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I realized a thing about the last movement of Mozart's Symphony #39 that I never realized before -- and I'm wondering if it's unique for anything in the symphony and sonata literature:
It's a full-length symphony movement where the main motif never really goes away.



BTW the reason I listened to the movement is that the NY Times has an article about a conductor I never heard of (Michael Gielen). It talks about his style with music and mentions Mozart (among other composers). I thought this movement would be a good example for me to get an idea of his stuff.

I can't think of any other 'full-length' symphony or sonata movements that share this. The closest I can come -- and it's not close at all, in various respects, including that it's not what we'd call "full length" -- is the last movement of Chopin's Funeral March Sonata (#2).

I guess we could say the 1st movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony comes close too -- but to me it's not really close, because while the second theme begins with that motif, it moves away from it for long stretches.

Any ideas?

Whether or not there are any other examples, and especially if there aren't, I find it extremely striking that this Mozart movement is able to be what it is, for almost 8 minutes, with really nothing but that one motif.

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Full-length I dunno but the finale of Beethoven Op 10/2 is also monothematic.


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The idee fixe or leitmotif, recurring music motif, is not uncommonly found. Off the top of my head, the two that come to mind are Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique and the “Clara theme” of Schumann’s Fantasy in C. In these two examples, the motif appears in all movements. I’ll post more later when I can recall a few more.

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Haydn was fond of monothematic sonata movements. Here's an analysis of one of them:



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The first movement of Schumann's 4th symphony comes close.
The first movement of the Clementi piano sonata in B flat major where Mozart "borrowed" the theme for the Magic Flute overture also has a second theme which resembles the first.

And Mozart's Rondo KV485 can be listened to as a sonata movement where the first and second theme are identical.

Last edited by patH; 02/21/22 07:53 AM.

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Brandenburg Concerto 3 last movement


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Originally Posted by Mark_C
I guess we could say the 1st movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony comes close too -- but to me it's not really close, because while the second theme begins with that motif, it moves away from it for long stretches.

The "main theme" of the movement is almost entirely a rhythmic idea. As you mention, the so-called second subject starts with the motif then there's a couple of bars of what one might call rudimentary melody but then the motif is back there again in the bass--it really doesn't go away at all. I think that movement is about as close to monothematic as anything in sonata style literature, unless you count those two bars as a discrete theme, which they really are not.

In a different but vaguely similar vein, is anyone aware of any other sonata movements where, as in Schumann's Piano Concerto/I, the first melody presented in the second thematic group is the same as the opening idea?


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Originally Posted by SiFi
In a different but vaguely similar vein, is anyone aware of any other sonata movements where, as in Schumann's Piano Concerto/I, the first melody presented in the second thematic group is the same as the opening idea?

This is a structure known as a "dependent" second theme, where the second theme depends on the opening idea. The first example I can think of is Mozart K.333.

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Repeating the same melody throughout the piece I'd say Bach Cantata #40 "Sleeper's Awake". You get the same melody embedded in the overture to the last chorale.

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Someone can correct me if I'm wrong but the second movement of Beethoven's Op. 54 piano sonata seems to be monothematic as well. Though there are two motifs in the theme and sometimes only one of them is present (16th note motif)


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Brandenburg concerto 3 first movement.

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Yes, Haydn is very well known for his monothematic structures.


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Originally Posted by achoo42
Originally Posted by SiFi
In a different but vaguely similar vein, is anyone aware of any other sonata movements where, as in Schumann's Piano Concerto/I, the first melody presented in the second thematic group is the same as the opening idea?

This is a structure known as a "dependent" second theme, where the second theme depends on the opening idea. The first example I can think of is Mozart K.333.

Do you mean the first movement? If so I'm not seeing any relationship (other than stylistic, obviously) between the first and second groups. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding or you meant to cite a different work?


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