Next month marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). As a conductor, composer, pianist, and educator, Bernstein seems to have thrown his arms around the world of music. He brought a unique energy and dynamism to the podium, as well as to his compositions, which run the gamut from the Broadway theater to the concert hall. Over the coming weeks, we’ll explore the music of Leonard Bernstein. For now, listen to the way he and the Vienna Philharmonic launch into the exhilarating G minor Sturm und Drang fury of Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in this live concert clip.
Completed in October, 1773 by the 17-year-old Mozart, Symphony No. 25 seems to foreshadow the composer’s more famous G minor Symphony (No. 40), a work which Bernstein discusses in his 1973 Norton Lectures, The Unanswered Question. The first movement, Allegro con brio, grabs our attention immediately with searing syncopations and leaping arpeggios in the strings which fly like sparks. Listen to how quickly this bold musical announcement turns into something more quietly melancholy with the oboe’s lamenting solo. Just as quickly, we find ourselves in the joyfully exuberant second theme. With the second statement of this theme, notice the way horns add a celebratory interjection (2:24). This is music which seems both youthful and eternal.
Here is the complete Symphony, performed by Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic:
- Mozart: Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183/173dB, Vienna Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein Amazon
- The second lecture (Musical Syntax) from Bernstein’s Harvard Norton lectures, The Unanswered Question
1 thought on “Mozart’s Symphony No. 25: Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic”
I have a 3-CD set of Mozart’s symphonies by Bernstein conducting Vienna PO from DG. It is a good one but there are other more suitable sets than this if listeners look for brightly expressive, bold and incisive modern performance style. Bernstein adopts relatively slower tempo for virtually all fast movements and he appears to prefer phrasing that sounds smoothed out throughout the set as if he is conducting Tchaikovsky’s symphonies!
Mackerras conducting Prague Chamber Orchestra on Telarc (complete symphonies) and Levine with Vienna PO from DG (selected ones only) are potential alternative to Bernstein’s set.