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Based on the Record of Chicago Orchestra, Directed by Fritz Reiner

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Analysis of No.40, K550 by Mozart

Based on the record of Chicago Orchestra, directed by Fritz Reiner

This symphony is one of the last three symphonies composed by Mozart (No.39, 40 and 41). It is also the apex of Mozart’s compositions. Compared to his early stage, Mozart wrote more minor works in his later period, and this is one of them. Although No.40 is a symphony in g minor, it does not appear to be so gloomy or depressing. It stays bright, and keeps the high singability as Mozart usually did in his work before. After getting the full score, we can discover from the first page that there is even no percussion instrument or trumpet. To be exact, the whole orchestra does not contain a lot of musicians as well—besides the string band, the wind band has only one instrument each.

For the No.40 symphony, the first movement follow the format of sonata strictly (exposition-development-recapitulation). There are two similar topics in the exposition. First, the first and the second violin play the chord of the first topic which is a minor topic. After the wind band join in, the string band plays vibration bow mainly (there are a lot of quavers in the score); Also, Mozart used up-going melody in the vibration part to make the string band join in more naturally. Then, the string band plays the topic in flat-B major. The string band and the wind band start to respond to each other by playing a lot of down-going scales. Most orchestra will follow the score and play the exposition twice, and then goes to the development.

We must admit that the string band is the protagonist of the development. The violin plays the topics first, then the viola, cello and basso. When instruments of string band do not play the topic, they will play vibration bows. At first, there are responses between string instruments. After several rounds they all become quite, while the wind band becomes outstanding naturally. During this period, the melody changes in chromatic scale for many times, and finally goes back to the original one—g minor. Here comes the recapitulation.

The beginning of recapitulation is the g minor topic. Of course there are changes after that. The melody even once changes to flat-A major (page 12), and appear to be in great harmony. However, it does not last long. The melody soon separate, and the violin plays the main topic again. This time, the main topic appears pair by pair, which is also a typical Mozart’s way of dealing with topics. To be exact, the former one usually has a sense of urgency, while the later one is more stable. It is easy to understand, since differences can make similar melody more perspective. Near the end, there are a lot of quavers to produce the sense of urgency again, and finally stops with relaxation.

The second movement is a soothing andante. It keeps Baroque ways of playing. For example, ornaments are played


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