Mozart and the “Paris” Symphony
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 - 5 December 1791) stands as archetypal example of the Classical style. His extensive catalogue spans the period during which that genre was transformed from one exemplified by the “Galant” fashion to one that began to incorporate the contrapuntal intricacies of the later Baroque. Mozart's own development closely paralleled the evolution of the classical style. In addition, he was a versatile composer who wrote in almost every major genre, including symphony, opera, the solo concerto, chamber music string quartet and piano sonata. The piano concerto in particular evolved and was almost single-handedly popularized by Mozart.
Central traits of the classical style; clarity, balance and transparency can all be identified in Mozart's music. Watercolor delicacy balances the exceptional, even diabolic power of some of his finest masterpieces, such as the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491, the Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550, and the opera Don Giovanni. Charles Rosen wrote: "It is only through recognizing the violence and sensuality at the center of Mozart's work that we can make a start towards a comprehension of his structures and an insight into his magnificence.”
The 22-year-old Mozart was in Paris with his mother in the spring of 1778. A performance of his Sinfonia Concertante had been - he claimed - sabotaged by an Italian composer, Giuseppe Cambini. To make amends Joseph Legros, director of the public concert series “Concert Spirituel,” asked Mozart to write a new symphony. Mozart's mother was gravely ill and would die shortly after the premiere of his opus, known today as Symphony in D major K297 “Paris.”
The composer envisioned his three-movement masterpiece to create a sensation on Paris' most prestigious stage. The symphony is a brilliant “negotiation” with his listeners. The second Andante movement exists in two versions, after Legros complained that the first one was too cluttered. Mozart wrote his alternative before the symphony was repeated on August 15.
Mozart said this about the reaction to his Allegro movement: "They liked the Andante, too, but most of all the final Allegro. The moment they heard the forte, they started to clap. I was so happy that as soon as the symphony was over I went off to the Palais Royal and had a large ice, said the rosary, as I'd vowed to do, and then went home."