Conducted by Frans Brüggen, Dutch early music orchestra The Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century (Dutch: Orkest van de Achttiende Eeuw) plays Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, KV. 550.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 40
Completed on 25 July 1788, the composition occupied an exceptionally productive period of just a few weeks in 1788, during which time he also completed the 39th and 41st symphonies (26 June and 10 August, respectively). It is sometimes referred to as the “Great G minor symphony,” to distinguish it from the “Little G minor symphony,” No. 25. The two are the only extant minor key symphonies Mozart wrote.
The work is in four movements, in the usual arrangement for a classical-style symphony (fast movement, slow movement, minuet, fast movement):
- 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 (Piano Concerto No. 27, 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).
- 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. The second movement is a lyrical work in 6/8 time is in E-flat major. It is in a more free rounded binary, or ABA, form with each of its halves repeated (AABABA). Its hesitant string gestures and subtle use of chromaticism lend it a certain grace and sensitivity.
- Menuetto. Allegretto-Trio, 3/4. The third movement is a clasic minuet and trio. A sinister minor-mode minuet full of polyphonic imitation is contrasted with a pastoral trio that puts the horns to good use. The minuet begins with an angry, cross-accented hemiola rhythm and a pair of three-bar phrases. As always in a minuet and trio, the minuet returns at the end. This minuet is a far cry from the calm gentle minuet of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
- 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). While the first movement presents a sense of unease, the fourth movement expresses a far more violent nature and through its mixed form a more profound unease.
The Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century
The Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century (Dutch: Orkest van de Achttiende Eeuw) is a Dutch early music orchestra. Frans Brüggen and Sieuwert Verster co-founded the orchestra in 1981. Although he did not have a formal title with the orchestra, Brüggen served as the de facto principal conductor of the orchestra from its founding until his death in 2014. Verster has served as the orchestra’s manager since its founding.
Franciscus (“Frans”) Jozef Brüggen (30 October 1934 – 13 August 2014) was a Dutch conductor, recorder player, and baroque flautist. He is considered among the foremost experts in the performance of eighteenth-century music. At the age of 21, he was appointed professor at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Den Haag and later held the position as Erasmus Professor at Harvard University and Regent’s Professor at the University of Berkeley, making him one of the youngest musical scholars of the time.
- Symphony No. 40 (Mozart) on Wikipedia
- Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century on Wikipedia
- Frans Brüggen on Wikipedia
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