Sunday, September 30, 2012

Karajan – Mozart – Symphonies No. 40 & No. 41

   The complete set of symphonic works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart can serve as a lesson of classical style, covering full span of its development. Differences between early symphonic works and the output of last year of composer’s life are not only the matter of technical improvements. The changes were related to the progress of artist’s ideology, aesthetics and strengthen the artist’s personality. The last three symphonies – 39th E-flat Major KV 543, 40th G Minor KV 540 and 41st C Major “Jupiter” KV 541 – were completed in summer 1788 in short period of few weeks between July 26 and August 10. After these symphonies Mozart was very active as author of opera and instrumental music, but in following period of composer’s life for over three years there were no more symphony.
   For years many music history scholars supported the thesis Mozart wrote these symphonies without actual chance of concert performance and he has never heard them. Thus they have explained uncommon condensation of musical ideas and novel solutions. So was Alfred Einstein who called this works “appeal to eternity”. New historical works show this was more romantic legend than true. There are a lot of indirect evidences last Mozart’s symphonies were performed and even conducted by Antonio Salieri. One of performances had its place at home of Gottfried van Swieten, but it was so bad, Mozart leave the room. These symphonies were probably played a few times before Mozart’s death. In next two centuries thousands of performances made these compositions part of the core of symphonic repertoire.

Karajan - Mozart – Symphonies No. 40 & No. 41 (1978)

   There are dozens of great renditions of the last two symphonies by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. One of them is as much unusual as much appreciated. It was recorded by Herbert von Karajan and Berliner Philharmoniker, the orchestra he was principal conductor since 1954. The recordings published in 1978 are beautiful example of Karajan’s conducting and interpreting style. His renditions were both intellectual and emotional giving many evidences for systematic attitude and personal passion. The value of his interpretations was searching for metaphysical depths of the performed works. Of course, this applies to those compositions that contain such depth. In some cases, Karajan just could not exceed too much the salon elegance of performances. But still even operetta recordings under his baton sound more profound and dramatic.
   Karajan gave here one of most readable interpretation of Mozart’s 40th Symphony. After many renditions trying to close this music in easy serenade esthetics, after some very good performances trying to capture the balance, which was classical pursuance indeed, Karajan’s vision of this work is closer to late Beethoven or romantic symphonic cycles. Only two of Mozart’s symphonies are in minor key, and both in G-minor – first composed in 1773 Symphony No. 25 KV 183, and second from 1788 Symphony No. 40 KV 550, sometimes called “Great”. This key has some special meanings, according to Einstein it was connected with ‘fate’ symbols. There are many different explanations but all include constant opinion this key evokes highly emotional content. Karajan’s interpretation reveals the depths to which these emotions go.
   In last Mozart’s Symphony C Major No. 41 KV 551 is mighty crowning of the cycle. Nicknamed Jupiter, this Symphony is a perfect example of splendid invention, deep expression and therefore it is exhibiting full possibilities of classical style. Bringing it to binary distinctions, it is usually comes to form and content, perfection and emotionalism, dramatic and consolation. Here the various oppositions are in dynamic balance and in culminate modulation in fourth movement Karajan gives so strong impact it’s hard to forget this music was composed in times bursting with the desire for revolution.

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