase
  • dark intense mood

A motive (or motif) is a short distinctive melodic or rhythmic idea and is used as the basis of longer passages of music.

Listen to the opening. Notice how the second four-bar phrase ends with a perfect cadence. Notice the use of the tonic pedal in the first six bars and the repeated quaver accompaniment.

The word 'pedal' is used here to mean a repeated note (in this case G) played against changing harmonies.

A perfect cadence sounds final and uses chord V (the dominant, in this case D) followed by chord I (the tonic, in this case G minor).

A transition or bridge passage leads to the second subject.

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