Alrighty then, up today are Symphonies 40 and 41. Same recording as yesterday.
Symphony No. 40 in G minor “The Great G Minor Symphony”
1. Molto Allegro
- One of the most instantly recognizable melodies on the planet.
- Move from minor to major happens slowly but steadily, gradually letting the grave sounding elements go. Then suddenly back to minor. Gradual then abrupt.
- Exciting development section.
- Feels like an abrupt ending.
- Playful and with sudden plaintive and haunting harmonies.
- Hello, deep and unexpected harmony.
- Melody has moments where I’m reminded of the “Ich fühl es” of “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön”.
- So far each movement has some musical idea that gets used throughout the movement. It’s forced into all sorts of shapes, but it unifies the piece as a whole. This movement has that bouncy little figure.
- Every woodwind gets its time to shine.
3. Menuetto, Allegretto
- Good headphones piece. So much is happening at the same time here. Listening in stereo, there’s a call and response kind of thing where different instrument families respond to an idea, and they all kind of pile up, except that they’re separated by stereo space and tonal color.
4. Finale, Allegro assai
- This extended section (a transition, I believe) of the falling string effects is remarkable. He keeps the idea going for such a long time. So satisfying.
- Again, the blustery effect from the opening theme statement is used throughout.
- There’s a “ding ding” type moment that really reminds me of “Le nozze di Figaro”.
- Falling strings satisfying every time.
Symphony No. 41 in C Major “Jupiter”
1. Allegro vivace
- This upward/downward/upward motive has a great sense of yearning. Intended? Dunno.
- Silence followed by unexpected harmony, big brass and excitement. Up/down/up motive keeps appearing but it’s been changed. That change is the payoff.
- Which is followed by pure charm. Geez, this guy.
- This sliding up and down is also a major element that keeps reappearing. Gives it kind of a thrown off feeling at times.
- Exciting all around.
2. Andante cantabile
- I wonder if an abbreviated version of that up/down/up figure is being used here again as an intentional nod to the first movement.
- Modulation to minor is welcome. It simmers and bubbles.
- I love the sequences.
3. Menuetto Allegretto
- That downward figure has a kind of drunk aspect.
- One unison melody between strings and winds sounds like gossiping people. Funny.
- Yes, the whole piece sounds like it’s toppling over.
- More fun right off the bat.
- Hello, fugue! Comes out of nowhere and then vanishes.
- I know where how far the modulations in this piece, but the later experiments are set up so well in the beginning. The early harmonies are themselves already daring.
- So much activity. The lower voices during some cadences are doing so much.
- Development begins with a kind of back and forth between bombast and restraint. Very conversational.
- Oh these sequence harmonies. They sound so far out, and then like magic we’re back into the piece.
- Cascading strings. Exciting.
- Ah, here’s the big fugue figure near the end. Ha. It’s enormous. Brief but towering.
Some takeaways from these four symphonies
Maintaining a music idea throughout a movement is important. There’s usually some kind of novel idea that gets morphed and developed, but it unites the movement. The most developed version of this is the finale of the fourth movement of Symphony 41.
There’s an incredible sense of flow in all of these. This lets jarring moments stand out, such as the hard major to minor modulation in the first movement of Symphony 40. But it also creates an aural landscape that feels very satisfying. It’s almost like musical architecture.
Mozart is very good at giving each instrument its time to shine. I’m especially impressed by how he uses woodwinds.
Favorites? Hmm. I was probably most surprised by how much I enjoyed Symphony 38. I knew that I liked 41, but I will need to spend more time listening to 38.
Haven’t decided what to listen to tomorrow. But it will probably be a piano concerto or two. Until then.