Designation often applied since the mid-18th century to the last movement of an instrumental composition in several movements or to the concluding, continuously composed, section of an act of an opera or piece of stage music.
The term was used by Haydn in many of his piano trios, quartets and symphonies (including all the symphonies written for London), and by Mozart in several of his later symphonies though in comparatively few of his chamber works. Following the precedent of the gigue that usually concluded the suite at the time of J.S. Bach, the final movements in sonatas and symphonies by composers of the next generation were generally of a distinctly melodious character (and often in 6/8 or 3/8 time). This remained a strong tendency to the end of the century in the rondos, sonata rondos, variations, and minuets in which forms Mozart, Haydn and their contemporaries cast most of their finales.
In certain works such as Haydn’s ‘Clock’ and Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ symphonies, however, contrapuntal episodes, dextrous and buoyant though they are, lent an earnestness to the music which began the process of shifting the centre of gravity of the symphony towards the finale. The last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is an apotheosis, a triumphant outcome of what has gone before. It is ironic that Beethoven did not use the term ‘finale’ in his Fifth or Ninth Symphonies, for these works, more than any others, instigated what is sometimes referred to as the ‘finale-symphony’ of the 19th century; the development of the ‘finale-symphony’ was furthered by the increasing tendency to relate thematically all the movements of a symphony (e.g. Schumann’s Fourth), or to reintroduce material of earlier movements in the finale (e.g. Brahms’s Third), and thus lend it some of the qualities of a summing-up of the entire composition. This is most evident in the symphonies of Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, Bruckner, Sibelius and Mahler. (Tchaikovsky was incidentally the originator in his Sixth Symphony of the finale in slow tempo, though the Adagio ending of Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony may be thought of as a distant precursor.)
During the 19th century the term ‘finale’ tends to appear in chamber music and in piano sonatas conceived on a large scale; in Beethoven’s violin sonatas it is found only in the C minor op.30 no.2 and in the Kreutzer Sonata op.47. The concluding movement in a set of variations (e.g. Schumann’s Etudes symphoniques, Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Haydn, and Elgar’s Enigma Variations) is usually designated ‘finale’. Such movements generally depart more radically than do the variations themselves from the theme, on which they become free fantasias sufficiently flexible in form and extensive in scale to produce a peroration and summing-up equivalent to that in the symphonic finale. The quest for new, poetically-inspired forms led Schumann to such suite-like structures as Papillons and the Faschingsschwank aus Wien in which there was also a need for a finale differing from the remaining pieces in character, scale or form. His Ouvertüre, Scherzo und Finale and Franck’s Prélude, Aria et Final show a like preoccupation with departures from the usual format of the sonata scheme.
The operatic ensemble finale, developed during the 18th century, represents the most essential step from the late Baroque number opera to the continuous style of 19th-century post-Wagnerian music drama. After about 1750 most ensemble finales in Italian Opera buffa were of the ‘chain’ type in which a number of distinct sections, usually differentiated in key, metre and tempo, succeeded each other in response to a developing dramatic situation. Such finales, of which that in Act 2 of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (1786) is a classic example, normally begin and end in the same key and visit nearly related keys in their course (the Mozart example, in E major, ranges more widely, however, with sections in G, C, and F major); tempos may fluctuate in accordance with the action, but there is often an overall acceleration. Chain finales were slower to enter opera seria, where the Metastasian aria libretto held sway, and they tended at first to be confined to final acts; by 1791, however, when Mozart and Mazzolà adapted the ending of Act 1 of Metastasio’s La clemenza di Tito as an action ensemble, they were common elsewhere as well.
During the 19th century a central, multi-sectional finale, bringing the action to an unresolved climactic point and ending with a rapid ‘curtain’, became a feature of Italian opera; it was frequently taken up outside Italy, too, for example by Wagner in Act 2 of Die Meistersinger (1868), where, however, the ‘curtain’ is delayed by the sounding of the Nightwatchman’s horn and his dazed entrance on to an empty street. Romantic ballet, like opera, developed large-scale ensemble finales to each act, and when incidental music to stage plays was written on a considerable scale, the finale was often treated in the same way (e.g. Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
The vaudeville final, in which solo verses alternating with an ensemble refrain serve to point the moral of the plot, was much cultivated in the final acts of French opéras comiques in the second half of the 18th century (seeOpéra comique and Vaudeville, §5); Mozart wrote a vaudeville final to conclude his Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782), and later examples include those in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816) and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (1951).
(Ger.: ‘final music’).
Term given to divertimentos, serenades, cassations and other similar compositions performed as part of the annual graduation ceremonies, usually in August, at the Salzburg Benedictine University. According to H.C. Koch it could be used to conclude an outdoor concert. At the end of the summer semester in Salzburg it was customary to honour a favourite professor with a serenade-like composition given under the name ‘Finalmusik’. For such occasions Mozart composed his k100/62a, 185/167a, 204/213a and 251, and perhaps k203/189b and 320, all works of the serenade type. Like the term ‘cassation’, the title ‘Finalmusik’ does not appear in the autographs of the works concerned, but it is found in correspondence between Mozart and his father in 1773 (21 July, 12 August), 1777 (2–3 October) and 1778 (23 November), in the diaries of several students and notables of Salzburg and in Salzburg civic records, always in reference to works having the character of a serenade. Similar festivities with processions, laudatory speeches, cheers and the performance of music were presented in honour of the reigning prince-archbishop of Salzburg.
See alsoDivertimento, Serenade, Cassation.
G.Hausswald: Mozarts Serenaden (Leipzig, 1951/R)
G.Hausswald: Prefaces to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, IV:11/vii (Kassel, 1959); IV:12/ii (Kassel, 1961)