Friday, August 10, 2018

August 10, 1788: Mozart completed Symphony No. 41

Last updated August 27, 2018.

Symphony No. 41 in C major (“Jupiter”), K. 551

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer)

Composed: 1788

Completed: August 10, 1788

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Quotable: “Regarded by many critics as among the greatest symphonies in classical music.” – Wikipedia

Genre: classical > symphony

Average Length: 31:50


  1. Allegro vivace
  2. Andante cantabile
  3. Menuetto & Trio, Allegretto
  4. Molto Allegro


Mozart completed three symphonies in the summer of 1788; Symphony No. 41 was “the longest and last symphony that he composed.” WK It is also known as the “Jupiter” symphony, a nickname likely coined by the impresario Johann Peter Salomon. WK It is unknown if it was performed during Mozart’s lifetime. WK

The symphony “aptly embodies what is now identified as a paradigm of Classical symphonic form: four movements, the first and last in a quick tempo, the second slower, the third a minuet with trio. Unencumbered by norms suggested by any model, however, Mozart’s deft imagination distinguishes this work from others in a similar cast.” MR

“The first movement is characterized in part by the dramatic and effective employment of unexpected pauses in the rhythmic flow through the use of rests, a trait shared with and perhaps influenced by the symphonies of Haydn. After an initial regularity, irregular and changing phrase lengths contribute as well to the dramatic impetus. The serene F major quietude of the second movement’s opening is soon disrupted, posed against more restless, rhythmically insistent minor-key episodes. This calm/dark conflict continues throughout, the initial spirit eventually prevailing. The falling chromatic theme and flowing, even accompaniment of the Minuet set a graceful tone for the third movement.” MR

“The companion Trio provides an earthier, more overtly dancelike mood, which is, however, interrupted by a suddenly more serious tutti outburst. The final movement is exceptional for the richness of its contrapuntal language, a somewhat unexpected — and, some of Mozart’s contemporaries would venture, unfashionable – attribute in a symphonic work of the time. The four-note motive that begins the movement is put through its paces in a number of guises, most prominently as the beginning of a recurrent canon and fugue subject which occurs both as originally presented and in inversion. The effect is one not of academicism but of great tension and dramatic impulse which, borne bristling and in search of resolution, finds its resting place only in the final bars.” MR

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