Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No.41 “JUPITER”, KV 551, in C major, is the final of the three last symphonies that Mozart composed in the month before the summer of 1788: No.39 in E flat major was completed on June 25th , No. 40 in C minor on July 25th and No. 41 – on August, 10th . Mozart completed the works at a time of crisis characterized by financial concerns and depression. The specific occasion for their composition is unknown. The composer probably had in mind the summer concert season in Vienna or their performance in London. There are reports that the premiere of the three works was prepared during Mozart’s lifetime, but the concert was cancelled.
After a series of brilliant orchestral pieces, culminating in his Symphony No. 38, known as the “Prague” Symphony, come the three works that bring new colours to his music: a darker palette in Symphony No. 38, pathos and passion in Symphony No. 40. The name of Symphony No. 41, Jupiter, dates from the early nineteenth century; it was probably called so by the London impresario (also violinist, conductor and composer) Johann Peter Solomon, and was first performed in a London concert programme in 1821.The work’s association with the god Jupiter very accurately characterises its monumentality and grandeur.
The Symphony No 41 is Mozart’s most expansive and complex one. Its first and fourth movements predate the symphonism of Beethoven and the Romantic composers. The four movements follow the basic principles of the classical sonata-symphonic form. Unlike Symphony No. 39, the work has no extended introduction and begins with a main theme made up of two contrasting elements, a volitional and an energetic one, and a chordal exposition in the strings. The first movement is a Sonata allegro performed with contrasting sonority; the second theme is lyrical and dreamy. The second movement, also Sonata allegro, is expressive and lyrical, and also contrapuntal. The third is a majestic Minuet. The Sonata allegro in the fourth movement is striking for its wealth of polyphonic techniques. Five themes stand out, which are contrapuntally woven into the great triumphant coda. This gives the conductor Nicolaus Harnoncourt the reason to interpret the symphonies as a unified cycle, beginning with the introduction of Symphony No. 39 and ending with this grand finale.
The Jupiter Symphony inspired many composers, especially Haydn, who used it as a model for his Symphonies Nos 95 and 98. Many artists have expressed their admiration for Mozart’s mastery of the work. Here are two of them. The German composer Robert Schumann wrote in 1835: “About many things in this world there is simply nothing to be said—for example, about Mozart’s C-Major symphony with the fugue, much of Shakespeare, and some of Beethoven.”