Symphonic Concert Filharmonia Narodowa

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Symphonic Concert
Polish Radio Orchestra in Warsaw, photo: Michał Zajączkowski

Mozart’s final triad of symphonies was written over the course of just a few weeks in the summer of 1788. Representatives of the Romantic tradition wished to see in these works an almost symphonic testament. One hypothesis put forward is that Mozart made use of a somewhat freer period in his creative life to compose new works “for future purposes”, perhaps with a vaguely planned trip to England in mind. It is also possible that the compositions were intended for a series of previously planned Viennese subscription concerts.

Symphony in E-flat Major opens with a monumental Adagio, which in turn leads into an Allegro, which introduces several innovative elements, including highlighted wind instrument parts. The lyrical second movement (with its dramatic middle episode) seems to be a nod to the Haydn tradition, as is the minuet whose trio is a charming stylisation of the folk ländler and features the famous clarinet solo. The composition is crowned by a lively, energetic perpetuum mobile-type finale with humorous dialogues between the wind instruments.

The second of the symphonies in the great triad stands out in the canon of classical symphonic music not only because of its minor key, but also due to its exceptionally sombre mood, which distinguishes it, for example, from Haydn’s symphonies in a minor key which, nonetheless, end on a positive note. A few months before Mozart's death, his Symphony in G Minor was conducted by Antonio Salieri, and probably for the purposes of this performance the composer modified the original instrumentation, adding two clarinets to the ensemble.

There is still some debate as to the origins of the name assigned to Symphony in C Major, i.e. “Jupiter”, indicating “divine” perfection and power (the first documented occurrence of this nickname appeared in the programme of a music festival in Edinburgh in 1819). Romantic commentators spoke of this symphony with particular emphasis and admiration. After the first movement, full of noble pathos, the beginning of Andante cantabile, changeable in mood, assumes the shape of an introduction to an operatic aria, but after a while, its character suddenly becomes gloomy, harbingered with the key of C M   inor and mysterious dissonances. An exquisite minuet is followed by a dazzling, extended finale, combining a sonata allegro plan with polyphonic, imitative technique. We can be sure that the thirty-two-year-old Mozart did not write this finale as a “farewell” to the world of symphony, nor as a musical testament. However, since it was destined to become Mozart’s opus ultimum in this genre – that is how it has been perceived. Without doubt, it is, whether intended or not, a tribute to the art of the revered masters: Bach, Handel and the Haydn brothers.