The Symphony in G minor K 550 – together with Die Kleine Nachtmusik – is one of Mozart’s most played orchestral compositions. And that although (or precisely because?) this work has provoked the most varied of interpretations. The Mozart biographer Hermann Abert heard in it the “sharpest expression of that deep, fatalistic pessimism” to which the composer fell victim in the last years of his life, while Robert Schumann emphasised the music’s “Grecian lightness and grace”.
We can hear what interpretation Louis Langrée, music director of the Mostly Mozart Festival and principal conductor of the Camerata Salzburg, prefers in this recording of his debut conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker. Davide penitente, like the overture to the opera La clemenza di Tito, is a rarely heard work by Mozart. The large-scale psalm cantata was composed in 1785, and is based on freely written prayers of penitence and repentance by an unknown poet as commissioned by the Viennese Musicians’ Society; the Society held regular benefit concerts in the Viennese Burgtheater for the care of widows and orphans, and Mozart had endeavoured to become a member of it.
When composing the cantata, the composer made use of material from his unfinished C minor Mass from 1782-83. The premiere, with a chorus of 60 singers and a truly symphonic orchestra, took place under Mozart’s own direction. Since the composer neglected, however, to present his baptismal certificate in due time, he was refused membership – despite the fact that a social insurer probably never again received such a beautiful “membership fee”.