In a recent interview, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who leads the Vienna Philharmonic at the Proms and the Lucerne Festival, asserted, “I have just discovered that the last three Mozart symphonies are an instrumental oratorio.” Writes Tom Service in Wednesday’s (4/29) Guardian (London), “Not bad for a bombshell just before I left his flat in Amsterdam: all that he had time to tell me was that it’s because the 39th Symphony is the only one with an introduction, and the 41st, the Jupiter, the only one with a proper finale; and that there are thematic connections across all three symphonies—and not just the four-note tag that dominates the finale of the Jupiter. When Harnoncourt performs them together—as he did earlier this year, as well as on a famous recording with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe made in the Mozart year, 1991—he takes a break between each of the symphonies (‘You have to, they are so intense’), but he thinks of them as one meta-symphony, one meta-oratorio. … Harnoncourt’s idea could simply be a typically wacky extrapolation, but it’s an excuse to go back to these pieces and hunt again for deeper connections between them.”

Posted April 29, 2009