It seems Mozart, and his contemporaries as well, used the term, "Deutsche" (German Dance), as a generic expression. Often it meant the same thing as "Allemande," but eventually came to be replaced by the titles of the two genres it usually signified: the Ländler and the waltz. Examples from the 1780s are generally in triple meter with two repeated phrases of eight measures in length, usually with a da capo. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert composed numerous German Dances for various ensembles for use at court balls. Nearly all of them are in major keys.
Mozart's ten sets of German Dances are among his many occasional pieces. Nearly all of them were intended for court functions in Vienna, generally for the balls held in the famous Redoutensaal of the Vienna Hofburg. Mozart's first set of German Dances dates from February, 1787. After his appointment to Court Kammermusiker (court Chamber Music Composer) in December 1787, Mozart's output of dance music would increase. There are two sets of German Dances from 1788, two from 1789, and three from the first two months of 1791.
The six German Dances of K. 600, are scored for piccolo and contrabass with two each of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, violin, and timpani. Mozart entered the pieces on his "List of All my Works" on January 29, 1791.
Like their immediate predecessors, K. 586, the dances of K. 600 are not connected by modulating transitions. Each includes a trio section in the same key as the dance. Mozart changes orchestration from one dance to the next and in the case of Nos. 5 and 6, between the dance and its Trio. The first four numbers proceed backward around the circle of fifths, passing through C, F, B flat, and E flat before jumping to G major and heading in the other direction to D major.
In C major, the first dance of K. 600 is unusual in that its second part is a variation of the first. The Trio is of a sparse texture and constructed of two independent phrases. Some "rounding" in the fashion of a minuet occurs in No. 2, in which the second phrase ends with the first four measures of the first phrase, modified to close on F major. In the quiet Trio, the flute alternates with the piccolo in playing the turning melody, which appears in both halves. Clarinets lend a dark color to the third dance, the most notable aspect of which is that the second part of the Trio quotes the first part of the Trio of No. 2. The jagged descent that opens No. 4 is reversed in the second phrase, which closes with a return of the last four measures of the first phrase. The Trio is an essay in contrast, juxtaposing thin texture and piano playing with the full ensemble at a forte dynamic. No. 5 includes a Trio entitled, "Der Kanarienvogel" (The Canary), that features the most interesting orchestration of the set. As usual, the two phrases of the Trio are repeated, but in the repeat of each phrase of No. 5, the piccolo takes the former flute part, playing in the same octave, thus creating a contrast in timbre. The last dance is the most stately of the group, and the Trio is set for the largest ensemble yet. Possibly to create a strong close for the whole work, Mozart extends the second part of the Trio to included a full return of its first phrase.
- German Dance in C major
- German Dance in F major
- German Dance in B flat major
- German Dance in E flat major
- German Dance in G major ("The Canary")
- German Dance in D major