The G minor Symphony is undoubtedly Mozart's most popular work in this
genre. What makes it so exciting to us - and what endeared this work to
19th-century audiences - ar its relentless passion and Romantic tension.
The very first bars set the scene: above a nervous, pulsating viola
accompaniment enters an equally agitated principal theme. There is nothing
spectacular here, and yet the "piano" beginning - unusual for an
18th-century symphony - and the insistent rhythm are nothing less than
gripping. The mastery with which Mozart then contrapuntally exploits the
opening theme is simply bgreathtaking - particularly in the development
section, which darts out into the most distant keys. After the profoundly
touching Andante and uncompromising Minuet, the fiery Allegro assai, with
its extravagant modulations in the development section, provides a worthy
counterpart to the first movement.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt (born in 1929) is one of the most profound and
intriguing conductors of our time. Considered one of the world's leading
specialists of Baroque music, he has long since turned his attention to
Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and even to Jacques Offenbach and Johann
Strauss. He spent many years as a cellist with the Wiener Symphoniker
before founding the "Concentus Musicus Wien" with his wife Alice in 1953.
It soon became one of the world's most respected ensembles specializing in
the performance of early music on original instruments. In the 1970s,
Harnoncourt joined forces with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle to stage a series of
Monteverdi operas at the Zurich Opera House. This universally acclaimed
cycle contributed to a renaissance of Monteverdi's music and set standards
for early Baroque performance practice.
Harnoncourt later began to turn his attention more and more to the music of
Mozart, whom he considers "the most romantic of all composers". His concept
of Mozart's music ran counter to the prevailing 20th-century views,
however. He sees Mozart's music as "dramatic, dynamic, often directly and
highly emotional." The Vienna Philharmonic, known for its suave and
gracious Mozartian interpretations, initially rebelled against
Harnoncourt's unconventional approach. Yet the compellingness of his vision
soon came to be accepted and shared by all members of the orchestra. In
this recording, Harnoncourt conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.