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Mozart's Symphony No.40 in G Minor Analysis

This great symphony is written in the key of G minor and the melancholy feel of this key pervades the first movement, although other movements are lighter in mood. The work comprises the usual four movements, but what is slightly unusual is that Mozart uses sonata form to structure the first, second and fourth movements. The third movement is the usual minuet and trio. This piece was created in the Classical Era.

Each movement is varied in terms of tempo as shown below:
- Movement I - Tempo is molto allegro (very fast).
- Movement II - Tempo is andante (at a moderate walking pace).
- Movement III - Tempo is allegretto (slightly slower than allegro).
- Movement IV - Tempo is allegro assai (very fast indeed).

The Instrumentation
Mozart originally scored the work without the recently invented clarinets, although he later wrote another version which included two clarinets. Another interesting fact is that Mozart is modest in the instrumentation that he uses in his work, which only requires seven woodwind players (one flute, two oboes, two clarinets and two bassoon) and from the brass section, two horns - one in B flat and one in G. This is to give him the notes G-B flat-D (G minor tonic chord) and B flat-D-F (B flat major tonic chord). Of more significant note is the fact that Mozart does not use trumpets or drums! Compare this orchestration to the standard Classical orchestra at the time. This is Mozart's 550th piece he wrote...Wow!

Analysis of Each Section (in chronological order)
Subject 1 - Bars 1-42
  • As I have already said, this movement is played very fast. 
  • What more the first point to note is that there is no introduction
  • After just three crotchet beats, the first and second violins playing in octaves state the first subject. 
  • As well as being the first movement, this is also the Exposition. 
  • Has a homophonic texture (two or more instruments playing together).
  • There is a bridge at bar 17.
  • Dynamics are quite basic being only quiet, loud or suddenly loud.
Subject 2 - Bars 44- 71
  • Slow tempo - walking pace
  • Starts quite and peaceful, finishes strong and loud.
  • Long slurred notes throughout. 
  • Descending staccato scale from flute, bassoons and violins at the end to move to codetta.
Codetta - Bars 73-100
  • Peaceful and calm tempo.
  • Again, long slurred notes at beginning.
  • Peace is interrupted with forte violin.
  • Use of quavers and crotchets in this section.
Development Section - Bars 101-163
  • The music of the development section is based on subject one.
  • Improvises a lot on subject one.
  • Dynamics similar to subject one being quite, loud and suddenly loud. At the end, uses new dynamics to follow into recapitulation mfp (loud then soft).
Recapitulation - Bars 164-183
  • This features the first subject appearing again.
  • Short so it flows nicely into Bridge.
  • Adopts dynamics of subject one.
Bridge - Bars 184-226
  • Overpowering section with loud dynamics and staccato notes. 
  • Long section: 50 bars long.
Subject 2 Re-appears - Bars 227-259
  • Musical and texture are reduced.
  • This short section is an extension in which the music modulates to E flat major.
  • Hints of the exposition heard, this time in G minor.
Coda - Bars 260-299 (End)
  • This section is a bit longer than the codetta.
  • (Bars 260-276) The three-note motif from the first subject is passed between the clarinet, bassoon and flute, whilst the first violins exchange the first two notes of the motif in augmentation with the violas and cellos. This section is rounded off with a perfect cadence in G minor at bars 275-276.
  • (Bars 276-299) This starts off as a scalic flourish building to the expected final cadence. However this forte passage is suddenly interrupted with some piano woodwind chords at bar 285 during which we hear glimpses of the first subject in the second violins, the first violins at bar 287, cellos at bar 289, the flute, clarinets and bassoons at bar 291.
  • (Bar 293-299 (End)) The final 'tutti' homophonic reiteration of a series of chords I and V in G minor ending with four emphatic full stops (G minor chords). The last section of six bars corresponds to the last six bars of the exposition!

About Will Green

A student in England studying Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Will created Ask Will Online back in 2010 to help students revise and bloggers make money. You can follow AskWillOnline via @AskWillOnline.

14 comments so far:

  1. Chloe McShane 16Friday, May 13, 2011

    thanks so much, my exam is on tuesday !

  2. That's alright, my exam is on tuesday too!


  4. If I can remember there was one on what subject being played, what instruments are playing the subject and features on the orchestra used by Mozart which was 3 marks.

  5. Did you use the Edexcel GCSE Book by chance? The instrumentation is almost exactly the same. Don't get me wrong, you've added a slight more in, but still...

  6. I've mostly used notes from my time studying this piece that were written by my teacher. As well as that, I took snippets of useful information from the book as well so you have both the book and teacher's notes for this piece.

  7. Such good information in here. I've been researching more about mozart's symphony. I think this is the best. Thanks for your relevant analysis.

  8. this is good stuff, its mostly in simple terms , but i think u should add some info about things such a cadances etc :) but still its good , my exam is tomorow , so this has helped quite a bit

  9. Thank you so incredibly much for this! I have an essay due tomorrow where I analyze the musical elements of this piece and this has been the most helpful information I've come across so far. You're wonderful, thanks again. :)

  10. Have a test over the analysis of the form of this movement tomorrow! This is exactly what I needed!!

  11. I disagree with your introductory statement "although other movements are lighter in mood". Except for the trio in the minuet the entire work has a dark, unsettling feel. Even the more relaxed feel of the slow movement sounds edgy and nervous. And consider the symphony ends in the tonic.

  12. excellent. Thank you a lot.
    I'm really into this symphony.