Реферат: Mozart: Symphony #40 in G Minor, K.550 Моцарт: Симфония №40 в си-минор, К. 550



Work Report

by:Vladislav Exxx

WolfgangAmadeus Mozart

SymphonyNo. 40 in G Minor, K. 550

Instructor:Dr. Timothy M. Crain


11November 2002

I. Work Analysis

            Being an admirer of the music ofWolfgang Amadeus Mozart, I chose to analyze Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor. An early analyst and critic ofMozart’s music, Otto Jahn called the Symphony No. 40 “a symphony of pain andlamentation.” Another critic said it was “nothing but joy and animation”(Kramer 480). While these two remarks may be used as extreme ways to interpretthe symphony, its character and mood are captivating and touching.

            The standard instrumentation forthis piece includes woodwinds (flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons), strings(violins, violas, cellos, and basses), and brass (horns), The instrumentationdoes not include any percussion or heavy brass. The horns are used sparingly,only to add density to the tone or emphasize the crescendos and sforzandos.

            The symphony itself is comprised offour movements:

                        MovementOne – Molto allegro

                        MovementTwo – Andante

                        MovementThree – Allegretto

                        MovementFour – Allegro assai

Thefirst movement of the symphony opens in a minor key with a piano but agitatedprincipal theme that repeats itself throughout the movement. Such an opening isnot a usual one; a listener may have expected some sort of an introduction toprecede such a theme, but Mozart decides to omit any prelude, therebyestablishing a certain feeling of restlessness or anxiety. The first movementexhibits frequent interchanges between piano and forte. Of all the sections ofthe first movement, only the development is played in a major key with disjunctmotion. This, combined with other expressive elements, further contributes tothe movement’s general uneasy mood. The meter here is duple simple, and itremains constant throughout the movement. The first movement is presented inthe Sonata-allegro form, with a motivic structure quality in the principaltheme, and a homophonic texture.

Obedientlyfollowing the sonata plan, Mozart slows down his second movement to andante.Violas play the principal theme and are later joined by the first and secondviolins, imitating one another. The dominating strings maintain dynamics withinrange of piano, but sforzandos are contributed by the basses. The meter in thismovement is duple compound, and like in the first movement, this one iscomposed in sonata-allegro form. Homophonic accompaniment in an E-flat tonalitysupports a wide-range, but conjunct-motion melody that is characterized byregular periodic structures.

Thethird movement is in triple simple meter with the orchestra once againdominated by the strings. The minuet and trio form naturally divides the movementinto three sections with different keys, dynamics, and a dacapo. The minuet section and its a da capo are playedforte and in a minor key, while the trio is piano and in a major key. The temporemains allegretto throughout the entire movement. Unlike the second movement,the motion of the melody is disjunct and wide-range, structured in regularperiods. The movement begins in a G minor tonality and then changes to G major.The texture remains homophonic throughout the entire movement.

Thefinal movement of the symphony is again dominated by the strings. The tempo ofthis movement is allegro assai, which combined with disjunct melodic motion inthe portions played forte, maintains the stressful, nervous mood of thesymphony. These sections are interchanged by ones played piano and adagio, witha narrow melodic range and conjunct motion. This movement is composed insonata-allegro form with a duple simple meter. The motion is mostly conjunct,except for sections played presto, where the motion is disjunct and the rangeis wide. The tonality of this movement is G minor, and the texture ishomophonic.

II. Composer background.

At the time of this symphony’s composition, in the firsthalf of 1788 when Mozart’s creative powers were at their peak, his everydaylife suddenly began to deteriorate. Although he had recently been appointed acomposer to the Court of Emperor Joseph II, the salary was meager and theduties were light. Two or three years previously Mozart’s concert schedule wasbusy and an abundance of students provided him with an adequate income. He hadtriumphed in Prague with The Marriage of Figaro in 1786 and DonGiovanni in 1787. Now his fortunes went into a slump. When Don Giovanniwas performed for the first time in Vienna, on the 7th of May, 1788,it aroused mixed reactions. Although it was given fifteen times that year, itdoes not seem to have been regarded as a success in Vienna. In the spring of1788 Mozart could not obtain enough subscribers to a set of three stringquintets, and the projected publication was postponed and then abandoned. InJune Mozart planned a series of public concerts, but these apparently did notoccur. After 1788, Mozart would never again perform a public concert in Vienna,and his desperate financial situation made him write letters to relatives andfriends, asking for money (Broder vii).

            Nevertheless, Mozart continued tocompose with his characteristic and inspiration. The failures of hisperformances and the consequent financial hardships took a heavy toll on Mozart’salready fragile health. The lack of commission or public recognition, however,did not stop Mozart from writing. Mozart composed his last three symphonies(Nos. 39, 40, and 41) in only two months, without commission or payment.Furthermore, at least two of these symphonies were never performed during hislifetime. As to why they were not performed, some people believe that Mozarthad such an intense inner need to express himself that he could not wait for apatron from whom to charge commission. Perhaps these were the circumstancesthat inspired such a feeling of insecurity, anxiety, and urgency in SymphonyNo. 40. The composer needed success, recognition, and simply money.

IV. PersonalReaction.

            On a personal level, I was alsoinspired with the same unexplained feeling of urgency and anxiety whilelistening to this symphony. The first movement creates this mood with its veryfirst motive. However, it seemed hard for me to follow through the entire piecewithout having lost some of this impression to the more subdued second andthird movements. Perhaps Mozart’s emotions at the time were too complex for meto understand at this point; after all, these two movements were not composedjust to fill the void between the first and the last movements. But maybeMozart knew that the listeners would be exhausted if the same mood prevailedthroughout the entire symphony.

            Either way, my personal preferenceremains with the more sonically and emotionally powerful productions of suchcomposers such as Chaikovsky, Prokofiev, Grieg, and Wagner who managed todeliver similarly strong emotions through shorter, more concise pieces ofmusic. For example, Chaikovsky’s famous ballet The Nutcracker iscomprised of several short suites, each one with its own feeling, mood, andcharacter The entire work feels like a wonderful theme park, rather than along, consuming labyrinth that comes to mind with Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.Edward Grieg in his In der Halle des Bergkцnigs and Richard Wagner’s TheRide of the Valkyries fascinate and inspire me toa much greater extent, despite their much smaller duration. Of course, itshould not be forgotten that the pieces I listed are all operas and ballets andhave very little to do with the symphony in general, but they are still themusic I prefer thanks to their equally high power and better understandability.


Broder, Nathan, ed. Mozart: Symphonyin G minor, K. 550. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1967.

Kramer, Jonathan D. Listen to theMusic: A Self-Guided Tour Through the Orchestral Repertoire. New York:Schirmer Books, 1988.

Steinberg, Michael. The Symphony: AListener’s Guide. New York: Oxford UP, 1995.

Unger-Hamilton, Clive, ed. The GreatSymphonies. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1983.

Zaslaw, Neal. Mozart’s Symphonies:Context, Performance Practice, Reception. New York: Oxford UP, 1989.

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