Mozart – Symphony No. 38 in D major, K.504 “Prague”

by Max Derrickson

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart     (b January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria; d December 5, 1791 inVienna)

Symphony No. 38 in D major, K.504 “Prague”
1. Adagio – Allegro
2. Andante
3. Finale (Presto)

Prague’s infatuation with Mozart began in 1786 with his opera Le Nozze di Figaro, which met with astounding success, and the grateful people ofPraguehave not lost their delight in all things Mozart since.  To this day, almost a quarter of the concerts that take place daily in the Czech Republic’s most musical city include something written by Mozart.

The next year in 1787, Mozart visited Prague for the finishing rehearsals of his extraordinary opera Don Giovanni, the premiere of which the adoring city eagerly commissioned of its now favorite composer.  To show his gratitude, Mozart arrived with a newly completed symphony, his No. 38, nicknamed the “Prague.”  A most wonderful musical thank you card to the city that so appreciated him is heard first in the slow introduction, an uncommon symphonic component for Mozart, in which there is a fairly obvious connection to the Overture to Don Giovanni.      [. . .]

Two unique characteristics can be seen in the “Prague.”  At a time when other composers were reluctant to allow wind instruments much more than an accompanying role, Mozart’s infatuation with woodwinds is clearly evident.   [. . .]

The short Presto finale then combines the syncopated openness of the first movement with the woodwind sonorities of the second.    [. . .]   The ending coda is a brilliant drive to the finish, but sparkling with a certain lightness and gratitude from a composer to a city that eternally adores him.