28 Aug 2013

Curtain Raiser: Mozart - Symphony No 40

From the collecton Curtain Raiser
Portrait of Mozart

Portrait of Mozart Photo: Barbara Krafft, Public Domain

This work, in G minor, is one of the three great symphonies of Mozart's final years.

There are signs that the Vienna public at this time was finding it difficult to accept Mozart’s most emotionally and intellectually authentic music.

A few months before Mozart wrote these symphonies, the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung reported on a discussion after the premiere of Don Giovanni. Vienna’s musical elite were there. “They all admitted that it was the valuable work of a versatile genius and was of an endless imagination; but for one it was too full, for another too chaotic, for a third too un-melodic etc…..In general one cannot but admit that there is something true in all these opinions”. That was the summary of the leading musical journal of the time.

Haydn’s famous dissenting opinion was also recorded. “I cannot settle the argument. But one thing I know, and that is that Mozart is the greatest composer the world now has.”

Sadly, few in Mozart’s audience had Haydn’s insight or willingness to engage with the new directions he was taking. And there are signs that Mozart was becoming increasingly reluctant to write the shallow fripperies he knew he could more easily sell.

Introduction by Erica Challis.

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