We are now quickly coming to the end. But before grief, utter brilliance.
Mozart wrote his 41st and last symphony at the age of 33. He had no idea it would be his final symphonic statement, but he could leave no greater legacy. Again, there is too much to say about the remarkable “Jupiter” Symphony to do it real justice, so let’s focus in on the remarkable final movement—a farewell of sorts. Here, Mozart fuses contemporary sonata form with Baroque fugue. This “fugato” originated with Haydn—but not the one you think. Haydn had a brother Michael, whose compositions have largely been lost to history. But he was a significant influence on Mozart, who was forever asking his father to send him Michael Haydn’s most recent scores to study. Tellingly, Michael Haydn’s 28th Symphony concludes with a fugato.
The four note melodic tag that repeats in Mozart’s finale (C-D-F-E) is one of the most famous in history, so it is hard to know where Mozart drew that inspiration from. Josquin des Prez used it in his 1515 Mass, for example. I’m sure I could dig out something from Bach too. But Mozart likely got this from the Haydns. Like so many of his greatest creations, Mozart took an idea pioneered by others and took it to places only he could reach. Let’s take a look at this somewhat contemporary Conversation in greater detail. First up, the finale from Joseph’s 13th, which features the same C-D-F-E progression to great and very similar effect.
Joseph Haydn, Symphony No. 13 in D Major, IV. Finale-Allegro molto (use the link in the comments to skip directly there):
Now we have brother Michael’s 39th, which ends in a fugato, with prominent use of brass and timpani, sounding much more like Mozart. Again, you can use the link in the comments to skip to the finale.
Michael Haydn, Symphony No. 39, III. Fugato: Molto vivace:
Finally, we have the finale of the Jupiter Symphony, one of the truly glorious passages in music history and Mozart’s crowning symphonic glory. Wow—serious déjà vu at the start, but then, oh boy. The genius overflows. Again, the links in the comments allow you to skip to the finale.
W.A. Mozart, Symphony No. 41, IV. Molto Allegro: