Symphony Nr 39 in E flat major, KV 543
This symphony begins the trilogy of final symphonies for which Mozart has remained justly famous. Although not as frequently played as its successors it is a work in the grand manner and has some especially original touches in the second movement marked Andante con moto as well as in the Finale.
The Symphony Nr 39 was written in the summer of 1788 when Mozart was forced to move to slightly less expensive lodgings and also to borrow money, an issue which was to continually annoy him in the last three years of his life. What was different in this final trilogy of symphonies was that they were not written at the behest of a particular patron but were rather intended to please listeners who had found his piano concertos to be perhaps too difficult although they were not beyond difficulty themselves.
Symphony Nr 39 starts with an untypically grand opening which is slow and rather noble in its descriptive aspect. This introduction includes some daring chromaticisms which demonstrate Mozart’s intrinsic power to thrill. The dissonances which follow in this movement are also quite heart stopping and one can detect a mood which is similar to that of the opera Don Giovanni.
The performance by the orchestra was very much of the highest order. It had a whiff of istvan Kertesz and the Vienna Philharmonic about it especially in the slow movement which was taken at a pretty daring tempo which cut to the heart of Mozartian invention. The same could be said for the Finale which fairly jumped about demonstrating a joyousness which must have been absent from Mozart’s life at the time.
Symphony Nr 40 in G Minor KV550
This is probably the most famous of Mozart’s symphonies especially in the tune with which the First Movement starts off. Symphony Nr 40 can be seen as one of the finest achievements as regards the classical symphony and also involved some retouching’s which changed the instrumental character of the work especially in the Second Movement.
The scoring of the symphony is also particular in that the strings feature far more prominently than in other symphonies which tend to use the woodwind more. There is a sense of tension that permeates the whole work however and this is felt even in the Minuet which is usually quite a boisterous part of any symphony. In fact the mood we have here is quite lamentatious and can almost be described as bitter in some parts.
This performance featured a Molto allegro which was quite fast when compared to other interpretations such as Josef Krips and the Royal Concertegebouw Orchestra. However the main theme came across quite winningly and the conclusion of the movement was also rather satisfying. The same could be said for the Andante where the strings definitely shone through and one could feel the sense of tension in proceedings. The Menuetto was shorn of repeats but was also very well played indeed with the playfulness of the dance appearing quite magically. The Finale marked Allegro assai was also very well played and the speed was just right for this magnificent piece of music. All in all, I greatly enjoyed this performance of a symphony which is always close to my heart.
Symphony Nr 41 in C major KV551, ‘Jupiter’
Possibly the greatest classical symphony ever to be written, Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ symphony has always been one of my very favourites. Its irresistible First Movement coupled with a magical Finale have undoubtedly made it one of the most popular works in the repertoire.
The ‘Jupiter’ symphony is unique in that it has a very original scoring as it is without clarinets. Incidentally the previous symphony comes without trumpets or timpani whilst the one preceding that has no oboes. The mysterious character of this final trilogy of symphonies culminates in the ‘Jupiter’ symphony which also includes what one might describe as an equal description of weight between movements. The mood of the symphony is also enigmatic just like its companions in the trilogy and the symphony can be described as being quite at harmony with nature and itself.
The first movement Allegro vivace went along quite well with a smattering of Klemperer or Krips about it especially towards those concluding stages which are always so important to the success of this work. The Andante cantabile was also very beautiful, one never felt hurried or rushed and the strings created an atmosphere of almost hallowed simplicity. I also greatly enjoyed the Menuetto which came across as jovial yet there was also a tinge of sadness in proceedings. All came together in a Finale of almost epic proportions with the orchestral players surpassing themselves in virtuosity and technical achievement.
All three symphonies were played with an excellence that really defies description. The enigmatic nature of all three works came across very well indeed and the project of these three symphonies was a resounding success.