In 1994, my GF and I joined a mail-order book club. 10 books free! The last one that I chose was a lark: What to Listen for in Mozart (click here).
The book changed my life. It explained the structure of classical music (in particular, the sonata form), and described Mozart's life in riveting detail. I plunged into a period of intense devotion to Mozart. I remember watching Amadeus during this time and noting historical inaccuracies. For about 3 months, I listened to Mozart every day.
The book analyzed 3 pieces, including the 41st symphony, known as The Jupiter. This was one of three symphonies written in a 6-week span in 1788. To this day, no one knows why Wolfgang wrote these symphonies: he had no 'buyers' for a work and was seriously down on his luck (he would die 3 years later).
As a birthday gift, BryGuy took his Pa and I to see the 41st at Powell Hall on Sunday. It was wonderful. A special treat was that the conductor/musical director gave an hour lecture before the performance. Among his thoughts on the 41st:
- Mozart had been studying Bach's fugues (playing melodies against themselves) at this time. The influence appeared in many places, but none more so than the finale of The Jupiter. Wolfgang develops 5 distinct melodies and plays them off one another. With some study, it is easy to identify each of them: they pop up like old friends.
- In the recap of the finale, Wolfgang pulls out all the stops and juggles all 5 melodies in various sections of the orchestra. To quote the conductor: "If you have taken a formal class in music theory, you know that writing a 5-part harmony is theoretically impossible". Such is Mozart.
- Quoting the conductor again: for all the things the human race has done of which we cannot be proud, Mozart holds up The Jupiter as a shining example of what we can accomplish.
Check out Mozart's 41st symphony on iTunes. The first and esp. 4th movements are where it's at. If you like it, you may want to check out the magnificent 40th, a rare work in a minor key. I could write pages on the 40th. It is much more sinister, and even more gorgeous.