Conducted by the Belgian conductor and choirmaster Philippe Herreweghe, the hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 in D major, K. 504. Recorded at the hr-Sendesaal Frankfurt on December 3, 2021. The piece, composed in 1786, is popularly known as the Prague Symphony, because it was premiered in Prague on January 19, 1787.
Mozart’s Symphony No. 38, the “Prague Symphony”
Mozart first came to Prague on 11 January 1787 and stayed until the second week of February. He was feted everywhere. On 19 January a concert was organized for his financial benefit at which the “Prague” Symphony was given its first performance.
He also improvised a solo on the piano-including variations on the popular aria “Non più andrai” from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492, a commedia per musica (opera buffa) in four acts composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with an Italian libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
Afterward, Mozart said he “counted this day as one of the happiest of his life.” Daniel E. Freeman points out that the level of adulation accorded Mozart on this occasion by the musical public of Prague was unprecedented for any eighteenth-century musician to be recognized simultaneously as both a composer and a performer.
The great success of this visit generated a commission from the impresario Pasquale Bondini for another opera, which like The Marriage of Figaro was to have a libretto by Mozart’s great collaborator Lorenzo Da Ponte.
With start times in the video:
- Adagio – Allegro [00:00]. The first movement begins with a slow introduction (he does this in only two other symphonies, No. 36 [“Linz”] and No. 39). Daniel E. Freeman has noted that it is probably the longest and most sophisticated slow introduction written for any major symphony up to that time, perhaps to compensate for the length of the missing minuet in order to help bring the entire work into closer alignment with the customary length of a standard four-movement symphony. The introduction gives way to the main portion of the movement, in which six melodies are developed and recapitulated in a very contrapuntal example of sonata-allegro form. Certain phrases in the first movement bear a resemblance to the overture to Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute, K. 620, an opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). The allegro proper opens in a complicated manner with the “first theme” traded off between the second violins (who start it) and the first violins (who finish it off).
- Andante [16:58]. The second movement’s structure is typical of Mozart’s symphonies dating from this period, although the music shifts into the minor key in a movement of contrasting moods. It is in the subdominant key of G major.
- Presto [26:07]. The finale of Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 is a lively Presto in which the flute plays a prominent role, especially in counterpointing the main melody in the development section. This movement, according to the English pianist and composer Antony Hopkins CBE (21 March 1921 – 6 May 2014), “shows Mozart in an unusual mood, nearer to Beethoven’s boisterousness than his fastidious taste normally allowed him to go.”
- Symphony No. 38 (Mozart) on Wikipedia
- Marcello: Oboe Concerto [Cameristi della Scala] - March 26, 2023
- Maxim Vengerov and Daughter perform “Adagio” from Alessandro Marcello’s Oboe Concerto - March 24, 2023
- Dvořák: Cello Concerto [Ella van Poucke] - March 22, 2023