Trio in E-flat major, K. 498
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
The seven-part rondo structure of the final movement is a rarity for Mozart. In addition to the usual three themes (A, B, and C) a fourth theme is introduced, making the form AB-AC-AD-A. This explains the label Rondeaux, which is the French plural for Rondeau.
Although the tempo indication is allegretto rather than allegro, composing the final movement in the same key as the opening is typical. E-flat major is happens to be the key of Mozart’s earlier Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, and Sinfonia for Wind Instruments. The Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein has written that the key signature of E-flat major in Mozart’s late chamber works indicates close friendship. In any event, Mozart was a close friend of the musicians with whom he premiered the trio.
This work is sometimes referred to as the Kegelstatt Trio. Kegelstatt means a place where skittles are played, similar to a duckpin bowling alley. In the autograph manuscript of a preceding composition, Duos for Two Horns, Mozart did indeed write “Vienna, 27 July 1786 while playing skittles.” However there is no evidence that Mozart himself ever referred to the Trio in E-flat by that name. It has been suggested that would have been a “dubious distinction” for such a lovely composition.