It is time for some Mozart (1756-1791). There is very little that an amateur enthusiast such as myself can add to the millions of words which have been written about this child prodigy, who was composing whilst others his age were learning to read. His output was truly prodigious, covering every possible field in music. Many of his pieces, such as the clarinet concerto, the horn concertos, Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the Jupiter symphony, piano concerto no.21 (Elvira Madigan music) – to name just a handful – are now so overplayed and so familiar to us that we risk overlooking a great amount which gets less coverage. Obviously I will have lots to post on him over time.
In 1788 Mozart composed what were to be his last three symphonies, 39, 40 and 41 (The Jupiter). Of these, 41 is unquestionably the most famous (first heard by many of us as backing for the Wombles!), but it is 39 which stands out as my personal favourite of all his symphonies. Today’s piece is the final movement of that symphony, written the year after his father had died, his wife was ill, his daughter had also died recently, and Mozart was deeply in debt. And yet this movement, a Rondo, is a passage of unalloyed optimism and sheer love of life. It is a perfect example of how the real genius, in whatever art form, is the creator who can evoke any mood or emotion without necessarily having to be either a miserable geezer or a stand-up comedian.
There is only one theme in this peace, even if varied slightly, and it is a ray of sunshine which just makes you want to dance. It has a wonderful momentum, with occasional breathers, but to me it almost feels like a whistle-stop ride on a fast steam train. I don’t know who made this recording, which is why you’ve only got a picture of the man himself, but I chose it for its tangible and controlled vibrancy. One more thing: have you ever thought, as I often have, “I wish he’d have ended it like this, rather than the way he actually did”? If you have, be sure to wait to the end – Mozart does not finish this symphony in the conventional manner of a few affirming final chords, but in the way you might hope he would dare to do.
Tip: for best results, turn volume right up and don’t bother to sit down, because you may feel the urge to move. Then see, whatever you are doing, how quickly you can stop after the music does. Bet you’re still going.