This Serenade (which is also referred to as the Gran Partita or the Serenade for 13 wind instruments) has 7 movements of which the Adagio (in E flat major) is the 3rd. It was probably written in Vienna during 1781-2, and its performance may have been intended for Mozart’s wedding (August 1782). However the earliest known performance was, in part, in Anton Stadler’s benefit concert in the Burgtheater on 23 March 1784. The Grand Partita is the largest of Mozart’s serenades, being scored for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 basset-horns (to be played on clarinets tonight), 4 horns, 2 bassoons, and a string bass, and many consider it to be the finest piece ever written for Harmoniemusik (music for wind instruments, which was often played outside).
The Adagio has a wonderful richness of texture and feeling. In Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus, Salieri describes the effect of the Adagio on him, as follows: “It started simply enough: just a pulse in the lower registers – bassoons and basset-horns – like a rustic squeezebox. It would have been comic except for the slowness, which gave it instead a sort of serenity. And then suddenly, high above it, sounded a single note on the oboe. It hung there unwavering – piercing me through – till breath could hold it no longer, and a clarinet withdrew it out of me, and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight it had me trembling….”