Conducted by Andrés Orozco-Estrada, the hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543. Recorded at the Alte Oper Frankfurt on September 10, 2020.

Conducted by Andrés Orozco-Estrada, the hr-Sinfonieorchester performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 39

Mozart completed Symphony No. 39 on June 26, 1788. It was the first of a set of three (his last symphonies) that Mozart composed in rapid succession during the summer of 1788: Symphony No. 40 was completed on 25 July and Symphony No. 41 on 10 August.

The first known eyewitness account of the performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 is from an all-Mozart memorial concert that took place in Hamburg in March 1792, where the verified performance of this symphony was noted by an eyewitness named Iwan Anderwitsch, who describes the start of the symphony as follows:

“The opening is so majestic that it so surprised even the coldest, most insensitive listener and non-expert, that even if he wanted to chat, it prevented him from being inattentive, and thus, so to speak, put him in a position to become all ears.”

“It then becomes [so] fiery, full, ineffably grand, and rich in ideas, with striking variety in almost all obbligato parts, that it is nearly impossible to follow so rapidly with ear and feeling, and one is nearly paralyzed.”

“This actual paralysis became visible in various connoisseurs and friends of music, and some admitted that they would never have been able to think or imagine they would hear something like this performed so splendidly in Hamburg.”

In modern times, the work is part of the core symphonic repertoire and is frequently performed and recorded.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 is scored for a flute, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings.

There are four movements. With the start times in the video:

  1. [00:15] Adagio, cut time (Alla breve) – Allegro, 3/4 (in sonata form). The first movement opens with a majestic introduction with fanfare heard in the brass section. This is followed by an Allegro in sonata form, though while several features – the loud outburst following the soft opening, for instance – connect it with the galant school that influences the earliest of his symphonies. The independence of the winds and greater interplay of the parts in general, and the fact that the second theme group contains several themes (including a particularly felicitous “walking theme”) compared to those earlier symphonies whose second groups were practically always completely trivial, are just a very few of the points that distinguish this movement from those earlier works, from which it has more differences than similarities.
  2. [09:45] Andante con moto in A-flat major, 2/4 (in modified sonata form without development). The slow movement, in abridged sonata form, i.e. no development section, starts quietly in the strings and expands into the rest of the orchestra. Quiet main material and energetic, somewhat agitated transitions characterize this movement. The key is A♭ major, the subdominant of E♭ major.
  3. [16:33] Menuetto (Allegretto) – Trio, 3/4 (in compound ternary form). The work has a very interesting minuet and trio. The trio is an Austrian folk dance called a “Ländler” and features a clarinet solo. The forceful Menuetto is set off by the trio’s unusual tint of the second clarinet playing arpeggios in its low (chalumeau) register. The melody for this particular folk dance derived from local drinking songs which were popular in Vienna during the late 18th century.
  4. [20:06] Allegro, 2/4 (in sonata form). The finale of Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 is another sonata form whose main theme, like that of the later string quintet in D, is mostly a scale, here ascending and descending. The development section is dramatic; there is no coda, but both the exposition, and the development through the end of the recapitulation, are requested to be, and often are, repeated.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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