Mozart. Symphony No. 41, in C Major, K. 551 (“Jupiter”)

Compositional History
Mozart composed his last three symphonies—No. 39, in Eb Major, No. 40 in G minor and No. 41 in C Major—during the summer of 1788, finishing No. 41 in August. We do not know when they were first performed, but he probably present them at his concerts that year or during the remaining three years of his life. The C Major symphony later became one of his most popular.

General Characteristics
Drawing on a Viennese tradition of symphonies in that key for celebrations of births, weddings and name days of members of the emperor’s family, the symphony as a whole features fanfares flourishes and dotted rhythms, especially in the outer movements, and adds trumpets and timpani to the usual complement of flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, and strings. Its nickname “Jupiter,” in common use by 1819, may have been give to the work by the London impresario Johann Peter Salomon. The name, no doubt prompted by the grand, procession-like dotted rhythms of the opening, link it to the highest god in Roman mythology.

The finale is a masterful merging of old and new, the most current sonata-form procedures with learned counterpoint and fugue of the early 18th century.

The exposition (mm. 1-157) is to be repeated as are the development and recapitulation, recalling the sonata form’s origins in rounded binary form.

The first or primary theme (mm. 1-35) includes several phrases with contrasting profiles. The opening phrase (mm. 1-4) in the first violins features a galant singing style with a murmuring accompaniment in the second violins. It is followed immediately by a second phrase in a lighter style marked by repeated staccato notes and a sweeping descending 16th note figure (mm. 5-9). Both ideas repeat, with variations in their dynamic levels and the first phrase now accompanied by suspensions, a reference to the “learned” style and brilliant repeated descending 16th note figures (mm. 9-18). A third phrase features a dotted rhythm and cascading scales over a fanfare in the brass (mm. 19-35). These motives or sections of the primary theme will be featured, sometimes together, sometimes separately in the development and coda sections of the symphony. Here in the exposition, all of the material in the primary theme is in C Major, establishing it as the tonic key of the movement.

The transition between primary and secondary themes (mm. 36-73) begins with the first phrase of primary theme and is present as a fugato or in fugue-texture. This unusual treatment of primary theme material, and its placement as a transition between themes was distinctive enough to garner the symphony a second nickname, “the symphony with the fugue in it.” As the fugue texture dissolves, a new motive based on a rising scale pattern with staccato and dotted rhythms is introduced and developed (mm. 56-64) before returning to the last phrase of the primary theme resurfaces (mm. 64-74). Harmonically, the movement modulates from tonic (C Major) to the dominant (G Major) in the second half of the transition.

The secondary theme (mm. 74-135), in contrast with the primary theme, is lyrical. The violins have the melodic material with the oboes playing a short staccato countermotive. The theme itself is characterized by skips and leaps that work in contrast to the scale-like patterns of the primary theme. Motives from the primary theme and transition can be heard in the flutes and bassoons, linking the three themes together.

The third phrase of the primary theme returns, now in the dominant key are (G Major) instead of tonic, to act as a closing theme (mm. 135-157).

The development first introduces motives from the primary theme, the first and third phrases in alternation (mm. 158-72). From there the third phrase is feature in stretto as the harmony modulates from aminor to F Major (mm. 173-89). Next, a variant of the primary themes first phrase in the winds (mm. 189-191) alternates with the third phrase and its inversion. Harmonic modulation continues as the piece moves from c minor to B Major, the dominant of e minor. A brief retransition leads back to the tonic and to the recapitulation. (mm. 210-224).

In the recapitulation, the primary theme is shorten to just eight measures (mm. 225-233). The transition (mm. 233-262) begins with more variation on the first phrase of the primary theme (no fugato this time), and the end of the transition is varied in order to stay in the tonic (mm. 262-271). The secondary theme (mm. 272) is the same but now transposed into the tonic. The end of the primary theme returns to close the section; it too is now in the tonic key (mm. 334-355).

The coda begins with forceful statements of the third and first motives of the primary theme followed by the first motive in stretto. Then—a masterful five-voice fugato first in the strings (mm. 371-88), later double in the winds (mm. 388-401). The material is presented in strict fugue form - treating the opening motives from the primary and secondary themes as double subjects and the other phrases as countersubjects. The tension between new gallant style melodies and old learned counterpoint continues to be a prominent feature of the movement. In this contrapuntal weaving of motives from the primary and secondary themes, one motive has been left out: the second phrase of the primary motive (m. 5-9). Mozart uses its gallant style contours, which were not particularly well suited to fugal treatment, to transition out of the fugato and end the movement. The second and third phrases of the primary theme close out the movement in triumphal fanfare style.

Mozart wrote for trumpets and horns without valves, so they play notes from the harmonic series, adding weight to climaxes, sustaining tones, and contributing fanfares. The horns sound an octave lower than written and join in the main theme only once, in the coda. The basses usually reinforce the cellos, but at several points, including both fugatos, Mozart indicates separate lines for basses and cellos in the score.

Listening excerpt:
Score with Commentary