Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical – #14 Mozart Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551

In the summer of 1788, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was in one of the most inspiring compositional groove anyone can be in. He churned out his final three symphonies, No. 39, No. 40, and No. 41, which is #14 on my Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical. This symphony is pure perfection in terms of its form, its melodic ideas and the ways in which Mozart masters the art of Johann Sebastian Bach’s contrapuntal inventiveness but makes it far more melodic and charming than Bach ever could. (I know, I’m not a big fan of Bach music).

Interestingly, it was on this day, Augist 10, 1788 that Mozart published Symphony No. 41 in C major, later given the moniker Jupiter. And how jovial and majestic it is! The first movement contains a magisterial principal theme that rises and lifts to a stately perch. The second movement is a lovely masterful sarabande, gentle like the wind on a summer day. But Mozart was a trickster and this sarabande is actually in sonata-form, The third movement is a menuetto with a trio so deftly interweaved into the menuetto that you can’t even tell it was a contrasting B section! The Trio actually has the main motive of the fourth movement snuck in by our little Mozart trickster. 

Where Mozart achieved the greatest heights is in the fourth movement, which is the true Jupiter of classical era movements. Here is where he shows of what he learned from studying Bach’s works. The first theme is a fairly simple motive that is as old as the 16th century, that Mozart himself used previously, four whole notes, C, D, F, E. What Mozart does is expand on that basic motive to introduce up to five different voices that, by the end, he has them weaving in and out of each other in one of the most amazing fugues in music.

Richard Atkinson does a great job analyzing the magnificent counterpoint of the finale, in a video worth seeing, here: 

As a symphony often played, because it really is amazing, there are a number of great recordings. This is a good one to view. Enjoy. 

#14 – Mozart Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551

#15 – Coltrane My Favorite Things

#16 – Dvorak Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70

#17 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

#18 – Mozart Don Giovanni, K. 527

#19 – Liszt Les Preludes, S. 97

#20 – Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492

#21 – Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Op. 20 

#22 – Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C minor

#23 – Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

#24 – Williams Empire Strikes Back

#25 – Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb major, Op. 73

#26 – Bernstein West Side Story

#27 – Enescu – Octet for Strings in C major, Op. 7

#28 – Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

#29 – Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain

#30 – Webber Phantom of the Opera

#31 – Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky

#32 – Chopin Nocturne in Bb minor, Op. 9, No. 1

#33 – Debussy Images, Book 1, L110

#34 – Debussy Pour Le Piano, L. 95

#35 – Chaminade Guitare, Op. 32

#36 – Chopin Berceuse in Db major, Op. 57

#37 – Boulanger Nocturne pour violon et piano

#38 – Schönberg Les Miserables

#39 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

#40 – Miranda Hamilton

#41 – Strauss Salomé

#42 – Britten Peter Grimes

#43 – Loewe My Fair Lady

#44 – Liszt Mephisto Waltzes

#45 – Webber Evita

#46 – Poledouris Conan The Barbarian

#47 – Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti

#48 – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

#49 – Chaminade La Lisonjera, Op. 50

#50 – Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Honorable Mention

Shostakovich Suite for Variety Orchestra

Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C major, D 944

Saariaho L’Amour de Loin

Schubert String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”

Desmond Take Five

Wagner Die Walküre 

Puccini Tosca

Davis So What

Stravinsky Petroushka 

Wagner Tristan Und Isolde

Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

Williams Raiders of the Lost Ark

Verdi Aïda

Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht

Grisey Les espaces acoustiques

Gade – Octet for 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos in F major, Op. 17

Schubert – Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759

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