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At age six, Mozart charmed the Empress Maria Theresa with his mature artistry. At age 16, Mendelssohn wrote his first masterpiece. Throughout history, there have been children whose abilities exceed those of most others. One of these is the astonishing 16-year-old violinist María Dueñas. Making her San Francisco Symphony debut, she performs Mendelssohn’s masterful Violin Concerto. Written for a childhood friend and a fellow former prodigy, the Mendelssohn Concerto flows from its insistent opening to its gamboling finale with near perfection—a word often used in describing Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony. The last of Mozart’s symphonies, the Jupiter is filled with such radiance and majesty, someone named it after the king of the gods—and it stuck. This week, the brilliant Polish-born, German-based conductor Marek Janowski makes his much-anticipated return to the San Francisco Symphony.
Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Jupiter
At A Glance
Concert Music for String Orchestra and Brass 1930 | 17 mins
This is one of four pieces Hindemith called Concert Music, each for different forces and all clustered in the period 1926–30. The title reflects the composer’s proclivity towards objectivity; Hindemith tended to keep his sights on the practical. In works such as the Concert Music for String Orchestra and Brass, composed for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony, we hear the emergence of Hindemith’s angular, contrapuntal, and firmly tonal voice. The instrumental texture is unusual with strings and brass set in opposition to each other. LOCAL TIDBIT: Hindemith himself conducted the first SFS performance of this work, in 1939. He reported to his wife that “The orchestra put themselves to a lot of trouble and played excellently. . . .The city is beautiful and its situation quite beyond compare.” Read More
Violin Concerto in E minor 1844 | 27 mins
The orchestra begins by setting a pulsating backdrop. Across this, the violin surfaces, singing a soaring tune. About eight minutes in, the orchestra drops out as Ms. Dueñas plays the famous cadenza (an extended improvisatory solo passage). Then the concerto’s Andante emerges mysteriously with a lovely and sweet melody of surprising extension, beautifully harmonized and scored. Between the Andante and the finale Mendelssohn places a tiny and wistful intermezzo. The finale is sparkling and busy music whose gait allows room for swinging, broad tunes, as well as for the dazzling solo part. Mendelssohn steers the concerto to its close in a feast of high spirits and with a wonderful sense of “go.” Read More
Symphony No. 41, Jupiter 1788 | 30 mins
Mozart's remarkable final three symphonies were produced in the space of about nine weeks, in the summer of 1788. That incredible achievement doesn’t factor in that he was writing other pieces at the same time, giving piano lessons, tending a sick wife, enduring the death of a six-month-old daughter, entertaining friends, and moving to a new apartment. In the Symphony No. 41, Mozart seems intent on showing off his sheer brilliance as a composer. Its emotional range is wide indeed, prefiguring the vast expressive canvases of Beethoven. One may be struck by how this work, though filled with incident, unrolls with a luxurious stride—at least until its finale. The last movement is a marvel even by Mozartian standards, not only for its propulsive exuberance but the slyness with which it reveals its surprises. Read More
Compiled by Editorial Director Jeanette Yu and Managing Editor Steven Ziegler from notes by James M. Keller and Michael Steinberg.