Curiosity, Genius, and the Search for Petula Clark

with the NAC Orchestra
SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR

Ballade for Orchestra

FRANÇOIS DOMPIERRE

Les Diableries

Kelly-Marie Murphy

Curiosity, Genius, and the Search for Petula Clark

Chopin

Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22

Mozart

Symphony No. 41 in C major, “Jupiter”

Born in Salzburg, January 27, 1756
Died in Vienna, December 5, 1791

Mozart’s valedictory effort as a symphonist has, in its 200-plus years of existence, never been out of favour. It represents the supreme height of symphonic craftsmanship welded to artistic inspiration, inviting the most eloquent praise and poetic expression from those who experience its beauties and perfection. It was composed, along with Symphonies Nos. 39 and 40, during a six-week period in the summer of 1788.

Mozart did not assign the nickname “Jupiter” (it came years after his death from the impresario Salomon, Haydn’s London sponsor), but it seems absolutely appropriate for music that evokes images of Olympian pomp, nobility, grandeur and perfect mastery of construction. Klaus G. Roy sees in this music a “classic divinity… Nowhere else in his entire output does Mozart convey so directly the atmosphere of mastery, imperiousness, even omnipotence. There is a sense of total command over the materials chosen… it is in this music that he defeated the cruel, thoughtless world in which he lived; he celebrated a conquest in the spiritual sphere that has proved over the centuries to have been decisive. It was, in this medium, the final thunderbolt of the chief of the musical gods.”

The first movement contains three distinct themes, each a perfectly balanced entity in itself. The first consists of a brusque, imperious call to attention followed by a graceful, lilting figure. The second also reveals within itself contrasts and balances: of ascending and descending scale-like fragments, of strings alone and then combined with woodwind coloration, as well as being an overall contrast to the first theme. The third theme has a mischievous and capricious quality to it. Mozart borrowed this closing theme from a comic aria he had written for bass just months before, “Un bacio di mano,” K. 541, written as an additional number for an opera by Pasquale Anfossi.

In the second movement, Mozart turns from the proud, extroverted mood of the opening movement to one of profound expression, pensive eloquence and restrained elegance. The first theme is one of the longest he ever wrote. The use of muted violins throughout lends a shadowy, introverted character to the music. Trumpets and timpani are silent.

The dignified Menuetto, like the first movement, combines contrasts of loud and soft, graceful and imperious, smoothly lyrical and sharply detached in music of exquisitely balanced form. Other features of this movement include a greater degree of chromatic writing than normally found in minuets of the time, and the only instance in a Mozart minuet of separate parts for cellos and basses. In the Trio section Mozart engages in some Haydnesque humour, beginning with a classical cadential figure that sounds more like an ending than a beginning.

The final movement opens with a four-note motif. Several new themes and motifs are presented as well in the course of this sonata-form movement. Mozart builds everything into an effortlessly flowing web of counterpoint involving a veritable catalogue of devices: double and triple counterpoint, thematic inversion, canon, stretto, augmentation and diminution, all fashioned into a dazzling display of tonal architecture. The Olympian coda simultaneously combines all five thematic ideas into an incredible contrapuntal tour de force.

– Program note by Robert Markow

Menu