Six German Dances, K.509 1787 | 12 mins
Mozart loved to dance. He received a request from Count Johann Pachta to compose some dances for something called the Ball of the Society of Nobles. Despite being light on his feet, Mozart procrastinated in a big way. Legend has it that Count P resorted to luring Mozart into coming over for a free meal (who can resist?). Upon arrival, he was directed to a desk and “strongly encouraged” to compose. Apparently Mozart worked well under pressure: Less than half an hour later, four of these German dances were in the books. Each is written in quick triple time and each is in a different key. The sonic energy of this vivacious set ramps up mid-way through, at which point the piccolo jumps into the fray. SEE YOU THERE: A half-minute of music from the first of these dances figures in the soundtrack of Miloš Forman’s 1984 film Amadeus, which will be screened April 6 and 7 with the San Francisco Symphony playing the soundtrack, live. Join us for the showings at Davies Symphony Hall and see if you can recognize it!
Exsultate, jubilate, K.165(158a) Unknown | 16 mins
In 1772, sixteen year old Mozart and his father set out together for Milan, Italy, where Mozart was to produce the opera Lucio Silla. The first performance featured two famed singers: Venetian prima donna Anna Lucia de Amicis and castrato Venanzio Rauzzini. Mozart composed the brilliant vocal concerto Exsultate, jubilate for Rauzzini, and we can assume that he tailored the composition to the singer’s strengths—namely his taste, his bravura technique, and his gentle delivery. DID YOU KNOW? The virtuosic Alleluja finale has long been a favorite of singers and audiences—it even made it to Hollywood in 1937 when Deanna Durbin sang it with Leopold Stokowski conducting in the movie 100 Men and a Girl.
Symphony No. 4 1901 | 55 mins
Many a love affair with Mahler has begun with the sunlit Fourth Symphony. Mahler himself thought of it as a work whose transparency, brevity (…relative to Mahler, that is…), and non-aggressive stance might win him new friends. In reality, it enraged most of its first hearers. The very qualities Mahler had banked on were the ones that annoyed. The bells, real and imitated (in flutes), with which the music begins?! And that rustic tune in the violins?! What was Mahler, the creative force behind the great Resurrection Symphony, up to with this newfound musical naïveté? Most of the answers proposed at the time were politicized, anti-Semitic, ugly. Today, we know that what Mahler was up to was simply writing an incredible symphony, uncharacteristic from his other works only in its beautifully bright disposition. Seems fair enough to me! DID YOU KNOW? MTT and the SFS earned a 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Surround Sound album for their recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.
Jeanette Yu is Director of Publications at the San Francisco Symphony.