Mozart – Serenade in B flat, “Gran Partita”, K361/K370a

The title “Gran Partita” is almost certainly not Mozart’s. And IMSLP has this down as K361 *and* K370a…

The Emerson edition, which we used, has this as a double bass part; some editions will say it’s a contrabassoon part. I suspect, however, that a contra-bassoon in any but the most experienced hands just wouldn’t be capable of getting round the notes – and I’ve never seen a contrabassoonist who was capable of playing pizzicato.

The first few movements aren’t so bad. However, the real trickster is (spoiler alert!) the 5th Movement (out of 7…)

1 – Largo / Allegro Molto

Some quaver runs – but they’re mostly scales or octaves, so nothing too panic-inducing. Watch out for the occasional change of key mid-run, where an E flat at the beginning of the run becomes an E natural by the end of it.

2 – Minuetto

Two trios, so keep your wits about you for the repeats.

3 – Adagio

Big, slow, long quaver arpeggio/chord-spreading/string-crossing stuff. I found this movement to be the hardest, physically.

4 – Minuetto

Another geographically-challenging Minuet with two Trios, including an impossible page turn in the edition we were using – Minuet on one page, and the two trios on the other. Needed a page-turner, as I didn’t have a photocopier handy!

5 – Romance

Tempo marking is Adagio, and you can see semiquavers…

K361 370a 5 Romance Excerpt 1

The movement starts off nice and gently, and you’ve got a few bars rest to look at them, and they don’t look like they’ll be too bad. The second block is rather bigger, but still doesn’t look too bad – after all, it’s Adagio, right?…

K361 370a 5 Romance Excerpt 2

Wrong. You, like me, have failed to notice that the tempo changes to Allegretto before you get that far, and that those semiquavers are actually a bit nippy. The runs are doubled with the bassoons. This might not be good news – mistakes are more noticeable!

Comments afterwards along the lines of “never seen a double bassist move so fast”. Thanks, guys, I think…

6 – Theme & Variations

The sixth movement is playable, but just be aware that you’ll suddenly find yourself playing on your own. Very exposed, but don’t worry! Think of them as the musical equivalent of a sniff put in between phrases. No, I’m not going to tell you which ones they are in advance.

7 – Rondo – Molto Allegro

Fast. So fast that if it were any quicker the clarinets would have real problems with their semiquaver knitting/noodling passages… fortunately, the bass semiquavers are restricted to a couple of scale-esque runs near the end of the movement. Again, they are in unison with almost everyone else, so people will notice if you get them wrong!

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