≈ 90 minutes · No intermission
I. Adagio – Allegro
II. Andante con moto
III. Menuetto: Allegretto – Trio – Menuetto
IV. Finale: Allegro
Mozart composed his Symphony No. 39 in the summer of 1788, during which he also completed the “great” G minor Symphony (No. 40), and the “Jupiter” Symphony (No. 41). There is little to no record of their first performances, but it’s likely that they appeared in concerts in Vienna in the autumn of that year. (Mozart was a pragmatic composer and was unlikely to have written symphonies, which was then a genre of increasing prestige, without the prospect of earning money or recognition.) Perhaps the lack of performance information was connected to the circumstances of the time, that is, of Austria being at war with Turkey; with many aristocratic families having left Vienna as a result, there were limited resources and opportunities to put on large orchestral concerts.
Symphony No. 39 has elegant grandeur, lively dialogue, and dramatic brilliance—qualities that late 18th and early 19th century music critics and theorists revered in Mozart’s orchestral writing. Its “sound world” is characterized by a certain warmth and mellowness, owing to the presence of clarinets. (Mozart had long loved the sound and expressive qualities of the instrument, and perhaps to further focus attention on their tone colour, he does not include oboes in this symphony.) A slow introduction opens the first movement in a majestic manner; for a moment, it takes a darker turn and later, ends mysteriously, but then the main theme of the movement proper appears, all sunny and relaxed grace in the violins. A vigorous orchestral episode follows, transitioning into a gentle second theme, led by the clarinets. As the movement progresses, it’s the energetic element that is developed and prevails in the end.
The Andante second movement features an elegant theme of dotted rhythms, initially presented by the strings. Its presentation, varied upon subsequent returns, alternates with two contrasting episodes of stormy, turbulent character—the second of these more intense than the first, starting at a higher register in the violins and extended through a stirring progression of harmonies. Throughout, there are striking timbral juxtapositions of strings and woodwinds as well as conversational exchanges between them.
The ensuing Minuet is a robust and stately dance, while in the Trio, one clarinet takes centre stage with a charming melody, while the other burbles underneath. Built on a single lively theme, the final Allegro is full of drive and wit. Strings and woodwinds engage in a dramatic dialogue of equals that shapes the structure of the movement. There are plenty of surprises as well—abrupt stops, sudden changes in key and dynamics, even a mysterious chorale featuring clarinets and bassoon—that wrap up this exquisite symphony with flair and excitement.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an Austrian composer. He wrote prolifically in nearly all the musical genres of his day, including operas, concertos, symphonies (and other types of instrumental pieces), string quartets and other works for chamber ensembles of various instrumental combinations, sacred and secular vocal music, dance music, and solo keyboard pieces. Many of his most significant works continue to be frequently performed in today’s opera houses and concert halls. Beautiful melodies, elegant formal structures, and rich textures and harmonies combined with a rhetorical manner highly influenced by Italian opera are hallmarks of his mature style.
Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg. His father Leopold, a violinist and composer, recognized early on that his son had musical talent and devoted himself to his (and Wolfgang’s sister Nannerl’s) education in music and other subjects. Over the next decade, Leopold took them both on extensive tours across Europe, during which the young Mozart gave performances (including of his own music) on the harpsichord and violin in the homes of the nobility and at public concerts. After three years as “honorary” Konzertmeister at the Salzburg court, Mozart moved into paid employment status in 1772. In this position, he initially fulfilled his duties of providing music for the church and court eagerly; however, over time, his enthusiasm for the latter waned due the restrictions his employer, the Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo, had placed on the performance of instrumental music. Undeterred, he continued to compose instrumental and secular vocal music for private patrons. In 1777, Mozart petitioned Colloredo for release from employment but was instead dismissed by the archbishop, though he returned in 1779 as court organist, when he was unable to secure a permanent position elsewhere.
In June 1781, while in Vienna at Colloredo’s request, Mozart got his wish to be formally released from the archbishop’s service. He began to pursue a freelance career in the city as a teacher, keyboard performer, and composer. In August 1782, he married Constanze Weber; they went on to have six children, though four died in infancy. The period between 1784 and 1788 became the most productive and fruitful years of his life, during which he conducted performances; was in demand as a keyboard player for public and private concerts; created some of his most notable works (among them, 12 piano concertos, six string quartets dedicated to Haydn, the operas Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, and what would be his final three symphonies); and his music was widely published and performed. Despite this success, Mozart was later troubled by financial woes, due, in part, to the cost of maintaining his social status in Viennese society. In the last years of his life, he completed works such as the Clarinet Quintet, and the operas Die Zauberflöte and La clemenza di Tito. Mozart was working on a Requiem under secret commission by Count Walsegg-Stuppach, which he left incomplete when he succumbed to his final illness on December 5, 1791, in Vienna.
By Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Rachel Mercer (principal)
Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Etienne Lepine-Lafrance (guest principal)*
Hilda Cowie (acting assistant principal)
Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Charles Hamann (principal)
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Christopher Millard (principal)
Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
Donald Renshaw (principal)
Chris Lee (principal)**
Feza Zweifel (principal)