Sunday, April 23, 2017


Ode to Joy
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
Vincent P. de Luise, M.D. 

This essay was written as Program Notes for the April 22, 2017 performance of Beethoven's ninth symphony, the Symphony in d minor, Op 125, "Choral, by the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra, the Connecticut Choral Society, the New Jersey Choral Society Camerata and the Naugatuck Valley Community College Choir, under the direction of Maestro Leif Bjaland.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
by Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller (1823)

Ludwig van Beethoven’s ninth symphony, the “Choral,” is one of the greatest artistic achievements of western civilization. It is a celebration of hope and joy, a transcendent masterpiece crafted by a composer who could not hear his magisterial creation. It is an extraordinary, monumental, complex, and powerful work that continues to challenge musicians, soloists, choruses, and listeners, as it celebrates the most wondrous shared dreams of humanity, of community, of happiness, of freedom, together “beneath the starry realm.”

Beethoven first began to notice hearing loss in 1796, at the age of 26; he would live with progressive deafness for thirty more years. In 1802, he wrote an anguished letter to his brothers, Carl and Johann, the manifesto known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter that he never sent, telling them of the despair he felt at this painfully ironic turn of events, that he of all people was going deaf ! deaf !, and explaining in heart-wrenching detail what this would mean for him. How was he going to perform as a pianist? to conduct? How was he going to practice his Art? Resolute and defiant, he would do so, bringing to bear his indefatigable work ethic and indomitable spirit against that implacable enemy, deafness.

What is the relationship between illness and creativity? Beethoven’s genius birthed Romanticism. He blew wide open the door that Mozart had earlier knocked on. The year was 1805; the composition was his third symphony, “Eroica” (“Heroic”). Yet, it was Beethoven’s deafness after 1819 that led him into a new and private sound world, a tonal universe totally in his mind. Within that solitary and lonely space, Beethoven composed an extraordinary corpus of music that took Romanticism into another realm. Would posterity have had this majestic ninth symphony, the sublime Missa Solemnis, the ineffable late string quartets and piano sonatas, in the melodic and harmonic form we know them, had Beethoven had normal hearing? Beethoven's spirituality also played a role in these final, greatest and most remarkable compositions. Genius is often the result of an artist overcoming a life challenge, vanquishing their demons. Beethoven fought illness throughout his life, and triumphed. As you listen, watch and are uplifted this evening, think about Beethoven’s mind, his spirit, his courage, his Art. 

The genesis of the ninth symphony began early in Beethoven's life. In 1790, he began setting to music a 1786 poem and drinking song by Friedrich Schiller, an die Freude (" to Joy"). His 1795 Lied (german art song), Gegenliebe ("Returned Love"), already contained the motif that he would later employ as the Ode to Joy theme. In 1808, Beethoven wrote a groundbreaking composition for piano, orchestra and chorus, the Choral Fantasia, whose theme is also reminiscent of the Ode to Joy. Beethoven himself acknowledged the kinship of the two works; he described the ninth symphony's last movement as a "setting of the words of Schiller's immortal Lied, an die Freude, in the same way as my pianoforte fantasia with chorus, but on a far grander scale." The Ode to Joy motif can be found earlier, in Mozart's Misericordias Domini of 1775; however, it is highly unlikely that Beethoven ever heard the work or saw the autograph. Rather, it is a form of "convergent musical evolution" which lef Mozart and Beethoven independently to conceive the melody, which speaks to its simplicity and universality.

The Philarmonic Society of London had commissioned the ninth symphony in 1817. Beethoven worked on it intermittently for years, while battling constant intestinal maladies, completing the score in 1824, only after he had finished composing the massive Diabelli Variations (dedicated to his "Immortal Beloved, likely Antonie Brentano), and the Missa Solemnis

Upset at how he perceived the Viennese had treated him (Beethoven was always famously upset at something), he had wanted to premiere the work in Berlin or London, but a group of thirty influential friends and musical colleagues petitioned him, “the one man of all men who we all recognize as the foremost of living men,” to have it performed first in Vienna.  Immensely flattered, he relented. So it was that on May 7, 1824, in the Theater am Karntnertor, the ninth symphony was premiered, along with the overture, “The Consecration of the House”, and a section from the Missa Solemnis. It was Beethoven’s first on-stage appearance in twelve years.  The hall was packed with an enthusiastic and expectant crowd; however, his aristocratic patrons were mostly absent, either by hacving passed away or, those few who were alivem having stopped financially supporting him by then. Though michael Umlauf conducted, Beethoven was invited to be present on stage to give the tempos for each movement.  

The violinist Joseph Böhm recalled that "Beethoven stood before the podium and gesticulated furiously before each movement. At times he rose, at other times he shrank to the ground, moving as if he wanted to play all the instruments himself, and sing for the whole chorus. The musicians minded his rhythm alone while playing.” Wild applause followed both the scherzo and after the final majestic choral finale. Beethoven remained facing the orchestra, leafing through the score and beating time, unaware of the impact and unable to hear the ovation. The alto Caroline Unger had to tap him on the shoulder and help turn him around to face the ecstatic, rapturous audience.

The symphony begins in tonal limbo, as if the orchestra is tuning to an amorphous and wandering A major chord, sound emerging from silence. Gradually, it modulates to the tonic of d minor, and then in the recapitulation, morphs into a powerful D major.  The second movement is a sprightly scherzo and trio, one of many brilliant Beethovenian innovations (scherzos historically were slotted as third movements).  The ensuing Adagio becomes the third movement - spacious, leisurely, and dramatically placed to maximize the effect of the finale. The musicologist Charles Rosen comments that the last movement is a symphony in itself: “its first movement" introduces a theme with variations, appearing first in the cellos and basses, then echoed by vocal soloists and chorus; the “second movement” is a scherzo in military style with Turkish influences (echoing Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail); the “third movement” is a lyrical reverie; and the “fourth movement” is a fugue on the themes of the previous movements.”  Beethoven being Beethoven, he changed some of Schiller’s lyrics to reflect his own views on freedom and brotherhood.  The memorable Ode to Joy theme is universal in its immediacy and melodic beauty:

Beethoven’s ninth set the bar for all future composers: Schumann, Wagner, Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler paid homage to it. While the Nobel Prize author Romain Rolland wrote that the Ode to Joy is a paean to the brotherhood of all peoples, the theme was also misappropriated by the Nazis and the Rhodesian supremacist government, and during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was used as an example of class struggle. Despite this, it lives on today as the anthem of the European Union, and in concert halls, and on radio stations, LPs and CDs throughout the world, The autograph of the score, in the Berlin State Library, was the first musical composition in the United Nations Memory of the World Heritage list.   

Beethoven, the humanist; Beethoven, the victor over constant struggle; Beethoven, the exceptionalist; Beethoven, the universal composer;  
Beethoven, for eternity.                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Ars longa!  © 2017 Vincent P. de Luise MD

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

Mozart in 1770, with the Order of the Golden Spur
Anonymous oil copy of the lost 1770 original

In Mozart's Misericordias Domini, KV 222, at the 1:05 mark, you can hear the "Ode to Joy" melody, i.e., Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." It appears several times in Mozart's composition.

How can this be?

Mozart wrote the Misericordias in 1775, over 40 years before Beethoven started composing his ninth symphony, the Choral (Beethoven began his ninth symphony in 1817 and took seven years to finish it, in 1824).

Did Beethoven copy Mozart?

Beethoven in 1819
by Joseph Karl Stieler

It is highly unlikely. There is no evidence that Beethoven ever heard the Misericordias, or ever saw the autograph.

This serendipitous event is what I have termed, "Convergent Musical Evolution.The melody is simple and direct, diatonic, with small intervals between the notes, and no chromatics; two geniuses independently conjuring and crafting this eternal and universal melody.


Ars longa !


@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


by Vincent de Luise M.D.

Beethoven and Eros

Ludwig van Beethoven 
    by W.J. Mahler (1815)    

Antonie Brentano
        by Joseph Karl Stieler (1808

On July 7, 1812, Beethoven penned an intimate, ten-page, emotionally wrenching and soul-bearing letter to his "Immortal Beloved," his unsterbliche Geliebte. He never mailed that letter, just as he never mailed the letter known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, announcing to his brothers Karl and Johann of his impending deafness.
The last page of Beethoven's
Letter to his Immortal Beloved

Who was the Immortal Beloved? Who was Beethoven's unsterbliche Geliebte?

Maynard Solomon had convinced most of us in 1977 that it was Antonie Brentano (1780-1869), for whom Beethoven wrote "An die ferne Geliebte" and the monumental "Diabelli Variations" (Beethoven had planned to dedicate the piano sonatas Op 111 and 112 to her as well, except for an error at the publishers). Brentano was a prominent arts collector and philanthropist.

New research has refuted the Brentano hypothesis. Could Josephine van Brunsvik have been Beethoven's true love?  Josephine's sister Therese wrote, "Beethoven! It is like a dream, that he was the friend, the confidant of our house - a beautiful mind ! Why did not my sister Josephine, as widow Deym, take Beethoven as her husband? Josephine's soul mate! They were born for each other!"

Josephine van Buskirk

Still others maintain that it was the beautiful and talented pianist, Countess Anne Marie Erdody,  to whom Beethoven dedicated the "Ghost" piano trio, Op 70 no. 1, and the piano sonata Op 102.
Countess Anna Marie Erdody

Or perhaps it was Giulietta Guicciardi, to whom Beethoven dedicated the "Moonlight" Sonata?
Giulietta Guicciardi

For most of his life, Beethoven was in love with a woman, from his childhood sweetheart, Eleonore "Lorchen" von Breuning, to the very end with Brentano, the van Brunsviks and the others. As far as is known, none of these amorous situations was consummated.. 

Maybe Beethoven was ultimately in love with Euterpe herself, the Muse of Music, as these other women were all virtually unattainable, by rank, choice, or circumstance (i.e., "she was "happily married" so it cannot be her" ).

Maybe that's why Beethoven never mailed that letter on July 7, 1812.

"Ever Thine

Ever Mine

Ever Ours"

@2017 Vincent P. de Luise MD

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


A Review of Mozart Iconography
Vincent P. de Luise, M.D.

Wolfgang Amade' Mozart (1756 - 1791)
by his brother-in-law, Johann Joseph Lange

It has often been said that to discover the real Mozart, one need simply listen to his ineffable music. Yet, questions still arise: What did Mozart look like? Which are the true portraits that were made of him during his life? Can an artist capture genius in a painting? 

Of the hundreds of images of Wolfgang Amade' Mozart, only about a dozen have been attested. The early 20th century biographer Arthur Schurig crystallized this apparent Mozartean paradox: "Mozart has been the subject of more portraits that have no connection with his actual appearance than any other famous man; and there is no famous person of whom a more worshipful posterity has had a more incorrect physical appearance than is generally the case with Mozart." (1) 

One reason that has been offered for the paucity of vetted depictions of Mozart is that he was not painted by the most famous artists of his time, as had been J.S. Bach, Handel, Haydn and Beethoven. No Haussmann (Bach), Hudson (Handel), or Hoppner (Haydn) portrayed Mozart for posterity. 

Mozart's sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) captured an aspect of him: "... My brother was a rather pretty child." Later, she added that he was "small, thin, and pale in color, and lacking in any pretensions as to physiognomy and bodily appearance." The composer Johann Adolph Hasse wrote that "the boy Mozart is handsome, graceful and full of good manners."  Michael Kelly, the tenor who sang the roles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio in the premiere of Le Nozze di Figaro, famously reminisced about Mozart in 1826: "He was a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine hair, of which he was rather vain...."   

Roland Tenschert published an initial series of Mozart portraits in 1931. (2) The musicologist and historian Otto Eric Deutsch codified Mozart iconography in a seminal article in the 1956 bicentennial volume, The Mozart Companion (3), and further detailed his findings in a 1961 book.(4) Deutsch identified twelve portraits that have the provenance to be considered authentic.

Since then, there have been a few discoveries which purport to represent Mozart: the portrait from the estate of Johann Lorenz Hagenauer ("The Man in the Red Coat"), the Edlinger portrait, the Albi Rosenthal sketch, the Fruhstorfer portrait of a boy with a toy soldier, the rediscovery of the J.B. Delahaye portrait, the portrait by Leopold Bode, the Zoffany portrait of a boy with a bird's nest, and the Greuze portrait. The Hagenauer, Edlinger, Fruhstorfer, Delahaye, and Greuze have undergone biometric analysis. The Edlinger has been proven to be a monk and not Mozart. None of these portraits resembles the vetted portraits of Mozart. (These recent portraits and links to the biometrics are included in the Addendum). 

A small enamel of a young man, putatively of Mozart, was sold at auction at Sotheby's in 2014. The enamel was supposedly given by Wolfgang to his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart ("Basle"), in 1777. (5)

In 1947, a bronze "death mask," putatively of Mozart, was found in an antique shop in Vienna. Legend has it that a gypsum plaster death mask was made "shortly after Mozart died," either by Josef Deym von Stritetz or Taddeus Ribola. Upon the death of the craftsman, the mask went to his widow, and when she died, around 1821, the mask vanished. Mozart's widow Constanze Mozart Nissen wrote that she had been given "a replica" of the death mask, presumably also in plaster, but had "clumsily broken it" at some point in time. Most scholars do not accept the bronze death mask as authentic. (6,7)

The following are the canonical portraits of Mozart. A few of the portraits derive from the others, so the number of uniquely identifiable Mozart portraits is eleven:

1.The Boy Mozart, oil painting, attributed to Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni, 1763 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). The Lorenzoni is now contested. The head has been spliced into a stock painting of the clothing.

Wolfgang Mozart in 1763 at age 7.
Attributed to  Pietro Lorenzoni.

2. Leopold Mozart with Wolfgang and Maria Anna ("Nannerl"), watercolor by Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle, November 1763 (Musée Condé, Chantilly). Three variants (Musée Carnavalet, Paris; British Museum, London; Castle Howard, York), an engraving by Delafosse in 1764 after Carmontelle's painting (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris) and several other copies are known to exist. If the youth at the keyboard is Wolfgang, he looks nothing like the Wolfgang of the Lorenzoni or the Verona portraits.
Leopold, Wolfgang and Maria Anna (Nannerl) Mozart 
by Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle

3. The Tea Party at Prince Louis-François de Conti's, in the 'Temple', oil painting by Michel Barthélemy Ollivier, 1766 (Musée du Louvre, Paris). The head of the person playing the harpsichord is so small that the painting, per O.E. Deutsch, is "iconographically worthless." In addition, the individual playing the harpsichord looks to be about 50 and not ten years of age, and cannot be seen clearly. Unless Mozart had progeria, which he did not, this is not him.

The Tea Party in "The Temple"
by Michel Barthelmey Ollivier 1766

4. Wolfgang at 14 years of age at the piano. This oil is the so-called "Verona portrait," attributed to Saverio dalla Rosa, or his maternal uncle, Giambettino Cignaroli, or the artists may have collaborated. 1770 (Private Collection). 

Mozart at the keyboard, 1770
The so-called "Verona Portrait"
by Saverio dalla Rosa or Giambettino Cignaroli

5. Miniature on ivory, attributed to Martin Knoller, 1773 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). The portrait is contested.
The 1773 miniature on ivory
attributed to Martin Knoller

6. The anonymous portrait in enamel, 1777, presumably of Wolfgang, that he may have given to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla (the "Basle"), auctiuoned at Sotheby's in 2014. (5)
The 1777 enamel miniature that Wolfgang
may have given to his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart (the "Basle")

7. The 1777 copy of Mozart as Knight of the Golden Spur, anonymous oil painting, (Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna). The 1770 original oil has been lost. Leopold wrote that Wolfgang was ill when this was painted.

The 1777 copy of the lost 1770 oil
Mozart with the Order of the Golden Spur

8. The Family Portrait, an oil painting attributed to Johann Nepomuk della Croce, 1780-1781 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). Anna (Ana) Maria Walburga Pertl Mozart (Wolfgang's and Nannerl's mother, and Leopold's spouse) is seen on the wall in the portrait. She died in Paris in 1778. In 1829, when Mary and Vincent Novello met with and interviewed Constanze Mozart Nissen, she stated that the image of Wolfgang in this painting was "one of the best likenesses" of him. (8)

The Mozart Family Portrait 1780-1781
attributed to Johann Nepomuk della Croce

9. Oil painting by Johann Joseph Lange, 1782-1783 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). Sometimes entitled "Mozart at the Piano." At some later time, the head of this portrait was affixed to a larger canvas, presumably with the intention of depicting Mozart seated at the piano, but this larger painting was unfinished; it is the one below that we see today at the Wohnhaus across from the Mozarteum. The portrait itself is on a side wall, in shadow, behind. If you scrutinize it very carefully in oblique and specular light,you can almost perceive irregularities around the head. 
In 1829, in an interview with the Novellos, Constanze Mozart Nissen stated that this Lange portrait and the della Croce painting were the best likenesses of her brother Wolfgang. The Novellos went on to write that, "..... by far the best likeness of him (Mozart), in Mrs. Constanze Nissen's opinion, is the painting in oils done by the Husband of Madame Lange (the eldest sister of Mrs. Nissen)....." who is the very same Joseph Lange who painted this portrait.(8)
Michael Lorenz has researched the Lange portrait in the context of Lange's other paintings. His conclusion is that "the Mozart portrait by Joseph Lange is not an unfinished painting of "Mozart at the Piano," but an unfinished enlargement of an original miniature of Mozart's head." (9) 

Mozart, by his brother-in-law, Joseph Lange.

10. Silhouette, engraved by Hieronymous Löschenkohl, 1785, for his Musik- und Theater-Almanach of 1786 (one copy in the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien). The silhouette is contested. Löschenkohl correctly uses Mozart's middle name, Amade'.

The Silhouette of 1784/1785 
by Johann Hieronymus Loschenkohl

11. Medallion in red wax, by Leonard Posch, 1788 (formerly Mozart-Museum, Salzburg: missing since 1945); Deutsch lists three other variants. Grosspietsch describes six variants in detail. 

The 1788 medallion in red wax by Leonard Posch.

12. The silverpoint drawing by Dorothea (Doris) Stock, 1789 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). This tiny and meticulously rendered portrait of Mozart, about four inches by three inches in greatest dimension, is at the Wohnhaus under glass with a convex lens over it.

The 1789 silverpoint by Doris Stock

13. The posthumous Barbara Kraft portrait of 1819 in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna. Nannerl Mozart lent Kraft the della Croce, the Lange and the Stock portraits, on which she based this painting.
The 1819 posthumous oil by Barbara Kraft.

An introductory article with excellent images can be found here (10). There is an extensive website of images of authenticated, inauthentic, and controversial Mozart portraits (11).  Christoph Grosspietsch has written a treatise on Mozart iconography. (12) 

Mozart scholar Cliff Eisen has offered an eloquent summary on the function of Mozart portraiture:

"Very few images of Mozart are universally agreed to be authentic. Yet the acceptance of these portraits - as well as more recently discovered portraits purporting to be Mozart - is less the result of provenance or connoisseurship than the fact that they are shrines at which Mozart scholars and Mozart lovers uncritically worship. They are representations of how we would like Mozart to look - in short they satisfy our visual biographical fancy. This is true above all of the unfinished portrait by Joseph Lange. The musicologist H.C. Robbins Landon described it as the most intimate, most profound, of all the mature  Mozart portraits - the only one, really, to catch the ambivalent nature of Mozart's mercurial mind and to show the profoundly pessimistic side of his many-sided genius." (13)

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise, M.D.


1. Schurig, A., Wolfgang Mozart: Sein Leben und sein Werk Insel-Verlag, Leipzig 1913.
2. Tenschert, R., Mozart: Ein Kunstlerleben in Bildern und Doumenten, 1931.
3. Deutsch, O.E., Mozart Iconography, in The Mozart Companion, Robbins-Landon, H.C and Mitchell, D, eds.,  Oxford University Press 1956.
4. Deutsch, O.E., Mozart und seine Welt in zeit gemossischen Bildern. M. Zenger, ed. Verlag - Kassel, 1961.
7. Karhausen,L., The Bleeding of Mozart, XLibris  2011 .
8. Novello, V. and Novello, M.   "A Mozart Pilgrimage- Being the Travel Diaries of Vincent and Mary Novello in the year 1829, N. de Medici di Marignano and Robert Hughes, London, 1955, reprinted 1975.  
12. Grosspietsch, C., Mozart-Bilder / Bilder Mozarts  Verlag Anton Pustet, Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum 2013
13. Eisen, C.,  


The Fruhstorfer Portrait of a young boy with a toy soldier

The Delahaye Portrait  c.1772

The Johann Georg Edlinger Portrait   1789-1790
This portrait has been proven to be a monk and not Mozart

The Portrait in the Hagenauer Estate
("The Man in the Red Coat") 1789-1790

The anonymous Albi Rosenthal silverpoint drawing c. 1790

The Bode portrait. This portrait was executed by Leopold Bode in 1859, 68 years after Mozart died. Bode wrote that he had used the 1770 Verona portrait as a template.
Portrait of a young man by Leopold Bode 1859

For decades, a c. 1770 painting by Franz Thaddeus Heibling in the Stiftung Internationale Mozarteum was thought to be Mozart. It has been proven that the individual in the painting is not Mozart, but rather, Carl Graf Firmian.

Young man at the piano by Franz Thaddeus Heibling, c. 1770

A portrait known as the "Boy with a Bird's Nest" has been attributed to the prominent British painter John Zoffany (1733-1810, and the individual depicted had been thought to represent Mozart. However, this portrait is not at all as finely rendered as the many superb portraits of children that Zoffany painted. The Mozarteum has firmly rejected the painting as being Mozart. The Zoffany scholar Martin Postle does not consider the portrait to have been painted by Zoffany, writing that "it has been stated, incorrectly, that a painting of a young boy holding a birds nest.... is a portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by John Zoffany." So, here we have a "cautionary tale," as Dexter Edge has elucidated in a detailed analysis.(7) This painting is neither of Mozart nor by Zoffany.
Boy with a Bird's Nest.

A portrait of a young man, dated 1763/1764 and attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze, at the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, had at one time been said to be Mozart. Scholars have not accepted this attestation. On the label next to the portrait is written the following: " Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). Signed "BJG." Yale University, New Haven Connecticut, acquired 1960. Exhibitions: Mozarteum Salzburg, Austria 1910. The identification of the sitter as Mozart has never been confirmed and should be treated with skepticism."

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise M.D.






6. Robbins-Landon, The Mozart Compendium, New York, Schirmer Books, 1990, pp. 112-113

7. Edge, Dexter, Not Mozart, Not Zoffany: A Cautionary Tale

Monday, March 13, 2017


Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

W.A. Mozart (1756-1791) in 1782
Portrait by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange

Wolfgang Amade' Mozart was one of the greatest symphonists in history. Over the course of thirty years of composing, he crafted 54 symphonies and sinfonias; forty-one are canonical compositions and the last three are among the finest ever written. 
Mozart composed his 38th symphony, the D Major K.V. 504 ("Prague") in December 1786 and it premiered in that great city on January 19, 1787.  A year and a half would pass before Mozart returned to the symphonic genre. Then, seemingly without a specific reason, over the course of six weeks in that "magical" summer of 1788, Mozart began to compose not just one, but three magisterial symphonies, his last and greatest in the genre. 
For what purpose were they written? For what commission or special event? Why did Mozart decide to write three large-scale and intricate works, masterpieces which stood on the shoulders of Haydn's creations, and that opened the door to a new world for the symphonic form?
Mozart very rarely wrote music without a specific purpose, just "for the heck of it." The quaint trope of the starving artist living in a garret and composing out of some "divine" inspiration, is a romantic and Byronic conceit, yet one that, curiously, is still held onto by some Mozart admirers. 
That myth was not Mozart's reality. Mozart was not a starving artist, certainly not by 1788. He was earning the modern equivalent of at least $ U.S. 100,000 in each of the last three years of his life, compensation that put him in the upper middle class of Viennese society. (1)  To be sure, his creative output ebbed and flowed in 1787 and 1788, but by then, he had secured financial success with his operatic da Ponte collaborations and piano concerti, had given several Akademies (subscription concerts where he kept the profits), and had a number of talented and wealthy keyboard pupils (among whom were Barbara Ployer, Josepha von Auernhammer, Thomas Attwod, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Prince Karl Lichnowsky himself, who would later become both his and Beethoven's mentor). Mozart was finally able to see the (financial) light at the end of the tunnel. 
As Mozart scholar and Cornell Professor Neal Zaslaw entitled one of his essays, Mozart was  a "working stiff." He needed to make a living, he had a spouse and two young children, a large apartment, expensive clothes, a valet and a coach, and a desire to live as an equal to the aristocrats who patronized his concerts. Mozart was one of history's first "freelance" artists (i.e. not fully employed church or having a munificent aristicratic patron, as Handel and Haydn had been); he was on his own to earn an income.(2)
Yet, there is no record that the symphonies known today as the 39th (Eb major K.V. 543), 40th (g minor K.V. 550) and 41st (C major K.V. 551, nicknamed the Jupiter by Haydn's employer Johann Peter Salomon in London in the 1790s) were ever commissioned. There is no record of any purpose for which they were composed, and there is no evidence that they were ever performed during Mozart's lifetime. Some musicologists believe that Mozart wrote the symphonies as a whole, purely for publication purposes, but again, with no proof of performance.
An intriguing statement in one of Mozart's letters that he intended to perform these symphonies at the new casino in Vienna's Spiegelgasse (owned by his friend Philip Otto), and a letter to another colleague, a comment about tickets for a series of concerts at that venue provide support for Mozart planning to perform the symphonies.
In a July 10, 1802 letter by the musician Johann Wenzel to the Leipzig publisher Ambrosius Kuhnel, Wenzel refers to a performance of the g minor symphony (the 40th) at the home of Baron Gottfried van Swieten, but it was so poorly performed that Mozart had to leave the room! (3)  Concert programs exist from performances in Dresden, Leipzig, Frankfurt and Vienna in 1789 and 1790 that refer to Mozart "symphonies," however without date or key signature. 
But that's it. 
There are no ticket receipts, no written recollections by concert-goers, no reviews in the Viennese newspapers or journals (and new compositions by any of the several excellent composers in Vienna - instrumental or operatic - were often talked about), and most importantly, no mention of a performance of any of the last three symphonies in any correspondence by Mozart to his friends, or to Constanze or his sister Maria Anna (Nannerl). 
Which is all very odd. 
Over 800 letters exist from Mozart to and from his family, colleagues and friends, one of the largest troves of correspondence and primary literature by any composer. In these letters, Mozart mentions in detail not only his musical triumphs but also the quotidian events in his life, such as purchasing a pet starling, or eating pork cutlets, con gusto, on October 6, 1791, eight weeks before he died. Given this extraordinarily detailed chronicle of a life, it is extremely unlikely that Mozart or one of his addressees would not have made some reference to one of these symphonies. 
Yet nothing. 
Mozart made a revision of the g minor (40th) symphony a few months after he composed it, to include clarinets and to give new parts for the flutes. Could this revision have been for a performance in a different location in Vienna or elsewhere in Europe? Ever the pragmatist, it is unlikely that Mozart would have rescored the symphony if he had not intended to perform it in a different venue. Haydn may have channeled motifs from Mozart's 41st symphony (Jupiter) in his 98th symphony of 1792. Could Haydn have heard a performance of it sometime between 1788 and 1792? We do not know.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the prolific Early Music conductor, has offered the fascinating possibility that Mozart conjured and crafted his last three symphonies as an integral whole, as a final statement on the symphonic genre, that Mozart composed them without commission, perhaps as instrumental music underpinning a grand oratorio, which Harnoncourt calls Mozart's "Instrumental Oratorium." 
Harnoncourt considers the first movement of the 39th symphony the "Prelude" of this putative oratorio, and the last movement of the 41st symphony, the "Finale." He argues that the 39th has no ending, the 40th has no true beginning, and the 41st has a magisterial coda. There is no proof that these three masterpieces were conceived as part of a larger whole, but it is an intriguing thesis.(4)

Harnoncourt and the Concentus Music Wien have perfromed Mozart's last three symphonies chronologically in one concert, and it is fascinating to hear them this way:

Though there were no commissions, nor any performance of these symphonies during Mozart's lifetime, there are definite melodic and motivic antecedents in the Jupiter symphony. The four-note theme in the last movement s found not only in Mozart's own first symphony (Eb KV 16 of 1764), his Missa Brevis in F (KV 192 of 1774, and his 33rd symphony (KV 319 of 1779), it can be heard as far back as the Missa Pange Lingua of 1515 of Josquin de Prez. 
Mozart had seen the autograph of the Symphony in C major (no. 27) of his friend, Michael Haydn, which was written four years earlier than Mozart's Jupiter, and that has the same finale motif. In those days, before copyright laws, imitating another composer's melodies or motifs was not only not considered plagiarism, it was a compliment.
What is evident is the remarkable quality of these last three Mozart symphonies, their assuredness and complexity, their modulation and chromatics, their "knocking on the door" of Romanticism seventeen years before Beethoven would break open that door, in April 1805 with his Eroica Symphony. 

The finale of Mozart's Jupiter is an astonishing burst of creativity: the coda is comprised of five separate and intertwined fugal motifs. Johann Sebastian Bach would have been proud:

The fugal coda of Mozart's Symphony no. 41 in C major, 
KV 551 "Jupiter," with its five separate, intertwined motifs.

Mozart's creative process is as mysterious and wondrous as the genius underlying his ineffable compositions. In what would be his last three symphonies, he demonstrated that he had mastered this genre as well.

Ars longa !

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise M.D. 


 1. Baumol, William and Baumol, Hilda, On the economics of musical composition in Mozart's Vienna, in, On Mozart,  James Morris, ed. Woodrow Wilson center and Cambridge University Press, 1994.

2. Zaslaw, Neal, Mozart as a working stiff, in On Mozart, James Morris ed., Woodrow Wilson Center and Cambridge University Press, 1994 

3. Milada Jonasova: Eine Auffuhrung der g-moll-Sinfonie KV 550 bei Baron van Swieten im Beisein Mozarts", in: Mozart Studien 20, Tutzing 2011, pp. 253-268. An abridged English translation was published in the Newsletter of the Mozart Society of America 16:1 (2012)