Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Great G Minor

Original Facebook post here.
Today's formative-album replay: Mozart, Symphony No. 40 in G minor (Bruno Walter, Columbia Symphony Orchestra). Is this really Mozart? Here is a symphony content to seethe more than sing; that saws out its chords emphatically, even brutally; that doesn't shy away from heavy minor-key drama, and is prone to rush headlong into startling, dramatic gestures; that crowns the onward march of its churning strings with a gleam of winds and horns--in short, this sounds for nearly all of its four movements like vintage Beethoven. It's not until partway through the third movement, a minuet, that we hear something like the Mozart smile, the stately warmth and unapologetic sweetness; and the fourth movement puts a few neat frills on an otherwise earnest main theme.

Needless to say, there is none of the signature Beethovenian disorder and disruption, but the sound and fury here feels distinctly un-Mozartean. And to be clear, I love Mozart in his native voice, particularly his operas, which rank with Shakespeare's plays in my book as best-of-the-Western canon. But as if he weren't genius enough already, to hear Wolfgang near his short life's end so clearly lay the groundwork for his fiery successor is one of the more thrilling baton hand-offs in music, right up there next to Debussy and Ravel, or the Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel.

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