Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791) was the most prolific and influential composer of the Classical era.
Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death.
In his lifespan of only 35 years he composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence on subsequent Western art music is profound; Ludwig van Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was not only one of the greatest composers of the Classical period, but one of the greatest of all time. Surprisingly, he is not identified with radical formal or harmonic innovations, or with the profound kind of symbolism heard in some of Bach’s works. Mozart’s best music has a natural flow and irresistible charm, and can express humor, joy or sorrow with both conviction and mastery. His operas, especially his later works, are brilliant examples of high art, as are many of his piano concertos and later symphonies. Even his lesser compositions and juvenile works feature much attractive and often masterful music.
Mozart was the last of seven children, of whom five did not survive early childhood. By the age of three he was playing the clavichord, and at four he began writing short compositions. Young Wolfgang gave his first public performance at the age of five at Salzburg University, and in January, 1762, he performed on harpsichord for the Elector of Bavaria. There are many astonishing accounts of the young Mozart’s precocity and genius. At the age of seven, for instance, he picked up a violin at a musical gathering and sight-read the second part of a work with complete accuracy, despite his never having had a violin lesson.
In the years 1763 – 1766, Mozart, along with his father Leopold, a composer and musician, and sister Nannerl, also a musically talented child, toured London, Paris, and other parts of Europe, giving many successful concerts and performing before royalty. The Mozart family returned to Salzburg in November 1766. The following year young Wolfgang composed his first opera, Apollo et Hyacinthus. Keyboard concertos and other major works were also coming from his pen now.
In 1769, Mozart was appointed Konzertmeister at the Salzburg Court by the Archbishop. Beginning that same year, the Mozarts made three tours of Italy, where the young composer studied Italian opera and produced two successful works, Mitridate and Lucio Silla. In 1773, Mozart was back in Austria, where he spent most of the next few years composing. He wrote all his violin concertos between 1774 and 1777, as well as Masses, symphonies, and chamber works.
In 1780, Mozart wrote his opera Idomeneo, which became a sensation in Munich. After a conflict with the Archbishop, Mozart left his Konzertmeister post and settled in Vienna. He received a number of commissions now and took on a well-paying but unimportant Court post. In 1782 Mozart married Constanze Weber and took her to Salzburg the following year to introduce her to his family. 1782 was also the year that saw his opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail staged with great success.
In 1784, Mozart joined the Freemasons, apparently embracing the teachings of that group. He would later write music for certain Masonic lodges. In the early- and mid-1780s, Mozart composed many sonatas and quartets, and often appeared as soloist in the fifteen piano concertos he wrote during this period. Many of his commissions were for operas now, and Mozart met them with a string of masterpieces. Le nozze di Figaro came 1786, Don Giovanni in 1787, Così fan tutte in 1790 and Die Zauberflöte in 1791. Mozart made a number of trips in his last years, and while his health had been fragile in previous times, he displayed no serious condition or illness until he developed a fever of unknown origin near the end of 1791.
Symphony No. 36 in C major, K. 425
This sympony – also known as the Linz Symphony – was written during a stopover in the Austrian town of Linz on Mozart’s and his wife’s way back home to Vienna from Salzburg in late 1783. The entire symphony was written in four days to accommodate the local count’s announcement, upon hearing of the Mozarts’ arrival in Linz, of a concert. However, the symphony shows no signs of haste. It is especially concisely worked out. The première in Linz took place on 4 November 1783.
There are 4 movements:
Adagio — Allegro spiritoso
Symphony No. 38 in D major, K. 504
This sympony was composed in late 1786. It was premiered in Prague on January 19, 1787, during Mozart’s first visit to the city. Because it was first performed in Prague, it is popularly known as the Prague Symphony. Mozart’s autograph thematic catalogue records December 6, 1786, as the date of completion for this composition.
The work has the following three movements, all three of which are in sonata form.
1. Adagio—Allegro, 4/4
2. Andante in G major, 6/8
3. Finale (Presto), 2/4
Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major, K. 543
This symphony was completed on 26 June 1788. It is the first of a Mozart’s three last symphonies composed in rapid succession during the summer of 1788. No. 40 was completed 25 July and No. 41 on 10 August. Perhaps Mozart composed the three symphonies as a final unified work.
There are four movements:
Adagio – Allegro
Andante con moto
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, KV. 550
This symphony was completed on 25 July 1788. It is sometimes referred to as the “Great G minor symphony”. Mozart only wrote two symphonies in minor.
The symphony was composed in just a few weeks. The work is in four movements
Finale, allegro assai
Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551
This symphony was completed on 10 August 1788. It was the last symphony that Mozart composed, and also the longest. The work is nicknamed the Jupiter Symphony. This name stems not from Mozart but rather was likely coined by the impresario Johann Peter Salomon in an early arrangement for piano.
The four movements are arranged in the traditional symphonic form:
Menuetto: Allegretto – Trio
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major K. 211
This concerto was composed in 1775. There are three movements:
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216
This was composed in Salzburg in 1775 when Mozart was only 19 years old. It has three movements:
III. Rondeau. Allegro
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K. 218
This concerto was composed in 1775 in Salzburg. There are three movements:
2 Andante cantabile
3 Rondeau. Andante grazioso – Allegro ma non troppo
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219
This concerto is often referred to as the Turkish. It was written in 1775, premiering during the holiday season that year in Salzburg. It follows the typical fast-slow-fast musical structure:
Allegro Aperto – Adagio – Allegro Aperto
Rondeau – Tempo di Minuetto
Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major K. 449
This was finished on February 9 1784. This concerto is regarded as being the first of the mature series of concertos. Some commentators valued it as one of the best, particularly as all three movements are of the highest standard.
This concerto has three movements:
Allegro ma non troppo
Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major, KV. 456
This concertante work for piano and orchestra is dated 30 September 1784. The concerto is in three movements:
Andante in G minor
Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, KV 459
This concerto was finished 11 December 1784. The concerto was written for Mozart to perform himself. It combines grace with vigour. There are three movements:
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466
This was written in 1785 and first performed by Mozart at the Mehlgrube Casino in Vienna on February 11, 1785. The movements are:
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467
This was completed on March 9, 1785, four weeks after the completion of the previous D minor concerto, K. 466.
The concerto has three movements:
Allegro vivace assai
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major, K. 482
This concertante work for piano and orchestra was composed in December 1785. This is the first piano concerto of Mozart’s to include clarinets. It has the following 3 movements:
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K. 488)
This concerto for piano and orchestra was finished on March 2, 1786, around the time of the premiere of his opera, The Marriage of Figaro. It was one of three subscription concerts given that spring and was probably played by Mozart himself at one of these.
The concerto has three movements:
Allegro assai – Rondo
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491
This concerto for piano and orchestra was completed on 24 March 1786, just three weeks after No. 23. The premiere was on 7 April 1786 at the Burgtheater, Vienna. The concerto has the following three movements:
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503
This concerto was completed on December 4, 1786, alongside the Prague Symphony, K. 504. Although two more concertos (K. 537 and K. 595) would later follow, this work is the last of the twelve great piano concertos written in Vienna between 1784 and 1786.
Though the orchestra lacks clarinets, it does include trumpets and timpani. The concerto is one of Mozart’s longest, with a duration of about 33 minutes.
It has the following three movements:
Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major, K. 537
This was completed on 24 February 1788. It is generally known as the “Coronation” Concerto.
The concerto has the following three movements:
Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595
This is Mozart’s last piano concerto; it was first performed early in 1791, the year of his death. It has the following three movements:
Mozart’s Clarinet concerto in A major, K. 622
This concerto was written in 1791, shortly before Mozart’s death, for the clarinetist Anton Stadler. The concerto is notable for its delicate interplay between soloist and orchestra, and for the lack of overly extroverted display on the part of the soloist. It consists of the usual three movements, in a fast–slow–fast form:
Quintet in A major for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581
This was written in 1789 for the clarinetist Anton Stadler. It was Mozart’s only completed clarinet quintet, and is one of the earliest and best-known works written especially for the instrument. It remains to this day one of the most admired of the composer’s works.
There are four movements:
3 Menuetto – Trio I – Trio II
4 Allegretto con Variazioni