Thunderous applause for MSO

by | Nov 25, 2023 | Ambassador thoughts, Orchestras

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra | Mozart’s Final Symphonies

November 25, 2023, Hamer Hall

The Melbourne Symphony under Maestro Jamie Martín presented Mozart’s Final Symphonies, that is, Symphony No. 39, 40 and 41, otherwise known as Jupiter. There was definitely magic in the music, reflected by the thunderous applause that followed each symphony and at the conclusion of the concert. 

Symphony No. 39 (K. 543) in E flat major opened the program with its slow and majestic chords that quickly ran away from us and created that incredible tension and drama that Mozart knew how to stir up at a moment’s notice. The clarinets, Philip Arkinstall and Craig Hill, provided a beautiful alternative to the standard oboe sound, as per Mozart’s scoring, especially in the trio of the Menuetto – a marvellous Austrian romp – where as one goes high, the other goes low. 

The last bar of the final movement catches us by surprise, as the music is whisked away from us, leaving us midair, to catch our breath, then crying out for more. 

Symphony No. 40 (K.550) has such a catchy tune, I heard several audience members singing along for the first few bars. No wonder it’s nicknamed the “Great” G-minor Symphony. There is certainly a lot of drama and building excitement in the opening movement, Molto Allegro. Energy that the orchestra seemed to draw and exchange with the conductor. 

It wasn’t only the orchestra with their eyes on Jamie Martín, who conducts without a baton, but it was evident the audience enjoys watching him as well, as he used both hands to grapple the music midair, directing the instrumental traffic, anticipating, encouraging and cajoling the parts. Always to good effect, especially when bringing out the woodwinds and brass.

I adore the Andante movement of this symphony with its soft and persistent horn part, which the MSO program notes describe as the ‘heartbeat in the horns.’ Such a lovely expression. Little touches Mozart adds that make his work so memorable, such as in the final moment, the Finale, Allegro assai, where the descending scales in the flutes and woodwinds are like little footsteps descending on clouds. 

The ‘Jupiter’ Symphony No. 41 (K.551) was, sadly, Mozart’s last. And heartening to see and hear the MSO pour itself into the performance. Guest concertmaster Steven Copes and Guest Principal Viola Alexandru-Mihai Bota seemed to light up the stage during the performance with joy evident on their faces and in their playing. The entire orchestra revelled in the part-playing of the final fugal movement. 

There is much light and shade in the music, Mozart plays with our ears and our emotions, switching between major and minor, sometimes playful and other times still. There’s a romance to his short and somewhat tragic life, but I’ve never found his music gloomy, hollow or jaded. 

There was a lovely human scale to the performance by the MSO that by the end of the concert the audience clapped and clapped until our hands were sore. A reminder of how precious and memorable a night with Mozart can be, when played well. 

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About The Author

Daniel Brace

Daniel Brace is Organist and Music Director at St Oswald's Church in Glen Iris, Melbourne. He's also a writer and blogger (www.undamaris.me), a committee member on the Royal Society of Church Music (Victoria) and and Council member of the Society of Organ Music Victoria, who is passionate about community music making and keeping culture alive.

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