Conducted by the American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist Leonard Bernstein, the Boston Symphony Orchestra performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, KV. 550.

Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, KV. 550. Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 40

Mozart wrote this symphony in the extraordinarily creative summer of 1788 (his last three symphonies, 39, 40, and 41 came out that summer). It is sometimes referred to as the “Great G minor symphony,” to distinguish it from the “Little G minor symphony,” No. 25. These two pieces are the only extant minor key symphonies Mozart wrote.

There are four movements:

  1. Molto allegro, 2/2. The first movement begins darkly, not with its first theme but with accompaniment, played by the lower strings with divided violas. The technique of beginning a work with an accompaniment figure was later used by Mozart in his last piano concerto (KV. 595) and later became a favorite of the Romantics (examples include the openings of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto).
  2. Andante, 6/8. The second movement is a lyrical work in 6/8 time. It is in the subdominant key of the relative major of G minor (B♭ major): E♭ major.
  3. Menuetto. Allegretto-Trio, 3/4. The minuet begins with an angry, cross-accented hemiola rhythm and a pair of three-bar phrases.
  4. Finale. Allegro assai, 2/2. The fourth movement opens with a series of rapidly ascending notes outlining the tonic triad illustrating what is commonly referred to as the Mannheim rocket (a swiftly ascending passage typically having a rising arpeggiated melodic line together with a crescendo, an orchestral technique pioneered by the court orchestra of Mannheim in the latter half of the 18th century).

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