Of the approximately 50 symphonies Mozart wrote, Symphony No. 40 and only one other were written in a minor key. Listeners at the time -accustomed as they were to works launched in cheerful humour - would have found the opening movement’s agitated air unexpected if not intriguing. More surprises were to follow, with an almost wrathful Minuet following the lyrical reprieve of the second movement. The work’s final movement begins with a classic example of what became known as a ‘Mannheim rocket’ - the swift arpeggiated ascent - one of many novel ideas introduced by composers of the Mannheim school. The ensuing development is, for Mozart, unusually chromatic, foreshadowing the start of the Romantic era.
Symphony No. 40 is now one of Mozart’s best known and most commented on symphonies. Wagner described the work’s finale as ‘exuberant with rapture and audacity', while Berlioz found the work filled with ‘grace, delicacy, melodic charm, and fineness of workmanship’. It has been arranged dozens of times - including jazz and heavy metal versions, while singers and pop artists from countries as diverse as Korea, Taiwan, France and Lebanon have borrowed from the symphony to create new musical hits.