Mozart in the Suburbs: Symphony No. 39 on Symphony @ 7
In 1788 Mozart moved from central Vienna to what was then a suburb named Alsergrund. It was there that he wrote his final three symphonies in rapid order that summer.
Many regard these as his greatest, Nos. 39, 40, and 41, the Jupiter. This evening on Symphony @ 7, we have the first of the three, No. 39 in E flat.
Mozart was undergoing financial difficulties at the time, and it was thought that he may have moved to Alsergrund to save money.
According to research, it now seems that he didn’t really save any money by moving there, but he did have more space than before. Who knows, maybe that extra space helped his creativity.
Symphony No. 39 was completed on June, 26, No. 40 on July, 25, and No. 41 on August 10. What is remarkable, beyond how wonderful these symphonies are, is that they don’t appear to have been written for any commission, and it’s not certain they were even performed during Mozart’s lifetime. There is some evidence that they may have been intended for a series of concerts by an impresario in Vienna, but it can’t be determined if they ever actually took place.
The fact that Mozart did write these symphonies at all, even if we’re not sure why, has left posterity with some truly great music from one of the greatest of all composers. Lets call it a gift from the suburbs of Vienna.
And, by the way, it seems Alsergrund has attracted some other significant residents over the years. Franz Schubert was born there in 1797, Beethoven lived and died there, a little more recently Arnold Schoenberg lived there, and from 1891 until he had to leave for England in 1938, the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud lived there.
Join me this evening for the first of the final three symphonies of Mozart, No. 39 in E flat here on Classical 101. Here’s a sample: