Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter”: Celebratory Contrapuntal Fireworks

Mozart’s final symphony stands as a triumphant apotheosis. Symphony No. 41 in C Major concluded the monumental symphonic trilogy (Nos. 39, 40, and 41) that Mozart wrote over the course of two months during the summer of 1788. For the 32-year-old composer, it was a time of personal and professional loss. In Vienna, Mozart’s popularity was in decline as the city’s notoriously fickle audiences turned their attention elsewhere. Funding from aristocratic patrons evaporated …

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Mozart and the “C-D-F-E” Motive

Towards the end of the finale of Mozart’s last symphony (the “Jupiter,” No. 41), there’s an extraordinary moment when five independent musical themes combine to form an explosion of counterpoint unlike anything else in the symphonic repertoire. This dazzling display of musical fireworks culminates Mozart’s symphonic output with a celebratory bang. But one of this finale’s most prominent motives- the four notes, “C-D-F-E” which open the movement– has roots much earlier in Mozart’s writing. Go back and …

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Four Musical Firsts

In celebration of the beginning of a new year, here are four pieces which qualify as musical “firsts.” Listen to the music on the list and then share your own favorite musical “firsts” in the comment thread below. Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” Let’s start with the birth of opera. Italian Renaissance composer Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) is often credited with singlehandedly inventing the art form. In reality, opera gradually evolved out of Intermedio, music and …

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