Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his three final symphonies in the summer of 1788 for a series of subscription concerts. Melancholic Symphony No 40, which has been so adored by audience for over two centuries, is almost chamber-like in terms of the orchestra. In the dreamy second movement, the voices of the strings are woven closely together – as in the love duets of Italian operas of the time. The famous dramatic minuet cedes to a ceremonial trio. To a certain extent, the finale again reminds one of Haydn in the spirit of his passionate and impetuous Farewell symphony.
Of Antonio Vivaldi’s roughly five hundred and fifty works, his Four Seasons cycle of four concerti is a true record-breaker in terms of popularity. This was the case from the work’s very appearance. The sheet music had barely been printed in 1725 in Amsterdam – then the capital of music publishing – before it had been judged by all of enlightened Europe and become a hit of the “Spiritual Concerts” in Paris. Here the most important role was played by the poetic programme. Initially the Four Seasons were published as part of the cycle of 12 Concerti, Op. 8, entitled Cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione. Moreover, Vivaldi prefaced each of these four concerti (which opened the Cimento dell’armonia...) with a sonnet that depicted the content of the music. Who the author of these sonnets was remains unknown. Possibly it was the composer himself when writing poetic lines in his native language. The poetic motifs are traditional (the springtime awakening of nature is associated with the pastorale and autumn with hunting), but their bewitching naivety was delightedly accepted by intellectuals too, among them Jean-Jacques Rousseau. And, who knows, perhaps it was Vivaldi’s concerti that motivated the young Scot James Thomson (the author of the anthem Rule Britannia) to write his most important work in 1726 – the poem The Seasons, which has been adoringly read by lovers of philosophical poetry.