September 2011

Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, KV 550

by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

We first discussed Mozart in August 2010. He had written 41 symphonies in his short life, and we're going to be listening to number 40. This symphony was written in 1788. Mozart would die three years later.

Of all of Mozart's symphonies, the last two (40 and 41) are the most well-known. The 40th Symphony is written in G minor. The minor key gives it a sad or dark feel. This was one of two symphonies written in a minor key (the other was the 25th).

Like most symphonies, there are four movements:

  1. Molto allegro (very fast)
  2. Andante (at a walking pace)
  3. Menuetto (in the style of a minuet)
  4. Allegro assai (very fast)

The first movement is the most well-known, and that's what we'll have you listen to, but the whole symphony is wonderful.

Jon's Introduction to This Piece:

We had recordings of this piece as far back as I can remember. I don't remember specifically targeting the 40th symphony until I was probably around 12. I definitely knew the melody of the first movement long before I knew the name of the piece. I don't know anything about who performed on the recording we had, but I do remember that the jacket was blue. In fact, it was a picture of the conductor, but it looked like a photo negative. The label on the vinyl album was also a navy blue.

This was a piece I made sure was in my collection of cassettes that came with me on my mission.


So here's the first movement of the symphony. Enjoy!

Symphony No. 40 in G Minor - 1st Movement (Molto allegro) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (6:58)

For those interested, this recording was performed by John Eliot Gardiner conducting the English Baroque Soloists.

Jon's Interpretation:

The main theme in the first movement is what first got me hooked on this symphony. I would find myself in younger years humming this tune long after having listened to it. It's simple, but beautiful. To me, it represents a passionate yearning for something that cannot be reached.

The fourth movement is also simple, but brilliant. It's a musical argument between the first bit of the theme, and the shouting response. Very passionate. This last movement represents where classical music was heading in the near future (from Classical era to the Romantic era).

Extra Credit:

Here's the conductor's score of the symphony, for those who wish to follow along.

Conductor's Score for Symphony No. 40 in G Minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

And here are the remaining three movements. They are all great, but pay particularly close attention to the fourth movement. Enjoy!

Symphony No. 40 in G Minor - 2nd Movement (Andante) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (13:57)

Symphony No. 40 in G Minor - 3rd Movement (Menuetto) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (4:58)

Symphony No. 40 in G Minor - 4th Movement (Allegro assai) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (9:13)

Finally, I thought I'd throw in something a little silly. The Canadian Brass Quintent did a tribute to Mozart called "Boy Mozart", which is a disco/pop song celebrating the composer. I include this because the main theme driving the song is the theme from the first movement of Symphony No. 40. Enjoy!

Boy Mozart performed by the Canadian Brass Quintet (3:11)