Showcase May-June 2014 - page 21

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Program Notes
21
MAY / JUNE 2014 MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA
Wolfgang Amadè Mozart
Born:
January 27, 1756, Salzburg
Died:
December 5, 1791, Vienna
Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major, K. 543
he Symphony No. 39 is dated June 26, 1788.
Nothing is known about its early performance
history.
adagio – allegro.
Mozart begins the Symphony in E-flat
with an imposing slow introduction, drawing on the
fund of drama, suggestion and feeling for splendor
revealed in his
Prague
Symphony, No. 38, composed
two years earlier. The musical gestures themselves are
monuments of formality and regularity, but at the
same time, the harmonies grow darker, syncopations
trouble the rhythmic picture, the scale passages begin
to take odd turns, the dotted rhythms become obsessive
and mount to dissonance as biting as any Mozart ever
conceived. In the
Allegro
, whose softly forward-moving
start does not lead us to expect the outbursts of energy
soon to come, Mozart realizes much of what he has
suggested in the opening
Adagio
, while the prevalence
of brilliant violin scales provides an explicit link
between the two sections of the movement.
andante con moto.
The second movement, too, begins
in deceptive charm and innocence. That is to say, the
charm and innocence are real, but they are by no means
all that Mozart gives us here. The final cadence of the
long opening melody is strangely shadowed, and almost
immediately an outburst in the minor mode suggests
the presence of dark places to be explored. Here, too,
dotted rhythms are insistently present, and the tension
they build is heightened by the firm processions of slow
and steady notes in the wind instruments and by the
distance of Mozart’s harmonic voyages.
menuetto: allegretto.
The magnificently sturdy minuet
and its lyric trio are an oasis. Here, too, the sound of
wind instruments is prominent, both in the band-style
accompaniments in the minuet itself and in the trio’s
melting clarinet solo.
allegro.
The finale, on the other hand, with its
syncopations, its probing of distant harmonies,
its rowdy basses, its silences, is—from that first
extravagantly long upbeat to the epigrammatic ending—
Mozart at his most wildly and wittily inventive.
Instrumentation:
flute, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns,
2 trumpets, timpani and strings
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550
Mozart entered the original version of this symphony
into his own catalogue on July 25, 1788. The one most
often heard, including at these concerts, adds a pair of
clarinets; it was probably made for concerts in Vienna
on April 16 and 17, 1791, conducted by the composer
Antonio Salieri.
Robert Schumann surprises us by speaking of the
G-minor Symphony’s “weightless, Hellenic grace.” At
the other extreme, some conductors surprise us—to be
polite about it—by converting the first movement into a
pathetic andante. But what the score suggests above all
is urgency.
molto allegro.
The violas’ breathless accompaniment that,
for a second or two, precedes the melody immediately
establishes a sense of tremendous urgency. How
astonished the first audience must have been by such
a beginning, an accompaniment only, and
piano
! This
is reinforced by the melody itself, upbeat leading to
upbeat leading to upbeat. The harmony in the opening
pages is simple, the more effectively to prepare the
violent dislocations to come. A contrasting theme, all
pathos, is momentarily disturbed by fever, and the
exposition charges energetically to its conclusion. After
Mozart whirls the opening theme across great harmonic
spaces, a long descant sends us into the recapitulation.
The second theme is in dark G minor, and the coda
rises to still hotter temperatures and deeper pathos.
andante.
The second movement is both somber and
t
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