Mozart's last symphony is a solemn and formal work which looks back to the
past more than its two fellow works K. 504 and 550. It contains strong
reminiscences of Baroque forms like the fugue and the concerto grosso (e.g.
in the opposition of clear-cut themes and the interplay of solo and tutti
groups). Particularly the last movement is one of the most impressive in
symphonic literature because of its unique blend of melodic flow and
"scholarly" fugal treatment. Although not truly a fugue, the movement
incorporates some exciting imitative work. The theme was well known and
often used in the 18th century. Mozart himself used it in two of his masses
and in the Symphony K. 319. The "Jupiter" Symphony, a truly Olympian work,
must be viewed together with the two preceding symphonies as Mozart's final
word in a genre he raised to heights never before attained.
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.