1788: Mozart: Symphony No. 39 (NO NAME) in Eb major

SUNDAY, November 8, 2020 – 6:26 AM

(This is an update. I found yet another recording by Andrés Orozco-Estrada, and this is easily the best performance I’ve ever heard, complete with magnificent natural horn and trumpet playing. It has no nickname, and it should. The last three of his symphonies are really the best, and this is the first of those three.)

Mozart: Symphony No. 39 (NO NAME) in Eb major, age 32

Why “no name”?

It’s weird, but no one thought to name this one. There are these names for other important symphonies: Little G minor, Paris, Haffner, Linz, Prague, Great G minor, Jupiter. Normally we figure the greatest ones have the cool names, and the ones that are less important don’t. But this is a huge exception.

Andrés Orozco-Estrada

If you give the greatest players in the world time to figure things out, they’ll always get it right. Here you see moderate social distancing. Does it affect the ensemble or cause problems in precision? No. Absolutely not. The camera work remains amazing, the sound is it’s usual amazing level, and the playing is just great. Another home run for this conductor and his players. Three cheers for the “Vienna Miracle”.

This appears to be a bit slow, by the time, but only because he repeats the expo, which I think is much better. I’ve never heard the 3rd movement played so fast, so instead of sounding like a somewhat stodgy event, it’s more like the future scherzos of Beethoven. I love the tempo choices. The natural brass is edgy and in your face. Everything about this just feels right. It’s another home run. The only thing missing is a nickname. I’m sure Haydn loved this, and Beethoven appears to have channeled this in his own symphonies.


This was the best recording I found until today. I still like it very much, and I think it deserves a careful listening.

1st movement

It starts with a brass fanfare, and it’s quite slow.. Then a very energetic and powerful rest of the movement follows. Parts of this are pure Mozart, but other parts are so much like Beethoven that it to me it is more than obvious that Beethoven knew this symphony well and greatly admired it.

2nd movement

The slow movement has a first and second theme, like a sonata, but there is no development section. There is a lot more to this than that, but I’ll come back to more later.

3rd movement

The trio is a “Ländler” and features a clarinet solo. There is a second clarinet part with lots of low arpeggios, and of course this is interesting because of Mozart’s use of the clarinet.

4th movment

The finale is in sonata form. The development section is very important; there is no coda.


  • flute, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons
  • 2 horns, 2 trumpets
  • timpani
  • strings

Part of a trio

The Symphony No. 39 is the first of a set of three of the last symphonies that Mozart wrote. He composed them in rapid succession during the summer of 1788. Some people suggest the very best way to listen to the last three symphonies is to start this one, then go to No. 40 and No. 41. If I have extra time I like to do that.

Was it performed before Mozart died?

Some say it was not, so no one knows for sure. Mozart’s early death at only age 35 made the last years of his life confusing to track. Often it takes a few years between the composition of a symphony and the time when that symphony becomes first somewhat popular and later very popular. This time in Mozart’s life was chaotic, and he was going through huge changes. He was totally broke, but many composers went through such periods and then went on to later successes. He simply did not live long enough to enter a new period in his life.

But there is an eyewitness account, and Wiki quotes it, so I’ll copy it here:

However, we now have what is likely the first known eyewitness account of the performance of the 39th Symphony. An all-Mozart memorial concert took place in Hamburg in March 1792, where the verified performance of this Symphony was noted by an eyewitness named Iwan Anderwitsch, who describes the start of the symphony as follows:

The opening is so majestic that it so surprised even the coldest, most insensitive listener and non-expert, that even if he wanted to chat, it prevented him from being inattentive, and thus, so to speak, put him in a position to become all ears. It then becomes [so] fiery, full, ineffably grand and rich in ideas, with striking variety in almost all obbligato parts, that it is nearly impossible to follow so rapidly with ear and feeling, and one is nearly paralyzed. This actual paralysis became visible in various connoisseurs and friends of music, and some admitted that they would never have been able to think or imagine they would hear something like this performed so splendidly in Hamburg.

I would like to believe that the above actually happened. It certainly should have happened, if there is any justice in this world.



2 thoughts on “1788: Mozart: Symphony No. 39 (NO NAME) in Eb major

  1. I think I ended up listening to the Klemperer version. I’m still getting used to phones – what I had disappeared on me, and when I got it back thought “wasn’t it a bit faster and more energetic before?” The bit I heard now, I’d like to go to Orozko-E. Mozart is always a pleasant listen.

    While out listening, a “cello solo” came in which turned out to be an intruding classical sounding “mood music”-enhanced commercial, pretty in its own right – getting Mozart back proved just how good Mozart is, by the contrast.

  2. If you’ve had a stressful day this would be a good choice for your listening enjoyment. It is just at the right tempo to help you unwind, but not fall asleep.

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