articles / Classical California Ultimate Playlist

Mozart Hurls Thunderbolts From Jupiter


We’re celebrating the Classical California Ultimate Playlist with a series of fun and informative blogs about the music you love.

Mozart’s last symphony picked up its nickname “Jupiter” in London around 1820. Some think it’s a reference to the loftiness of Mozart’s ideas. Others point to the opening of the symphony and say that they hear the “thunderbolts of Jupiter.”

But as impressive as this opening movement may be, the real news is in the last movement, whose concluding section is a masterpiece of the art of counterpoint, weaving together the musical fabric from individual strands of melody.

Mozart learned that art from Bach, thanks to Baron van Swieten, a diplomat in Vienna. In those days Baroque music was old music, not in wide circulation, but at the baron’s house Bach and Handel were very much in fashion. Soon after Mozart arrived in Vienna, he started going every Sunday at noon to the baron’s home.

Mozart’s study of Bach enabled him to incorporate the legacy of Baroque counterpoint into the structure of the Classical symphony.

The last movement of the Jupiter introduces five simple themes:

These themes mix and mingle until finally they are all combined. A late nineteenth century writer commented: “[The five themes], all in perfect harmony, are enough to give Bach a headache.”

Written by:
Alan Chapman
Alan Chapman
Published on 09.13.2021

MORE LIKE THIS

How the 1812 Overture Became Music for the Fourth of July

How the 1812 Overture Became Music for the Fourth of July

Explore the history of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture's popularity in 4th of July celebrations, its association with fireworks, and its original context in this insightful blog.

Classical California Ultimate Playlist
09/13/2021
Opera’s Ultimate Five-Minute Interlude: The Meditation from “Thais”

Opera’s Ultimate Five-Minute Interlude: The Meditation from “Thais”

Explore the enduring appeal of Jules Massenet's "Meditation from Thaïs", a five-minute interlude that has become a beloved piece in the classical music repertoire.

Classical California Ultimate Playlist
09/13/2022
The Many Lives of the “The Flower Duet”

The Many Lives of the “The Flower Duet”

Explore the #75 entry on the Classical California Ultimate Playlist: the Flower Duet from Delibes' opera Lakme. Discover its use in TV, film, and creative remixes.

Classical California Ultimate Playlist
09/13/2021
Clara Schumann Returns to the Limelight

Clara Schumann Returns to the Limelight

Explore the life of Clara Schumann, a leading pianist of the Romantic era, who defied norms, balanced family and career, and whose work is gaining recognition.

Classical California Ultimate Playlist
09/14/2021
Classical California Ultimate Playlist: Selections From Our Open Ears Series

Classical California Ultimate Playlist: Selections From Our Open Ears Series

Explore the Classical California Ultimate Playlist curated by KUSC's Jeffrey Freymann, featuring works by Eva Jessye, Julius Eastman, Undine Smith Moore, María Luisa Anido, and Margaret Bonds.

Classical California Ultimate Playlist
08/19/2022
Rodrigo’s Iberian High-Wire Act

Rodrigo’s Iberian High-Wire Act

Explore the legacy of Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, a masterpiece of classical guitar. Discover its history, inspiration, and impact on renowned performers.

Classical California Ultimate Playlist
09/13/2021