Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the greatest composers in history. He was born in Salzburg Austria in 1756. Although he only lived to be 35 years old his contribution to musical history is almost unparallel to anybody else’s. Mozart was a child prodigy that started composing music at the young age of 5. As a young boy Mozart went on tour visiting all the musical centers Europe had to offer. From Munich, to Paris, London, and a plethora of other places. As Mozart traveled and played music his musical knowledge and inspiration grew. One of his most famous and memorable pieces was Symphony no. 40 in G minor. It is a well-structured Classical piece that has balance and clarity in it. The symphony was one of three of his final symphonies. The symphony contains 4 movements. For the purpose of this critical analysis I will be concentrating on movement one from his symphony.
When Symphony no. 40 in G minor was created Mozart was the beginning of a difficult time in his life. Mozart was a struggling composer when he wrote this symphony. His pile of bills was getting higher and higher and he had just lost one of his daughter’s. His music reflects his life struggles at the time. Symphony no. 40 in G minor reflects anxiousness with moments of calm and peace. The first movement reflects a darker side, filled with raw emotional connection that speaks through the piece. The circumstances Mozart was faced with comes out in this piece.
When I first heard Mozart’s symphony no. 40 in G minor I felt as if I was on an emotional roller coaster, filled with highs and lows just like life. Mozart’s symphony no. 40 in G minor is classical style. It contains balanced phrases and melody lines that are extremely graceful. The structure of the movement has a sense of symmetry and defined by clear use of keys. The piece first begins very intense. The tempo was molto allegro very quick and lively. It gets your heart racing. As the first movement continues there are moments short moments of calm and peace. His symphony has a very dynamic and continuous flow to it.
Some say Mozart suffered from depression and anxiety. According to Rosen, “It is only through recognizing the violence and sensuality at the center of Mozart’s work that we can make a start towards a comprehension of his structures and an insight into his magnificence. In a paradoxical way, Schumann’s superficial characterization of the G Minor Symphony can help us to see Mozart’s daemon more steadily. In all of Mozart’s supreme expressions of suffering and terror, there is something shockingly voluptuous.” (Rosen pg. 324) Based on this symphony to me sounds like a constant struggle with the highs and lows of depression and anxiety. One minute soft and relaxed and the next moment consumed with terrible lows.
Mozart’s Symphony no. 40 in G minor was composed in sonata form and consisting of the following three main parts, exposition, development, and recapitulation. The exposition of the symphony has two contradictory themes G minor and B flat major and transitions that link them together. The development of symphony in 40 G minor is restless and explores a lot of different keys and the harmonies are chromatic. Mozart developed short rhythmic motifs starting from the first subject. The first section of the symphony avoids using the tonic key. The sonata begins in F# minor. The recapitulation solidifies and pulls it all together again. It returns to G minor followed by a repeat of the first subject then repeats the themes of the exposition and ends with a small coda.
The instrumentation of Mozart’s Symphony no. 40 in G minor, differs than the traditional orchestra that was the standard during that time. It was written for a minimal orchestra and without the use of percussion instruments or trumpets. Mozart was extremely modest with the instrumentation he used in this piece. Seven woodwinds were used, one flute, two, oboes, two bassoons, and two clarinets. Initially it was scored excluding the clarinets, but later wrote a version that including the use of two of them. Two french horns were the only brass instruments that were used.
As with any true artist life struggles and tribulations come can have a profound effect on the artist’s work. Even a great composer such as Mozart had his inner demons and struggles. With the inability to effectively control his anxiety it came out in music and produced one of the most iconic symphonies’. This movement reflects a darker and emotional piece. The circumstances he faced led to a brilliant work of art.