Symphony No. 38 (“Prague”)

Now, many of you might be wondering, “He skipped No. 37. Why did he do that?” That is because, technically, “his” Symphony No. 37 is not his. He took it from a composer friend named Michael Haydn, and all Mozart did with the piece was add an introduction to the first movement. So, we are going to skip that and venture a few years later, when Mozart’s career was still at its height. Mozart premiered this symphony in Prague, which is where people absolutely loved Mozart. In fact, it was his opera, “Le Nozze di Figaro,” or “The Marriage of Figaro,” that received the most praise out of all his works. He claimed that people in the streets would only be talking about or even singing tunes from his critically acclaimed opera. That is why the main motif of the last movement is probably the most interesting out of everything in this symphony; Mozart cleverly adds an easter egg that relates to Figaro. There is a very frantic duet (“Aprite, presto, aprite”) between the characters, Susanna and Cherubino, where Cherubino ends up jumping out of a window to escape Count Almaviva (Don’t worry. This opera is a comedy, so he survives!). These scurrying, syncopated motifs that are throughout this short duet appear in the Prague Symphony’s final movement and are actually the central motifs of the whole movement. It is really cool that Mozart left that hidden detail for the people of Prague, as it must have brought them so much joy when they recognized the familiar theme. The top image is the beginning of the frantic duet from my Dad’s score of “Le Nozze di Figaro,” and the second image is the beginning of the Finale from my score of the Prague Symphony. Listen to both of these pieces, even if it is just the beginning of each, and one can hear the motivic similarities.