Mozart’s three final symphonies are perhaps his best-loved, what do you think it is about them that people respond to?
They contain every emotion of the human spirit and, as Nikolaus Harnoncourt has said, they may be a kind of narrative or instrumental oratorium. No 39 begins like an overture in the key of E Flat, the key of masonic enlightenment and nobility and ends… without a proper ending. No 40 (which has almost no beginning) is in the key of ‘Death’ – G minor, a symphony which we all know too well, sometimes thought of as a kind of relaxing backdrop, but is in fact the epitome of Stürm und Drang (storm and stress), terror and angst. No 41 becomes the ultimate triumph in the most open key of C major with one of the greatest finales ever created. Tonality and what each key represented, and could express, were essential expressive tools for Mozart.
Douglas Boyd. Photo © Jean-Baptiste Millot
Mozart’s circumstances were somewhat straitened when he wrote these, do you hear evidence of his personal and professional struggles in this music?
Well not, at least, in the ease...