Exciting Symphony No. 39 in E Major of Mozart

The Symphony No. 39 in E♭ major of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, K.543 was completed on 26 June 1788, and is the first of a set of three that Mozart composed in rapid succession during the summer of 1788. The first movement opens with a magnificent introduction with brass section. The structure of this piece is followed by an Allegro in sonata form. However, he creates the loud outburst in the introduction but following the soft opening in the exposition. The Sonata form is a musical structure consisting of three main sections: an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. It has been used widely since the middle of the 18th century in the early Classical period, and it is typically used in the first movement of multi-movement pieces. Sometimes, It is used in subsequent movements as well—particularly in the final movement. The Sonata Form is a way of composing and structuring music that really dominated the Mozart’s pieces throughout the nineteenth century. In Mozart's Symphony No. 39 in Eb major shows how the main themes and subjects of sonata form are repeated and developed to create a dynamic musical character.

The beginning of this piece with an unusual Adagio introduction is from the mm.1-25. The key stays in the E-flat major in the whole section. In the measure 2, there is the motive which I called “I” in the violin part, and this motive appears repeatedly in the whole introduction. In measure 1 to measure 4, these grand phrases are burst out by the dotted rhythms. Also, in mm.9-13, the melodic phrasing continues with bass foundation V pedal in E-flat major. However, Mozart gives the listener a surprise in the mm.18, which the harmony resolves immediately to a secondary functioning V7 chord of the IV. Each phrase in the introduction is presented in a balanced way and following a typical progression with perfect authentic cadences in the end.

The exposition part begins with Allegro movement. Mozart begins the sonata form with Allegro movement with a transparent texture. In the Primary theme section, the first violin plays the 4+4 phrase with imperfect authentic cadence at measure 33. Until the tutti in measure 54, the perfect authentic cadence arrives and the primary theme is progressed by transitional materials and continuing throughout the mm.110. This primary motive is further developed in mm. 61-71, then subsequently adding the motive “I” from the introduction in mm. 72-97, especially the descending scales in the violins’ parts. The harmony progression modulates from the tonic Eb major to the Bb major at the m.75. Then the chords go from V42----I6---VII/V---V at the mm.83. At the m.89, there is new idea “C” in the strings’ parts and this motive appears later in the exposition part.

The secondary theme begins at m.98, and the phrase structure is 2+2+2+2 from mm.98-105. By the time, the B-flat major tonal center has been clearly established. The E-flat major seems almost forgotten, because the repeated and strongly established dominant in the secondary theme in m. 110. In the m.119, there is a closing part1 which I called “g” motive, and the closing part 2 is in the m.120 with similar materials. As the secondary theme close to a repeat double bar in measure 142, it ends on the perfect authentic cadence with a fortissimo climax.

The development section starts in the same key as the exposition ended in A-flat major. In the m.143, the material which I called “c” primarily is the use of an eight-note and two sixteenth note with rhythmic motive which appears in the secondary theme in the exposition part. Mozart uses this motive frequently in the development section until the measure 143. In the mm.147-160, Mozart uses the “f” motive which appears in the Secondary theme in exposition to create the soft sound atmosphere. However, from m.161 to m.167, the treatment of “c” motive repeats again with rhythmic motives in the strings section. In the closing section, the “g” motive reminds of the m.119 in the exposition, the strings section plays the duplets motives. The chronological motives gradually build up with heavy-soft-heavy sound and towards the closing. At this time, Mozart gives us an excitement in mm.180-183, it is a short retransition section with circle of fifth modulations, the harmony wander to other tonalities by using secondary functions. Finally, the harmony backs to the B-flat major in V chord in measure 183.

In measure 184, the recapitulation begins with the tonality in E-flat to set up the primary theme. The recapitulation of the primary theme is similar to the exposition of it. However, Mozart modulates to A-flat major in the m.223 before it going to the transition section. He continues to use the circle of fifth modulation from E-flat major to A-flat major. By Mozart’s modulation of the transitional materials, Mozart uses the secondary functioning chord from measure 210 to measure 236 with VII65- secondary functioning VII chord of II-V65-I. Then in m.246, the key backs to the home key in E-flat major with “c” motive again. What’s more, he builds the secondary theme from the dominant to the tonic from m.255 to 275.

Furthermore, when the secondary theme is recapitulated, some materials of its transitional section are deleted. At the closing section of the recapitulation, Mozart adds some new materials with sequences from m.292 to the Coda. It makes the melody refresh and vivid towards the end. He also uses rhythmic and melodically motivic materials in the recapitulation, especially he uses the descending scales which I called motive “i” from the introduction in measure 299. In the coda section at measure 303, there is extra closing which the violin plays the consequently sixteenth notes. Mozart also adds the motive “c” in m.306. In the last three measures, he ends on the primary theme which has three quarter notes with brilliant and triumphant notes.

In conclusion, the structure of this symphony is one of the typical four movements’ symphonies in the Classical era. Mozart follows the rules to build up the sonata form in this symphony. In the meantime, he uses some sequences and fragmentations of different motives to create different characters in this piece. He also uses circle of fifth in the development section to change the layer of harmonies. Therefore, after listening towards the end, it is a refreshing and exciting piece which he composed in his productive life.

07 July 2022
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