Made familiar to many as the BBC’s Horse of the Year theme tune, Mozart wrote A Musical Joke (also known as The Village Musicians) in 1787, the same year in which he composed his opera Don Giovanni. In style and seriousness, however, it couldn’t be more different. There are various theories as to what Mozart was trying to achieve in writing the piece, but it seems most likely that, for whatever reason (perhaps a reaction to his father’s death just 17 days previously?), he was parodying bad composition and enthusiastic, but distinctly amateur playing!
Several times in this, the last movement of A Musical Joke, the music feels like it’s nearing the end, but carries on, practically aimlessly, for bars on end with no real conclusion. The Joke’s punch line, however, involves the earliest known use of polytonality – which, in laymen’s terms, means wrong notes. This is Mozart at his silliest – a kind of tongue-in-cheek bad week as it were – it is in no way a bad arrangement and emphatically not the performers’ fault!