Mozart Symphony No. 41 Movement 4

As Greenburg points out, the form of the musical piece would have been familiar to the audience, and that the knowledge creates an expectation that the composer can use to develop intricacies in the music. Although I played in an orchestra, I didn’t spend much time looking at the formal features, so I thought the proper thing to do would be to learn what kind of form this movement should take on and why it’s called the “Jupiter” symphony. The Jupiter Symphony is Mozart’s last symphony. After some research and more careful listening, I began to understand the structure and the remarkable feat of Mozart to present the numerous themes in the piece. The fourth movement consists of 5 main themes that are passed around within the string section and between the string and the woodwinds. The first couple (the opening four notes and the phrase that comes after) are obvious as they are present in isolation, but the next three are a little harder to pick up, but present nonetheless. Unlike the Brandenburg concerto in which Bach gives a variation of the themes by changing keys and creating a progression, Mozart seems to strictly use the themes without any change, creating perfect repetition. For this reason when I listened to the themes, I didn’t associate any particular affect or scene with each of them, so I felt that Mozart’s music carried meaning in the music itself.

A notable section outside of the themes for me was how Mozart transitioned from one theme to the other. One can clearly distinguish the end of sections as the music comes down and the dynamic becomes more piano. If anyone has experience playing music written by Mozart, one should recognize the apparent soft cadence that comes at the end of the phrase. Between the transitions, Mozart switches into a minor key, unassociated with any of the themes he presents. This is present at 4:01, 6:50, and 7:26. In both of these phrases, the minor key creates a rising chord progression that elevates the tension because it differs from the patterns established in the previous themes. Rightfully, Mozart relieves the tension created in each of these moments by delivering the familiar theme.

A unique feature of this piece is the ending. At 7:36, Mozart remarkably uses all five themes he presents throughout the piece. To some it might be chaotic, and to some it might be refreshing. I had a hard time distinguishing all five themes as the first violin and the woodwind section stuck out for me. After showing off all of his themes, Mozart comes to a magnificent closure that is very full, includes a flourish in the end, and it certainly meets the expectation that he sets at 7:36 for the grandeur of the piece.

For those having trouble seeing the themes just from listening, here is a video that visually represents the piece, and it makes clear the different themes in the music:

One thought on “Mozart Symphony No. 41 Movement 4

  1. Sherri

    Thank you so much for posting the link to the video for Mozart’s 4th movement! It was especially helpful to visually recognize the various repeating themes that are present, which I think is particularly a challenge when you are trying to listen to so many things at once. The visual representation of the descending scales and various instruments coming in at certain times is a great way to “learn” how to actively listen and pick our repetitive themes in the music.

    Thank you 🙂


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