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A Musical Joke

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1716-1791), KV 522 
Arranger: Kenneth C. Henslee 
Instrumentation: Woodwind Sextet (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and 2 French Horns) 
Performance Time: 21:30
Price: $16.00

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PMP1-KCH-90-016

$16.00

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Divertimento for two horns and strings, A Musical Joke, (Ein Musikalischer Spaß,) K. 522 was published on June 14, 1987 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, only seventeen days after his father’s death. It is often though due to this timing that this composition was meant as a farewell to his father. However, given the level of sarcasm that Mozart emplyed in this composition, it is wondered that it was directed toward the various nobly-born amateurs who composed for the courts in the late 19th century.

This work includes notes that are blatantly wrong. If the musicians play them as written, they sound incompetent; if they play the “right” notes, they have failed to perform the piece as the composer intended, and so are indeed incompetent. In this piece, Mozart intentionally violates elementary laws of composition, such as creating consecutive fifths and octaves. He also doubles parts without accounting for texture, to create overly intrusive accompaniment, in some sections. The Trio section is rhythmically imbalanced. Twice in the Finale, music goes on for 30 bars without any real motivation. It seems the composer cannot come to the cadence he wants. Another example, the clash of the last chords seems simply inept, but here is the joke: the various instruments are in different keys, which form triads on the five notes of an e-flat major scale. This and other examples of the underlying skill in its structure are convincing arguments that Mozart intends more than mere parody. It seems that A Musical Joke is, for Mozart, an exercise in coping with musical impossibilities. Normally, he was never in the position of developing an amateurish opening to completion.

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