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GCSE Music Analysis: Symphony No.40 in G Minor

I am currently taking GCSE music and have finished my performances and compositions. I'm going to be taking my final theory exam this June. I have created this hub-page so people who are taking GCSE music can revise from this so they can succeed in their current GCSE music examinations.

gcse-music-symphony-no40-in-g-minor-1st-movement-mozart

General information

This piece was composed in 1788 during the classical period for a chamber orchestra.

Instrumentation

This piece has no percussion and the only brass instrument in this piece is the French Horn.
This piece was written to be played by a chamber orchestra, as mentioned in the general information section. The three sections are woodwind, brass and strings.

Classical Period Features

The classical period features in this piece include:

  • Balanced phrases.
  • Melody dominated texture.
  • Structures defined by clear use of keys.
  • Harmony was functional.
  • Ideas of contrast in terms of key, melody and more varied dynamics
  • Orchestra was established as a standard instrumental ensemble.
  • New musical genres emerged - the symphony, concerto and string quartet.

Tempo and Rhythm

This piece has the time signature of 4/4 and has a tempo of "Molto allegro". This piece has a distinct clear pulse which is easy to follow. The opening has a quaver accompaniment in the violas and a on'beat crotchet bass notes from the basses.

Structure and Tonality

This piece is in sonata form which consists of three sections:

Exposition:

  • Starts in G Minor then modulates during the bridge to B Flat Major for the 2nd subject.
  • Extra chromatic notes add tension in the bridge passage.

Development:

  • Harmonies are more chromatic.
  • Starts in F# Minor, but explores lots of different keys.

Recapitulation:

  • Returns to G Minor and repeats the 1st subject.
  • Bridge passage is longer but passes through more keys.
  • Second subject this time is in G Minor.
gcse-music-symphony-no40-in-g-minor-1st-movement-mozart

Melodic/Musical Devices

  • Sequencing is used in the opening melody of the violins. The first four bars are repeated using a descending sequence. This is also used in the bridge passage.
  • Chromaticism is used in the 2nd subject.
  • Counter-melodies are used in the development.
  • Augmentation is used in the codetta. (Doubling the original note values).
  • Pathétique is the overall melancholy mood of the piece, particularly the 2nd subject.

Dynamics

  • At the beginning, it is soft (p). Although, unusually, most classical pieces start loud (f).
  • The 2nd subject uses crescendos.
  • The bridge is loud (f) and has a lot of sforzandos.

Timbre and Texture

  • Mainly melody dominated homophony used throughout. Although the piece explores different textures.
  • First and second violins play in octaves at first and they also play in unison.
  • Other parts use pedals.
  • The piece ends with a homophonic texture.

Melody and Pitch

  • Movement is conjunct with some leaps.
  • Instruments generally play in their comfortable, middle registers.
  • The flute and violin 1 explore a higher range at times.

Keyword

Meaning

Molto allegro

Very fast

Anacrusis

When a melody starts on the 4th beat

Motif

A tiny part of a melody

Pedal

A recurring note

Coda

Ending section

Codetta

Mini ending section

Tonic

The original key

Relative minor

Minor key with the same key signature (sharps and flats) as tonic

Dominant

5th (in the original key of c, this would be g)

Melodic fragment

A tiny part of a tune, similar to a motif

Contrapuntal

Same as polyphonic - more than one part at once. Both tunes are equally important

Homophonic

Like "melody and accompaniment" - all the parts move in chords.

Syncopation

On the 'off-beat'.

Tie

A long line which connects two notes together

Key

The pitch

1st subject

The 1st theme

Transition

The bridge section

Cadences

The end parts of phrases

Harmony

Questions on this relate to chords and cadences or specific keys

Imitation

Where one part copies another

Device

A musical tool

Doubling

Play exactly the same thing at the same time. Woodwind generally doubles the tune

Orchestra

A group of instrumentalists, especially one combining string, woodwind, brass, and percussion sections and playing classical music

Texture

Is the number of parts and how they work together

Monophonic

A single tune that can be accompanied by a rhythm

Balanced

The same length

Overview Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What is the order of sonata form?
    • Exposition, Development, Recapitulation.
    • Intro, Chorus, Outro.
    • Development, Exposition, Recapitulation.
  2. Which musical period did Mozart compose in?
    • Baroque.
    • Classical.
    • Romantic.
  3. What is a modulation?
    • A contrapuntal passage.
    • A key change.
    • A transformed theme.
  4. What is the interval between the first two notes of the first subject?
    • Semitone.
    • Tone.
    • Megatone.
  5. How many movements does a symphony usually have?
    • Five
    • Three.
    • Four.

Answer Key

  1. Exposition, Development, Recapitulation.
  2. Classical.
  3. A key change.
  4. Semitone.
  5. Four.

© 2016 Lucas Tomlin