In the Andante movement of Mozart's first symphony, there's a theme played on the horns which I think goes Do, Re, Fa, Mi. I wanted to know if there are any flats in these notes.

Does it go, C D F E... or C D F Eb?

Also, are there any other notes that come after the theme? Or does the theme just repeat after these four notes? (Let's say, hypothetically, I wanted to play the horn part on the piano. Would I just play CDFE repetitively? Or is there more?)

For reference, here's the symphony. It should start at the beginning of the second movement.


In what I listened to, yes, it is do, re, fa, mi (in moveable do). BUT - since it's in Eb, the actual notes are Eb, F, Ab, G. The horns are first making chords from those notes - namely Cm, Fm, G7, Cm. I hear C, D, B, C more, so in the major tonic sol-fa it'll be la, si, so#, la. Alternatively using Cm sol-fa, it'll be do, re, si, do.

At 5:24, where a clearer motif is heard, the key's re-modulated to Eb, with the notes do, re, fa, mi, in Eb. There won't be mi bemol, as that would put the key into Eb minor.

If it was transposed to do=C, then the mi would have to be mi bemol (mi flat), otherwise it would sound, and be, major. At this point, the Eb that the symphony is written in has modulated into the relative minor of C minor.

FOOTNOTE - there may be some confusion regarding the notes played - I used concert pitch, whereas the actual dots may be in a different key, so as to transpose the horn/s - which are transposing instruments - into the same key as the rest of the orchestra. Which makes it sound so much better!


It definitely goes C D F E (assuming it begins on C; I don't have absolute pitch, so I'm just basing it off what you said). Other pitches do come in after the theme, but there are a few reasons why I think C D F E is so important:

First, it's the start of the opening theme of the last movement of his final symphony, Mozart 41!

Interestingly, it's also the ordering of Brahms's 4 symphonies: his first was in C minor, his second in D major, his third in F major, and his fourth in E minor.

Hmm...coincidence? I doubt it! It think it's because Fux, author of the famous counterpoint text Gradus ad Parnassum, used those pitches in a number of his exercises! (It can also be traced back to Josquin in the early 16th century.)

It seems pretty likely that Mozart (and Brahms, too) was paying homage to his early compositional training by using these pitches.

Edit: If you were looking at the score, your confusion may have been this: I know this piece is in C minor, so why is it that the horns are playing C D F E and not Eb? It's for two reasons. First, the music has moved to E-flat major at this point, and two, the horns are actually E-flat horns, meaning they're written in C! (Confused yet?!) So although their written pitches are C D F E, they're actually playing Ef F Af G.

  • Hi, Richard. I'm wondering why our answers are so very different! I listened to andante, in minor key, which is where the min3 came from. Help! – Tim Feb 12 '17 at 9:47
  • I understood OP as meaning the section that begins around 5:24, when the music has moved to the relative major of Ef. There's an obvious ^1 ^2 ^4 ^3 in the horns there. But maybe I checked out the wrong part! – Richard Feb 12 '17 at 9:52
  • In fact the entire last movement of Mozart 41 can be described as "this is what you get when a musical genius answers the questions on Page 1 of a standard counterpoint textbook". Haydn wrote a few similar movements in his earlier symphonies. Remember that most of their contemporary audiences would have had a formal music education, and have done this kind of exercise themselves (but not as well as Haydn or Mozart). – user19146 Feb 12 '17 at 13:00

It's easy to find the score: https://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/00033/torat

Here's the start of the Andante. The horn part is the second staff from the top. Note the horns are written as transposing instruments in E flat, so the written notes in the first bar (C and E) actually sound as E flat and G, a sixth lower (on the bottom two lines of the treble clef).

Music in minor keys doesn't work very well with the valveless horns used in Mozart's time, so after the first phrase in C minor he changes to Eb major in bar 7, and the first horn then gets to play C D F E at the written pitch, sounding as Eb F Ab G.

enter image description here

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.