Mozart Symphony #40 in G Minor, K 550 - 1. Molto Allegro
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The 40th Symphony was completed on 25 July 1788. The composition occupied an exceptionally productive period of just a few weeks in 1788, during which time he also completed the 39th and 41st symphonies
There is solid documentary evidence that the premiere of the 40th Symphony took place in Mozart's lifetime. In a recently surfaced letter of the musician Johann Wenzel (1762-1831) to the publisher Ambrosius Kühnel in Leipzig, dated 10 July 1802, Wenzel refers to a performance of KV. 550 at the home of Baron Gottfried van Swieten in the presence of Mozart, which was executed so badly that the composer decided to leave the room. The circumstantial evidence for other performances is very strong. On several occasions between the composition of the symphony and the composer's death, symphony concerts were given featuring Mozart's music, including concerts in which the program has survived, including a symphony, unidentified by date or key. These include:
Dresden, 14 April 1789, during Mozart's Berlin journey
Leipzig, 12 May 1789, on the same trip
Frankfurt, 15 October 1790
Copies survive of a poster for a concert given by the Tonkünstlersocietät (Society of Musicians) April 17, 1791 in the Burgtheater in Vienna, conducted by Mozart's colleague Antonio Salieri. The first item on the program was billed as "A Grand Symphony composed by Herr Mozart".
Most important is the fact that Mozart revised his symphony (the manuscripts of both versions still exist). As Zaslaw says, this "demonstrates that [the symphony] was performed, for Mozart would hardly have gone to the trouble of adding the clarinets and rewriting the flutes and oboes to accommodate them, had he not had a specific performance in view." The orchestra for the 1791 Vienna concert included the clarinetist brothers Anton and Johann Nepomuk Stadler; which, as Zaslaw points out, limits the possibilities to just the 39th and 40th symphonies.
Zaslaw adds: "The version without clarinets must also have been performed, for the reorchestrated version of two passages in the slow movement, which exists in Mozart's hand, must have resulted from his having heard the work and discovered an aspect needing improvement."
Concerning the concerts for which the Symphony was originally (1788) intended, Otto Erich Deutsch suggests that Mozart was preparing to hold a series of three "Concerts in the Casino", in a new casino in the Spiegelgasse owned by Philipp Otto. Mozart even sent a pair of tickets for this series to his friend Michael Puchberg. But it seems impossible to determine whether the concert series was held, or was cancelled for lack of interest. Zaslaw suggests that only the first of the three concerts was actually held.