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Mozart's Jupiter Masterpiece: A Musical Analysis of the Sonata-Allegro Form

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

January 29, 2013

The finale to Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C major (a.k.a. “Jupiter”) is an excellent representation of a sonata-allegro form. There are two main sections in this form. The first section is called the exposition. It begins in the tonic key (C+) and introduces all of the six themes:

A: Measures 1-4 in Violin I part

B: Measures 19-22 in Oboe part

C: Measures 56-59 in Violin I part

D: Measures 74-77 in Violin I part

E: Measures 76-77 in Oboe part

F variation 1: Measures 5-8 in Violin I part

F variation 2: Measures 13-19 in Violin I part

Theme A is a four note phrase that is common in plainchant melodies and hymns, and is found in various counterpoint collections and cantus firmus examples by J. J. Fux. Theme A is repeated during the tutti of the piece and is joined by theme B, which is based on a descending scale. During the tutti, a “fugue” of five voices is added, with theme A’s first three notes being the fugue subject. In another tutti, theme C is added, overlapping theme B (which is leading to a cadence), and another new theme D, a lyrical theme. At this point (measure 56), the key of the piece has shifted from the tonic (C+) to the dominant (G+). Theme A continues, while themes B and C are repeated. Theme E is now added into the oboe part. Theme C is readded with theme B following, but by measure 103 theme D has expanded into four voices. Once again Mozart adds theme A and the descending theme B scale in measure 136 (only this time theme B is inverted, moving upwards in the violins and downwards in the lower strings) to tie things together and end the exposition. This entire exposition is repeated.

The second section of the sonata-allegro form contains three sub-sections within: the Development, Recapitulation, and Coda. The development begins in measure 158 with themes A and C and scale imitations, but the music is taken through a modulation of keys. Imitative scale themes follow the circle of fifths, going from A minor to F major (measures 173-189), ending with the strings playing in E minor and the bassoons going down a semitone from one dominant chord in one key to the dominant seventh chord of another, until the music gradually slips back into C major for the recapitulation section starting in measure 225.

The recapitulation starts with a short eight bar theme in C major before the entire orchestra introduces another modulation at measure 233. Violins continue using theme A while the basses and woodwinds use chromatic passages, causing the music to sound chaotic. After 20 bars the chromatics calm and the key is returned to C major. At this point section two is repeated.

The coda begins with an inverted theme C at forte, but is then softened to piano, continuing with an inverted theme A. Then in measure 372 the violas play theme D at forte against the horns playing theme A, which ultimately leads to themes A-E being played at the same time starting in measure 387. Theme Fv2 is eventually added in measure 402 in order to change from fugal counterpoint into the symphonic style from the very beginning. Mozart resubmits the original closing themes from the first section (Fv1 and B) and ends with fanfares in the horns and tympani and a final cadence.

In terms of species counterpoint, Mozart uses four types within this piece. First species is used from measures 1-4, second species is used in the Redemption section from measures 243-252, third species is used in measures 53-55, and fourth species suspension is used from measures 9-12.

A copy of the score can be obtained from

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