Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mozart: Symphony #40 and #41

These are two familiar and highly recognizable Mozart symphonies that are an absolute pleasure to listen to, even if you're a retired trumpet player who resents all of the crappy parts he had to play in Mozart symphonies in high school orchestra.
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James Levine and the Wiener Philharmoniker
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Symphony #40 and Symphony #41 (1788)
Deutsche Grammophon, 1990

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Both of these symphonies have what I consider a more typical symphonic structure (compared to, say, last week's Elgar Symphony #2). For example, listen to the opening melody in Symphony #40, and then hear how Mozart massages that melody into various keys, forms and variations throughout the movement.

What's so fascinating about Mozart is his ability to toy with a simple melody--literally to wrap it around his finger and mess with it in ways you'd never imagine--and yet the music still seems so flawless, logical and beautiful.

Four brief final notes:

1) I found (amazingly) an Amazon link to the exact CD that I have in my collection, and I highly recommend this specific recording. It's excellent, bordering on flawless. Also, for anyone interested in getting an encyclopedic collection of Mozart's complete symphonies, I've included a link to a highly regarded collection here (for a surprisingly reasonable price of around $50). See also the graphical link below. Note that I get paid a small affiliate fee for products you might buy at Amazon should you follow these links and make a purchase. Think of it as my tip jar!

2) Mozart's trumpet parts still suck. I don't even hear trumpet parts at all in #40. And #41 is, you guessed it, mostly oompah parts.

3) If you haven't seen the movie Amadeus, rent it. Now. And then come back. Although it exaggerates the relationship between Salieri and Mozart to the point of total fiction, the movie tells a fascinating story about the nature of genius. Oh, and the soundtrack's pretty good too.

4) I hope James Levine gets himself a new pair of glasses. And a haircut.



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