Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550


4.5
superb

Review

by Andrew W. Gold CONTRIBUTOR (85 Reviews)
January 8th, 2015 | 83 replies


Release Date: 1788 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Transcendent and masterful – this is Mozart at his best.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s death was a tragedy. He died poor, ill, and was tossed into a common grave with thousands of other nameless bodies. But while his death was a morose and anonymous tableau, Mozart’s contributions to classical music and opera were the exact opposite. His works are just as awe-inspiring today as they were centuries ago, and today Mozart is rightfully remembered as the most talented composer in music history. His composition style was very technical and intricate; he would actually write entire symphonies in his head before putting pen to paper. Many of his symphonies are light and jumpy in nature, having multiple melodies dance off one another with such fluidity and elegance it’s surreal to imagine how he wrote such happy music in his terrible living conditions. However, one of Mozart’s better-known compositions, “Symphony No. 40,” was written in the key of G minor. Mozart has written in a minor key before (25th symphony), but ironically “No. 40” is catchier than many of his other works. It also had the benefit of being conceived at the height of Mozart’s creative genius, with the “Jupiter Symphony” and “Requiem” coming shortly thereafter.

The first movement is Molto allegro, and you’ve undoubtedly heard it before one way or another. It begins with the famous exposition that is both somber and infectious. It’s a methodical piece of music really, namely its development section where the main melody is tweaked ever so slightly in various ways, changing the tone and mood of the piece just as subtly. Mozart toys with the multiple melodies he’s established in the exposition through multiple key changes, wavering dynamics, and bombastic climaxes until the movement closes with the recapitulation of the main melody just before the last marcato notes. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece. To call it the apex of music composition wouldn’t be much of a stretch (although I’d personally give that honor to Beethoven’s 7th symphony, II. Allegretto). Regardless, it’s still among the most recognizable and timeless melodies ever written and a hell of a way to open a symphony.

Hyperbole aside, it’s a shame the symphony opens so powerfully because the other movements simply pale in comparison. II. Andante suffers the most from this. It’s over 10 minutes long with little variation throughout, and worse yet it tends to drag, which makes it feel longer than it actually is. Thankfully the Trio section is far more interesting. It uses various canon techniques along with a recurring call-and-response motif; repeating melodies and rhythms are overlapped on top of each other with different instruments and accents, and counterpoint is nearly omnipresent. The symphony then closes with the playful Allegro assai which, much like the first movement, is both dark and joyful and contains more than enough twists to keep you fully invested until the final seconds.

Although it was intended to be between symphonies 39 and 41, “Symphony No. 40 in G minor” alone is an important piece of classical history; not only for being one of Mozart’s most famous symphonies, but also as an excellent representation of the genre itself. There’s a good reason why Molto allegro is so popular. It’s essentially the pop music of the 18th century – it’s memorable, well structured, and most importantly, it’s fun. Again, it baffles me how Mozart was able to write so meticulously even with his financial struggling and depression, and the subsequent illness, death, and anonymity. But that just goes to show that Mozart honed his talent and used it to live through other means – his music. So technically, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart never died; and he never will.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


22234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

been meaning to write classical reviews for a while. i guess nows as good a time as any to start



feedback appreciated!

Digging: Enslaved - In Times

Veldin
January 8th 2015


2036 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damn fine review, sir! I'm gonna check this out right meow.

insanedrexl1
January 8th 2015


724 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Incredible music.

Mall
January 8th 2015


1986 Comments


Wow this is the best review I've ever read from you man! This is why you're contrib

I might even listen to this

manosg
January 8th 2015


7315 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Bravo for reviewing this one and I'm really looking forward to reading your next classical reviews.

Digging: Misfits - Beware

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


22234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks guys :]

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


16351 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

41>>>> tho

Digging: Sylvan - Home

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


22234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

theyre both equal in my eyes

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


16351 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

have you heard the first 39 ?

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


22234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

you mean all 39 symphonies before this or #39? lol either way no, the earliest one ive heard is 25.



if you have any recs of his early symphs that would be great

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


16351 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I aint heard many, tried once but didnt get very far. Got bored as too much forgettable dross in there but no.35 is pretty good.

I mean this is perfect poppy classical, man that bit around the first minute mark is sublime....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oumODuYZHRo

JS19
January 8th 2015


4576 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Not my favourite symphony by a long way, it lacks the subtlety of the kinda stuff I tend to gravitate towards but it's beautiful all the same. It's good to see someone recognising that the classical bit of sputnik needs some attention

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Atari
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


20285 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

fantastic review Ins, I really enjoyed it. Recently starting exploring classical music and i'm addicted to say the least. I'm curious if you've seen the movie Amadeus and if so what are your thoughts? Mozart's life is honestly just as fascinating as his music (same goes for beethoven).

Digging: Daisyhead - The Smallest Light

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


22234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah ive seen amadeus a few times, fantastic movie. its interesting that most of the events of that movie arent hollywoodized to death. things like his laugh and sense of humor are apparently really accurate.



immortal beloved is great too. not as good as amadeus but it has gary oldman playing beethoven which is a treat in itself

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


16351 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

anything with gary oldman in instantly gets elevated just bcos he is in it

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


22234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

agreed. its also cool that he did leon: the professional the same year as immortal and he improvised the scenes in the professional when his character (the villain) talks about how much he loves beethoven while hes slaughtering some dude's family



hes such a boss

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2015


20285 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah i really enjoyed Amadeus as well and I've been meaning to watch Immortal Beloved. Nice to see some love for Oldman too, agreements all 'round

pedro70512
January 8th 2015


3961 Comments


Anyone seen that new series Mozart in the Jungle? I'm curious about it.

JohnTheSavage
January 8th 2015


94 Comments


Friends who are actually involved in performing classical music say it's pretty ridiculous in terms of reality correspondence. Not sure how it is as drama though, it might be good.

pedro70512
January 8th 2015


3961 Comments


Sweet, thanks. Yeah I'm not big on the drama. My interest is in the actual music and the representation of / characters who play it.



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