Easiest Mozart Symphonies

May 10, 2023, 12:35 PM · I'm the CM of a small-ish no-audition community orchestra. We are always looking for pieces to play, and we have a small budget to purchase scores and parts.

A few years ago I asked my violin teacher, who has a lot of experience as an orchestral violinist, "What's the easiest Mozart symphony," and he texted back immediately, "No. 15 in G Major."

And we did that one. Well, it was pretty easy. But it was fun nevertheless, and we were happy to include the few local woodwind and horn players that the score required.

So now I'm asking all of you -- what are the next easiest two or three Mozart symphonies? Note that we have performed No. 25 in G Minor but we had to back the tempos off on the Allegros, considerably. So No. 25 should be considered a little beyond our capabilities. Our previous conductor tried to give us Schubert No. 4 "Tragic" and there was essentially a revolt at the dress rehearsal and we only performed the first movement.

You may suggest symphonies written by composers other than Mozart, too, but know that we generally prefer to deal with only a small complement of wind players. We performed Beethoven No. 5 recently, but again we had to take down the tempos of the fast movements, especially the finale, and handling all of the winds and percussion made for an exhilarating performance at the end, but the journey was stressful.

We are aware of the Britten "Simple Symphony" and this is playable for us. Well beyond our abilities would be the Grieg Holberg Suite or any of the Sibelius symphonic literature such as Karelia Suite or Finlandia.

Thanks in advance.

Replies (20)

May 10, 2023, 12:52 PM · Beethoven 1 I played in my community orchestra last year. That was doable. We had to play some of the fast bits a little slower, but I get the impression our orchestras are about the same level so that maybe doable for you guys. Haydn 26 is probably doable too
May 10, 2023, 12:59 PM · @Paul - for symphonies from that period, you can probably get the sheet music for free from imslp.org. My community orch has done that a number of times.

One thing I would note is that there is nothing wrong with doing symphonies slightly under tempo if necessary so that the orch can sound good. Remember that in those days, prior to Beethoven, there were no metronomes, so a marking like Allegro or Andante meant relative speed as opposed to some speed counted out by a metronome.

Mozart #33 is probably the easiest Mozart we have done. Have a look at it. If y=the orch is comfortable just doing movements, there is a lot more out there that would work. Good luck!

Edited: May 10, 2023, 1:32 PM · It is easy to look at the scores (as well as all the parts) of Mozart and Haydn Symphonies. I've been playing in a chamber orchestra since 2012 that downloads virtually all its music from IMSLP.org . There are likely several editions of each symphony available there. This will give you a choice of over 140 symphonies to choose from from these two composwrs alone.

We do not "take down" the tempos. We are lucky to have enough musicians who don't need to - and others who face up to the challenges and gain good experience because of that. Our wind players are fantastic. Our main limitation is that we do not have a conductor, but have to follow the concertmaster, who therefore for gets wonderful experience leading while playing. Yesterday we read through Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and one of Bach's Double Concertos for Oboe and Violin. (It's a wonderful world with such music in it!)

Edited: May 10, 2023, 1:53 PM · Andrew, I have a feeling that the Double Concerto for Oboe and Violin (BWV 1060R) may still be under copyright, as it was reconstructed by an academic/musicologist in the twentieth century. I'm not certain, it's a hunch.

EDITED to add my full agreement to your wonderful world sentiment!

May 10, 2023, 2:01 PM · One limiting factor for programming community/amateur/student orchestras is the Oboes and French Horns. Those are difficult and expensive instruments and are of course important and loud. All the Mozart and Haydn symphonies use 2 horns and 2 Oboes. For a strings only orchestra there are the early Mendelssohn and the CPE Bach symphonies.
Edited: May 10, 2023, 2:33 PM · Hi Joel, we are lucky to have some good woodwind players around, including the double reeds. Horns are more of a challenge, but we reach out to our "Community Band" for personnel.

Andrew, how difficult in your estimation is the orchestra portion of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto? We have a clarinetist who has indicated an interest in performing with us, and we want to do a Mozart.

Yes, I can look at scores on IMSLP. But if someone has a quick recollection of a nice piece that they've done that wasn't too hard, then I value that subjective opinion and experience so much more.

Regarding printing parts from IMSLP, we can do this, too, but we would probably need to have them bound. Otherwise I know what's going to happen - a gust of breeze and everyone's sheets are all over the stage.

May 10, 2023, 3:11 PM · Mozart 25 and 29 are excellent crowd pleasing symphonies.
Edited: May 10, 2023, 3:39 PM · Richard the Bach double was BWV 1060R, but there ws no one around to hear save the birds outside in the trees.

Paul, I have a pace in my head for Mozart's Clarinet Concerto that seems to be a bit faster than we took yesterday. So it works at a slower than "optimal" tempo. (It was the first time I played the 2nd violin part. I played viola in concert with the same clarinetist a few years ago and 1st violin over 40 years ago. (I think 2nd violin is harder than either of those.)

I think it's all within 3rd position except for an E harmonic (twice, I think).

Regarding binding, I usually print and assemble my own part and avoid hazardous page turns with triple-width and a rare "cut-and-paste." We play one-on-a-stand.

May 10, 2023, 9:03 PM · Our feeling is that we would rather just buy the parts unless they're outrageous than print-and-bind ourselves. It's just a hassle and we do have some income from donations.
May 10, 2023, 9:26 PM · If you're interested in early Classical, William Herschel is very accessible to amateurs. He wrote mainly for small town orchestras in the north of England, so the parts are relatively easy and nothing requires a lot of winds. (In fact 12 of his 24 symphonies are for strings only.)

New editions of his symphonies (9 available now, more being added as editions are completed) are being made available for free by Herschel Press, who are only requesting a voluntary donation to the Herschel Society. https://herschelpress.co.uk/symphonies/

In addition, older editions of all 24 symphonies are available from notAmos for very low prices: https://www.notamos.co.uk/

Edited: May 11, 2023, 6:58 AM · @Paul - once you print out the parts (two-sided), have each player get a three-ring binder and punch holes in the sides of the parts so they can simply go in the binders. For shorter pieces, they print out the parts one-sided and can use scotch tape to put the parts together. Anyhow, there are alternatives to more expensive forms of binding. I have used a three-ring binder for years for my orch music.
May 12, 2023, 9:35 AM · Take a look at the Bloch Concerto Grosso #1, and #2 - strings only. Not as challenging as the other string suites you mentioned, but still good stuff.
May 12, 2023, 12:26 PM · Tom that's a good suggestion.
May 13, 2023, 3:23 PM · @Paul - one thing to remember when you do this is to check whether the page turns are a problem,, i.e., whether you will have enough time to turn the page before you need to play again. If there is a problem, sometimes you can deal with it by printing the first page one side only (and using it as the blank side as the first page and then printing the rest of the pages two-sided. You just have to see whether that creates more problems on other page turns than it solves.
May 14, 2023, 2:06 PM · One advantage to printing all of the pages one-side and not binding them is that you can slide each page to the left when there is a long rest anywhere on the page.
Edited: May 14, 2023, 2:56 PM · Yes Joel that is usually how I do it. It works pretty well in an orchestra that's all adults. With little kids, you can expect a disaster.
May 14, 2023, 11:35 PM · You could look at the Boyce symphonies. They're probably sight-readable for your winds/brass, and doable by the strings if they practice a little. (I imagine they are sight-readable for you.)

Edited: May 17, 2023, 9:55 AM · Thanks Lydia! I will indeed check those out! I did not know of this composer. Here's the introductory paragraph from Wikipedia:

William Boyce (baptized 11 September 1711 – 7 February 1779) was an English composer and organist. Like Beethoven later on, he became deaf but continued to compose. He knew Handel, Arne, Glueck, Bach, Abel, and a very young Mozart, all of whom respected his work.

I've cued up No. 1 to listen to with my late-morning work.

May 28, 2023, 6:04 PM · I bind music I print from the web with a "Comb" binder from Office Depot. Pages turn easily and lie flat. This may be of help to your group.
May 28, 2023, 7:46 PM · James I have access to a comb binder but I prefer the steel combs as they are much less clunky and more elegant. :)

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