Mozart – Symphony No. 40

Today I want to share with you Symphony No. 40 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Symphony 40 was composed in the summer of 1788. Stunningly, Mozart composed three symphonies, 39, 40, and 41, in the space of just a few weeks. (Most accomplished composers “only” managed to write nine or fewer symphonies: Mahler 9, Beethoven 9, Tchaikovsky 6, Rachmaninoff 4). Mozart composed three in just a few months!

Mozart is often called a “genius.” I struggle with that word because to me it robs the composer of the incredible dedication and hard work he put into developing his skill. Genius implies that the talent was inborn and that the only thing Mozart had to do was sit down pen in hand, and the music would flow out of his mind and onto the paper. Mozart started composing when he was five years old. The music of young Mozart was not original; he was copying other composers, and through copying he was honing his own skill. Mozart was 32 years old when he composed his 40th symphony, but at that point he had been composing for 27 years.

 

Mozart’s Piano Concerto Number 21

“You have to listen to Mozart’s Piano Concerto Number 21, part 2.” Those were my father’s words. He just heard it on the radio and could not wait to tell me about it. This was over twenty-five years ago, but I still remember this moment as though it were today. I could hear the excitement in his voice and see the glow on his usually placid face. I went to the store, bought the tape (this was a long time ago), and suddenly I could relate to his excitement. It was music out of this world.

This is what is amazing about classical music. Mozart wrote this concerto in 1786. My father (and then I) heard it in 1993, 207 years (eight generations) later. And today, almost 25 years (a generation) later, 231 years after it was originally composed, I am writing about it to you, my dear reader, as if it was composed just yesterday.

I’ll play this concerto to my kids in the car today when I drive them to school, and their lives will get a bit brighter thanks to this amazing music. I cannot really put my finger on it, but there is something magical about the ability of classical music to slip into our lives and leave its mark on them. As I think about my relationship with my father, to us classical music is what sports may be to other fathers and sons – a point of connection. My father and I sit together in front of Youtube and listen to classical music for hours.

 

 

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