Transnational Research Associates

Symphony in C Major (K 551), "The Jupiter", 1788

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Orchestra: Louisiana Philharmonic / Conductor: Arthur Fagan

[Toward the end of his life, Mozart composed three classic symphonies often grouped together: the E-Flat Major (K 543), the G Minor (K 550) and the C Major (K 551). It is phenomenal that they were written in only six weeks during the summer, three years before his death at 35.]

The Jupiter Symphony, the C Major, massive in its contribution to the height of the classic symphonic period, is more famous than even the G Minor, renowned for its lingering appeal among early Romantic composers after Mozart’s passing. The C Major, on the contrary, is considered the most classic of the classical. Classical style is recognized by its reconciliation of dynamically contrasting opposites. Two types of rhythm are mediated in most classical style. What Mozart has done, perhaps for the first time, in the Jupiter is to resolve an opposing contrast by transforming it into unity. The opening phrase of the C Major is heard again, for example, about 20 minutes later, but with an offsetting counterpoint. This tends to create a unifying effect, even if both themes are softly played, piano. A closer look is certainly warranted.

The first movement of the C Major, marked Allegro Vivace, contains most of the thematic material. Two minutes into the second movement, the Andante Cantabile, woodwinds and violins repeat sub-units of the theme. Two and a half minutes into the third movement, the Menuetto Allegretto, Mozart turns to the minor mode, providing contrast in tone and feeling.

The C Major’s Finale, a vibrant, stirring Molto Allegro, is probably the most famous of all symphonic segments. The listener recognizes previous thematic material and is eventually knocked off of his or her chair with crashing tympani and resounding trumpet fanfares…a fitting end to this extremely moving and emotion-provoking piece!

-- Art Madsen, M.Ed.