No. 40 Molto allegro
No. 40 Andante
No. 40 Menuetto: Allegretto
4. Symphony No. 40 Allegro assai
5. Symphony No. 41 Allegro vivace
No. 41 Andante cantabile
7. Symphony No. 41 Menuetto: Allegretto
8. Symphony No. 41 Molto allegro
Guide to Mozart’s Life
10. Listener’s Guide: Symphony
No. 40 Movement I
Guide: Symphony No. 40 Move
12. Listener’s Guide: Symphony No. 40 Movement III
Guide: Symphony No. 40 Movement IV
14. Listener’s Guide: Symphony No. 40 Mystery of the Final Trilogy
Guide: Symphony No. 41 Movement I
16. Listener’s Guide: Symphony No. 41 Movement II
17. Listener’s Guide: Symphony No. 41 Mvmts. III
“ Mozart is the greatest composer of all. Beethoven ‘created’ his music, but
the music of Mozart is of such purity and beauty that one feels he merely ‘found’ it – that it has always
existed as part of the inner beauty of the universe waiting to be revealed.”
The author of those words was Albert Einstein,
an amateur musician as well as a visionary physicist. Einstein was hardly alone in his opinion of Mozart’s artistic
supremacy. George Bernard Shaw, who supplemented his career as a playwright by writing music criticism, stated flatly: “Mozart
was the greatest of all musicians.”
Franz Joseph Haydn, Mozart’s one equal among the composers of their day, said:
“I only wish I could instill in every friend of music….the depth of sympathy and profound appreciation of Mozart’s
inimitable art that I myself feel and enjoy.”
Mozart’s Early Life
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 in
the Austrian city of Salzburg. His father, Leopold Mozart, was a respected professional violinist and composer, and his older
sister, Maria Anna, nicknamed “Nannerl”, played well on the keyboard. In view of this, it was almost inevitable
that Mozart should have shown an active interest in music from an early age. But the degree of his youthful abilities proved
absolutely exceptional. By age four Mozart was playing short pieces on the piano. By five or six he was composing music of
Mozart guided his son’s musical development during these formative years, and he continued to do so through the composer’s
adolescence. Early on, he also sought to exploit Wolfgang’s talent, presenting him to the world as a child prodigy.
Leopold’s motivation in this was undoubtedly complex and entailed not only his own ambition but also genuine pride and
a desire to enhance the boy’s prospects.
From 1762 to 1766 Papa Mozart journeyed with his family across central and western Europe. Stopping at most
of the important cultural centers, he arranged for his young son to display his unusual abilities. Wolfgang played the piano,
harpsichord and organ, greatly impressing all who heard him. But he provoked the greatest astonishment with his own compositions
and improvisations at the keyboard. The latter were particularly remarked upon by those that heard them. Typically, Mozart
would be given a musical theme and extemporize a set of variations or some other composition upon it. On other occasions he
was presented a set of verses and immediately fashioned a song or aria with them.
Mozart’s “grand tour” as a child
prodigy took him as far as England and the Netherlands and gave him a first-hand impression of the royal courts of Europe.
In Munich, Paris, Brussels, London and elsewhere he played before crown rulers. Leopold Mozart prized these appearances, for
they usually brought valuable tokens of appreciation in the form of money, jewels and other gifts. But the earning potential
of a child prodigy has its limits, and by the end of 1766 the family had returned to its home in Salzburg, where it settled
briefly into a more regular life and musical routine.
During the next eight years Mozart divided his time between his native city and travels to Vienna and Italy.
These new journeys proved important not so much for the impression he made on others as for the musical knowledge he absorbed.
Through first-hand encounters Mozart learned the stylistic conventions of Italian opera and church music. During the periods
he stayed in Salzburg he honed his skills as a keyboard player, violinist and composer. His father’s employment in the
court orchestra maintained by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg gave him an early entry into the world of orchestra music,
and he composed a series of increasingly accomplished symphonies and concertos during his adolescent years. Not all of his
attention was turned to work, however. Mozart’s letters from this period give the picture of a lively teenager, one
who enjoyed flirtations, risqué jokes and cynical observations about his elders.
Early Adult Years
By the time Mozart turned twenty he was already one of the most skilled
composers of his day. His output included not only symphonies and concertos but piano pieces, serenades, arias, operas and
smaller species of musical theater, songs and church music. Clearly the time was arriving for him to venture forth into the
world – no longer as a “Wunderkind” but as a capable adult musician in search of suitable employment. To
this end, Mozart undertook another journey in 1777 – 78, this time in the company of his mother. (Leopold could no longer
excuse himself from his duties in Salzburg.)
The trip proved a disaster. In several musically important German cities and later in Paris Mozart found that
doors which had readily opened for a child prodigy remained politely but firmly shut to a musician in his twenties. Faced
with this lack of prospects, Mozart composed little during the sixteen months he was away. Moreover, he suffered rejection
by his first adult love, a singer named Aloysia Weber whom he met in Mannheim. Worst of all, his mother took ill and suddenly
died in Paris. It was, therefore, a dejected young man who returned to Salzburg in January 1779 and humbled himself before
the Prince-Archbishop to beg reinstatement as court organist and composer.
The next two years were ones of mounting pressure and resentment. Mozart
felt under-appreciated in his home town, and its provincial atmosphere irritated him in light of all had seen abroad. Most
of all, his relations with his employer grew increasingly strained. Heronymus Colloredo, Salzburg’s Prince-Archbishop,
was neither a cultivated nor a particularly pious man, and he held even the best musicians in low esteem. Mozart, like other
members of the Salzburg musical establishment, found himself treated on par with servants and kitchen help. Poorly paid, he
regretted opportunities he may have lost while attending his indifferent patron. No wonder that Mozart took to referring to
the Prince as the “Archbooby”.
Colloredo, for his part, had grown impatient with Mozart’s extended absences for travel, and, no doubt,
with his increasingly insubordinate manner. At last, in the spring of 1781, their simmering conflict flared into the open
during a visit to Vienna by the Prince-Archbishop and his court. Colloredo denied Mozart permission to present a concert of
his music in the Austrian capital, and during the course of a heated exchange Mozart tried to resign from his post, the only
secure employment he ever knew. Initially the Prince-Archbishop refused to grant his release. But he soon changed his mind,
and one of the greatest artists of his age found himself thrown into the street “with a kick on my arse”, as Mozart
related in a letter.
His Life in Vienna
Mozart now had to make his way in the
Austrian capital as a freelance musician. He began composing small pieces for order or for publication, appeared in concert
as a pianist, accepted some students and began negotiating for a commission to write an opera. He also fell in love, the object
of his affections being the younger sister of Aloysia Weber, the singer who had jilted him several years earlier and whose
family had meanwhile moved to Vienna. Mozart’s biographers disagree on the extent of which his proposal of marriage
to Constanze Weber was engineered by the girl’s conniving mother. In any case, the pair wedded in August 1782, over
Leopold Mozart’s objections.
Mozart now entered the happiest and most promising period of his life. He was by this time establishing a reputation
in the Austrian capital as both a pianist and a composer, and a lucrative appointment as composer to the Austrian imperial
court seemed imminent.
This promising professional situation complemented a cheerful domestic scene, the composer’s love for
Constanze and their making a home together evidently bringing him considerable happiness. In another development, Mozart joined
the order of Freemasons in 1784, and for the remainder of his life the tolerant doctrines of Freemasonry provided an important
influence on his thinking and his music.
Between 1784 and 1786, Mozart’s career was at its zenith. A series of subscription concerts he launched
initially proved a tremendous success, both financially and critically, and he was, as he wrote to his father, “up to
my eyes in work”.
Then Mozart suffered some setbacks. His opera “The Marriage of Figaro” met an indifferent reception
at its Vienna premiere in May 1786, though it subsequently scored a sensational triumph in Prague. And the court appointment
he longed for somehow failed to materialize.
Following the summer of 1786, Mozart apparently hoped to launch another season of subscription concerts, but
his period of public favor in the Austrian capital had come to an end. Exactly why this occurred remains uncertain. It was
formerly held that the notoriously fickle Viennese music lovers simply abandoned Mozart out of a desire for novelty.
seeking more tangible reasons have focused on the idea that financial strains brought on by war with the Ottoman empire left
Austria’s aristocracy unable to indulge its passion for music as extravagantly as it once had. Some have also speculated
that a flaw in Mozart’s personality may have alienated his audience. Or it’s been proposed that the radical egalitarian
story of “The Marriage of Figaro” lost him the support of his mainly upper class audience.
Whatever the truth of these hypotheses,
Mozart’s public performances now dropped off sharply in number, and his professional life went into a tailspin. By the
spring 1787 he had begun a series of pitiful letters to his friend and Masonic brother Michael Puchberg, begging one loan
after another. Also that spring Mozart lost his father, a figure by turns benevolent, domineering and adversarial, but in
all events the most important personal influence in the composer’s life.
Mozart’s Final Years
The next four years saw
a progressive decline in Mozart’s career. There were, to be sure, some bright moments, perhaps the brightest being two
visits to Prague, where his operas, “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni” scored unqualified
triumphs. Back in Vienna, however, the composer’s existence grew difficult. With his concert appearances curtailed,
his income dropped sharply. Moreover Constanze began to suffer health problems, prompting costly visits to a spa at the town
of Baden, about 15 miles from Vienna. Although his family never went without food or proper attire, the comfortable lifestyle
Mozart had established during his early years in Vienna was now in jeopardy. In 1789 he traveled to Berlin to seek out a more
secure position, but could not obtain one. He received a minor appointment at the imperial court, but only to compose occasional
dance music at an insignificant salary.
By the start of 1791 Mozart’s fortunes were at low ebb. This would prove a particularly cruel year for
the composer, since a pair of hopeful developments – both commissions for operas – failed to ease his burdens.
“La Clemenza di Tito”, performed in September at celebrations attending the coronation of Austria’s emperor
Leopold II as King of Bohemia, was a decided failure, and this in Prague, when Mozart earlier had enjoyed his greatest triumphs.
A month later, “The Magic Flute” was produced in Vienna and though it was well received, Mozart apparently profited
little from its success.
Several months earlier, Mozart had received another commission when an anonymous gentleman requested the composition
of a Requiem Mass. In October, with “The Magic Flute” and several other pieces at last behind him, an exhausted
Mozart began seriously to work on this score. But by November 20 he had fallen ill and taken to bed. On December 5 Mozart
died, the Requiem only partly completed. He had not yet reached his thirty-sixth birthday. The nature of his fatal illness,
widely debated over the years, seems probably to have been rheumatic fever, which ran rampant through Vienna during the winter
of 1791-92. There is no firm evidence to support the unlikely theory, however intriguing it may be, that Mozart was poisoned
by the court composer Antonio Salieri.
symphony was a young and comparatively modest genre when Mozart composed his first works in the form at the age of eight and
nine years. Orchestral pieces of this kind had originated in Italy to serve as overtures to operas or other theatrical presentations,
and they still retained close formal and stylistic links to that purpose in the 1760s. Mozart, like other composers of his
day, initially adopted the three-movement form of this Italian overture-symphony, even when writing for the concert hall.
His early efforts also employ the relatively simple textures and thematics ideas traditional to that species of symphony.
Later he adopted a four-movement format by adding a minuet to the three-movement Italian design.
Mozart composed most of his approximately
forty original symphonies during his adolescent trips to Italy of for the court orchestra in Salzburg. Following his move
to Vienna in 1781 he wrote only six works in this form. These late symphonies, however, attain an entirely higher level of
sophistication. Following the path broken by Franz Joseph Haydn, with whom he became closely acquainted in the Austrian capital,
Mozart began to exploit the possibilities of orchestral writing with greater resourcefulness, introducing contrapuntal textures,
especially the use of thematic echoes within the musical fabric. He also expanded the role of the woodwind instruments and
brought a greater sense of passion and urgency to his symphonic music. These qualities are evident enough in Mozart’s
Symphony No. 36 (“Linz”) and Symphony No. 38 (“Prague”). But they attain their fullest realization
in his last symphonies, the so-called final trilogy.
The Final Trilogy
three symphonies are widely considered not only his greatest orchestral essays but the pinnacle of symphonic music in the
Classical era. The composer wrote this trio of works – Symphonies Nos. 39, 40 and 41 in the standard listing of his
works – over the course of six weeks during the summer of 1788. Precisely why he did so has been the subject of ongoing
debate among music scholars. Mozart generally did not produce major works like these without a commission in hand or at least
the prospect of a performance. But no circumstance that might have occasioned these compositions has come to light.
Investigator have advanced
a number of theories to explain the final trilogy. One is that Mozart planned to revive his subscription concerts late in
1788 or early the following year. While this might account for the composition of these three symphonies, no documentation
survives to show that such concerts ever took place. Moreover, Mozart had composed no symphonies for his earlier subscription
concerts, preferring instead to offer piano concertos as the featured pieces on the program. (These afforded him the dual
role of composer and solo performer.) Another possibility is that Mozart wrote his last symphonies in anticipation of a visit
of London. The composer had actually sought to make such a trio two years earlier, but his plans failed to materialize and
there is no indication that Mozart was about to revive them.
Unable to determine conclusively what prompted Mozart to write his last three
symphonies, historians have also failed to prove that the composer ever heard them played. Certain occasions might have lent
themselves to their performance, however. In 1790, the composer went to Frankfurt for the festivities attending the coronation
of Austria’s Leopold II as Holy Roman Emperor. Hoping to attract some attention among the many wealthy and powerful
persons gathered there, he presented a concert of his music that included an unspecified symphony on its program. This might
well have belonged to the trilogy of 1788, though we cannot say so with certainty. And in April 1791 a charity concert benefiting
the widows and orphans of Viennese musicians featured what the program described as “a large new symphony” by
Mozart. In all probability this was part of the final trilogy, though we again lack authoritative proof of the matter.
In the end, and despite
the strenuous efforts of several generations of Mozart scholars, the final trilogy retains a certain aura of mystery. This
remains, however, incidental to the music itself, which stands at the summit of orchestral composition in the eighteenth century.
Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550
The Symphony in G Minor, K. 550, forms the centerpiece of
the “final trilogy”. It is a rich and varied composition, and over the years various commentators have emphasized
different qualities when considering its music. The composer Robert Schumann, for example, described this symphony as filled
with “Grecian lightness and grace,” while Otto Jahn, the great Mozart biographer of the nineteenth century, declared
it a work of “pain and grieving”. The diverse perspectives of these and other summaries point out the psychological
complexity of Mozart’s finest music and the exceptionally wide emotional range this symphony encompasses during the
course of its four movements.
Mozart establishes a dramatic tone in the opening measures and maintains it through most of the first movement.
There follows an “Andante” that begins with music of seemingly effortless grace but presently turns to a kind
of dark lyricism. The ensuing “Menuetto” is surprising in its power, which derives in no small degree from the
contrapuntal “piling up” of the minuet theme in its second paragraph. The final recalls the symphony’s opening
in terms of its sheer dramatic intensity.
Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551,
Mozart’s great Symphony in C Major has long been known as the “Jupiter”
Symphony. This name did not originate with Mozart but, rather, with concert presenters in England early in the nineteenth
century. It seems, however, appropriate to the score’s Olympian stature among symphonies of the Classical period.
Sudden and extreme contrasts
of texture, dynamics and emotional tone mark the first movement. In the second, however, Mozart offers a nearly seamless flow
of music than an eminent Mozart scholar called “a broad and deep outpouring of the soul”. There follows a splendid
minuet that Mozart enlivens with a subtle use of the counterpoint.
But it is in the closing movement that Mozart’s contrapuntal skill,
his genius for combining different themes and instrumental lines, fully reveals itself. This finale, which stands among Mozart’s
greatest achievements, opens modestly with a famous four-note motive. Presently Mozart adds several other distinct thematic
ideas. The symphony’s brilliant conclusion brings all of its melodic strands together at once in a magnificent contrapuntal
“tour de force”.
Since his own time Mozart has been a beacon to other musicians. Indeed, his impact on his fellow composers can
scarcely be calculated. Haydn, his only living peer, influenced Mozart to no small extent but was influenced by him in turn.
(The great symphonies that Haydn wrote during the 1790s are indebted to Mozart’s final compositions in that form for
their emotional depth, their brilliant use of counterpoint in the treatment of their themes, and for their prevailing sense
modeled many of his youthful pieces on works by Mozart and built his great symphonic output on the foundation laid by Mozart
and Haydn. Wagner cited “Don Giovanni” as a principal inspiration for his own conception of Romantic music drama.
Tchaikovsky called Mozart “the Christ of Music” and consciously emulated his style in his own Serenade for Strings,
Variations on a Rococo Theme, and Suite in G Major, which he subtitled “Mozartiana”. In our own century, the emergence
of neoclassicism in the music of Stravinsky, Ravel and others attests to Mozart’s enduring influence, one that continues
to be felt in works by various composers of our own day.
During the nineteenth century there arose a number of misconceptions about
Mozart and his work. In general, the age of Romanticism was more taken by its own notions of the composer – of Mozart
as the divinely gifted man-child, Mozart as the doomed young artist, Mozart as the prophet of musical Romanticism –
than with his music, of which far less was known than today. And reactions to those of his works which were familiar often
became colored by the musical ideals of the new era, which tended to counter to those of Mozart and his age. Nineteenth-century
ears were attuned to the sweeping gestures of Beethoven and the composers who followed him, and they frequently mistook the
more intimate scale of Mozart’s work as signifying a lesser artistic vision. Today we better understand that Mozart’s music attains its intensity of feeling precisely because it
unfolds within the musical conventions of the late eighteenth century. Mozart was not a revolutionary composer and never questioned,
as Beethoven would, the utility of the musical forms and language in use during his day. Instead, he used that language to
fill the familiar compositional vessels – the sonata, rondo, aria and other forms – with music of unsurpassed
strength and beauty. His goal was not novelty but perfection within established channels of musical discourse, a goal he achieved
with magnificent results.