Mozart composed the majority of his concertos for string instruments from 1773 to 1779, but it is unknown for whom, or for what occasion, he wrote them. Similarly, the dating of these works is unclear. Analysis of the handwriting, papers and watermarks has proved that all five violin concertos were re-dated several times. The year of composition of the fifth concerto “1775” was scratched out and replaced by “1780”, and later changed again to “1775”. Mozart would not use the key of A major for a concerto again until the Piano Concerto No. 12 (K. 414).
The movements are as follows:
- Allegro aperto – Adagio – Allegro aperto
- Adagio (E major)
- Rondeau – Tempo di minuetto
The aperto marking on the first movement is rare in Mozart’s instrumental music (two of his piano concerti, Piano Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major and Piano Concerto No. 8 in C Major, have this marking, as does his Oboe Concerto in C Major are two other examples), but appears much more frequently in his operas. It implies that the piece should be played in a broader, more majestic way than might be indicated simply by allegro. The first movement opens with the orchestra playing the main theme, a typical Mozartian tune. The solo violin comes in with a short but sweet dolce adagio passage in A Major with a simple accompaniment by the orchestra. (This is the only instance in Mozart’s concerto repertoire in which an adagio interlude of this sort occurs at the first soloist entry of the concerto.) It then transitions back to the main theme with the solo violin playing a different melody on top of the orchestra. The first movement is 10–11 minutes long.
The rondo Finale is based on a Minuet theme which recurs several times. In the middle of the movement the meter changes from 3/4 to 2/4 and a section of “Turkish music” is played. This is characterised by the shift to A minor (from the original A major), and by the use of grotesque elements, such as unison chromatic crescendos, repetition of very short musical elements and col legno playing in the cellos and double basses. This section gave the concerto the nickname “The Turkish Concerto”. The famous Rondo alla Turca from Mozart’s piano sonata in A major features the same key and similar elements.
Mozart later composed the Adagio in E for Violin and Orchestra, K. 261, as a substitute slow movement for this concerto.
The entire piece is about 28 minutes long.