Can somebody please explain why Mozart used(or why do they work/what is their purpose/function) this 2 notes : #5 and #1 in this scale run from his Clarinet Concerto in A ??? Thank you very muchenter image description here

  • Odd score -- those runs should have slurs over them. Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 13:13
  • @CarlWitthoft Could you provide a source for these slurs? Do you mean a single slur for the whole thing (which would be very atypical for the style but is usually seen in 19th century editions of classical pieces) or multiple smaller ones? In my experience runs without explicit articulation are quite common in Mozart’s writing.
    – 11684
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 23:19
  • @11684 I no longer have my clarinet repertoire, but go take a look at any current publication of the Concerto (solo part). Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 14:17
  • @CarlWitthoft Yes, solo part has many longer slurs (in Bärenreiter Urtext)! Very interesting! The orchestra, however, has the normal amount (almost nothing, the slurs that are there are rarely longer than a beat) so it must be a particular of clarinet writing.
    – 11684
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 14:40

4 Answers 4


The overall structure of this passage is ii, V, I in A major. In closer detail, the first two bars alternate between D (IV) and Bm (ii), two closely related chords that share the same function. In even closer detail, the E# is melodic decoration, no need to over-analyse it. The E natural in the next group (along with the A# in the bass) hints at an F#7, dominant of the Bm chord reached on beat 3. There's a similar pattern in the next bar, a decorated Bm chord, a decorated D6, a hint of B7 leading into E7.

Mozart makes a feature of approaching notes from a semitone below in this passage. Sometimes it's harmonic, sometimes just decorative. This mix of repetition and variation is part of Mozart's genius.

  • 1
    How are you able to deduce the chord progressions ? Looking at the strings..they all play the same note in unison...How am I supposed to know if the B note is supposed to be the root of the ii chord or the fifth of the V chord...please help ?
    – chips
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 17:25
  • 1
    @Chips, a common approach is to look at the bass note. In the key A major B over a bass of B is likely a Bm chord, B over a bass E or G# would be an E chord. Things can get tricky with the melody when non-chord tones are used, but again the bass usually helps clarify what the harmony is. Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 19:34
  • I agree with the "mostly decorative" -- a semitone lead-in works very well. Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 13:12

The basic terminology is chromatic non-chord tones of the scale degrees ^5 dominant and ^2 supertonic.

The basic voice leading of that embellished passage and the half cadence is common enough that the author Gjerdingen named it "Indugio" and "Converging Cadence."

Gjerdingen, Music in the Galant Style.

...explain why ...what is their purpose/function?

@LaurencePayne already pointed out these notes are decorative an provide color.

But I think it's important to say their essential purpose in this passage is rhythmic. The embellishment gives us the sixteenth note figure, actually it too has a name: cambiata.

Often embellishments like these happen with slower durations like quarter-notes and half-notes and become a more essential part of the melody.

Technically you would label them the same way, but I think it is good to make the distinction of rhythmic versus melodic purpose.

  • Thank you very much for the explanation Mr. Curtis ! The book you presented looks amazing , just found myself a copy of it. Would you be kind enough to mention what other ''schemas'' from this book are present in the first orchestral ritornello bars 1–56 of this Mozart piece. Thank you very much !
    – chips
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 23:20
  • @Chips, that a tall order! But, I can give you a few tips. Some of the schemata were popular in the earlier 'Rococo' style, but not in Mozart's mature style: ex. the Romanesca, Monte, etc. The chapter on 'Clausulae' includes schemata like the Comma, Clausula Vera, etc. and those are common in Classical style. When trying to identify a schema in a score, don't look at the beat by beat level, look at the phrase level - 2 to 4 bars length will be common. Look for the cadences. Also, working backward from cadences/phrase endings is often helpful. Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 14:11
  • Also, trying starting with smaller works - minuets or other dances, then perhaps piano sonatas - starting with a concerto will like trying at climb Mount Everest on your first climb! Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 14:12

The E sharp is probably there because there has been a modulation to F sharp minor the relative key of A Major.

The A sharp looks like there is a modulation from f sharp minor to b minor. Both of these keys leading tones resolve the same way, by jumping up a third and then resolving down to the Tonic, which seems like a motif.

  • In terms of modulation, it's modulating to E major, the dominant. These decorations are too brief to be called modulations. Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 21:34
  • This is the only answer that mentions F# minor and B minor keys. If you listen to the first bar alone it's clearly in F# minor, not A. Same for the second bar in B minor. Even if it's too short to be called a modulation, the tonal center definitely changes and both notes sound like leading tones, not #5 or #2 of A.
    – coconochao
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 21:11

This is basically a V/V/V progression. The first measure shown is centered around F#. It uses the F# harmonic minor scale. This explains the E#, which is raised 7th degree/leading tone ascending into the F# (but is returned to natural when descending), but you can see A# in the lower voices which makes the chord at the end of the measure sound like F# major, the V of B. The next measure starts the same way as the first, being a partial sequence of the first measure. Again, it is based on a B harmonic minor scale, explaining the A#. At the end of the measure, the D# appears in the lower voices, creating a B major chord, which is V of E, which is the V of A. The next two measures give a very strong ending in E major, and if there is any question, the D# is included.

  • Thank you very much Heather !!! This makes the most sense so far ! Thank you once again
    – chips
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 11:53
  • Appealing, maybe, but too complicated! That's like inferring a modulation to E minor from the passing D# in the first phrase of 'The Entertainer'. Mozart gives us a solid D chord - D and A in bass and viola, a decorated F# in the melody. To quote Piston: 'Notes outside the scale do not necessarily affect the tonality'.
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 12:06
  • @LaurencePayne, a progression of V chords does not make for a modulation, though they are often used in a "modulation section." I do not think it is any more complicated than jazz analysis which is making all kinds of ii-V-I progressions in various keys and changing the scale which is played over each chord.
    – Heather S.
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 12:38

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