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This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, so I thought it would be appropriate to do homage to him and introduce him to those who haven't heard of him (can there be anyone?)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, then a city state located between the Austrian empire and Bavaria, on 27th January 1756. His father Leopold was the vice-Kapelmeister of the Salzburg court orchestra and had seven children, only two of whom survived, Mozart and his elder sister Maria Anna.
Leopold was deeply interested in teaching music, indeed he wrote a treatise on the subject, and set about teaching Maria Anna and Wolfgang to play the clavier and violin. To his great relief, both children had inherited his musical talent.
Though the precocious Mozart started to compose bits of music aged 6, his father focused tightly on musical performance and technique. The children begin to practise for hours every day. It has been estimated by scholars that by the time he was 18, Mozart had clocked up more hours practising and playing music than most musicians twice or three times his age (and that applies to musicians of our modern age too). If genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, then his father took care of the perspiration bit. Having utter technical mastery of his intrument at a young age enabled the genius in Mozart to flow freely without being held back by technical considerations. There is no sign that the children were oppressed by all the practice, they seemed to enjoy the parental attention, however they were prone to getting ill from being exposed to the germs and diseases of Europe on tour.
Soon the children were touring Europe - by the time he was 12, Mozart had visited France, Britain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands as well as what is now the Czech republic. Each performance was rewarded, sometimes by as much as 100 ducats, so of course they tried to do as many as possible. They were received and dined with the Kings and Queens of Europe, including George III of England.
During this peroid Mozart's quick brain picks up many languages. His letters to his cousin Maria written over a considerable period of time, show him moving comfortably from German to French to Italian and back again, sometimes in the same paragraph. The letters incidently also reveal his playful, mischievous and crude side. They are full of dirty jokes and puns (he had a thing for toilet humour) - something that his later admirers tried to cover up as it contrasted so much with the elegance of his music.
In his early twenties, Mozart left his family behind in Salzburg and moved to Vienna and started work at the court of Emperor Joseph II of Austria (who famously pronounced that Mozart's work had "too many notes"). In Vienna he marries Constanze Weber, a singer, and the couple had several children, only two of whom survived.
It's in Vienna the composing talent blossoms. He starts writing operas in German, a novel innovation as the tradition up to then was to write in Italian. He is keen on new instruments - he writes major works for the early piano (which was smaller than the 19th C piano by at least two octaves. If you listen carefully, part of the difference in sound between Mozart and Chopin's piano work is due to the latter making use of the high notes of the later piano).
Mozart also composes horn and clarinet concertos for musician friends who specialised in these instruments but had no music to show off their skills. They are still the definative concert works for horn and clarinet players.
Mozart and Constanze were hopeless with money and Mozart died on 5th December 1791, a pauper, aged 35. Constanze then married a wealthy Danish diplomat and used his money and position to tour Europe, arranging performances of Mozart's work. It's largely thanks to her efforts that Mozart was not forgotten and his reputation grew.
In 1862, Ludwig Koechel published a chronological catalogue of Mozart's works, the first such scholarship done for any composer, identifying 626 works in all. Without this, undoubtedly some of the works would have been lost. All Mozart's works are now numbered and identified with a "K" number.
If you want to get an idea of Mozart's personality, it's a good idea to view the movie "Amadeus" - the juxtaposition between Mozart's playful and sometimes crude personality with his elegant music is beautifully done. However, note that he did NOT have a feud with Salieri and Salieri did not kill him - that's just license taken by the scriptwriters to make a good story. There is a mystery as to who commissioned the Requiem that Mozart wrote as he was dying. Scholars think it was commissioned by a wealthy man for the one year anniversary of his wife's death - he had intended to pass it off as his own work, hence the secrecy (it seems that the businessman concerned had a habit of pinching works). Fate intervened - Mozart died before it was finished and delivered, and it was instead played at Mozart's own funeral and acknowledged as a Mozart masterpiece.
For an introduction to Mozart's operas, I would start with The Marriage of Figaro, a lighthearted look at love above and below stairs. Most people are familiar with the beautiful Andante second movement of Mozart's piano concerto No 21 (K. 467), but it's worth listening to the whole of the concerto. If you want something deeper, try the piano concerto No 24 (K 491).
Many people dismiss Mozart as producing easy listening "muzak" - but I can only conclude that these people haven't listened to much Mozart. Under the elegant surface there is often a sadness. There arn't many requiems that can match the sense of grief of his Requiem. He does emotion better than other composers.
There have been various scientific studies looking at the effect of classical music and in particular Mozart's music, on the human psyche. There have been claims that playing Mozart to your unborn baby makes the child more intelligent. More recently it was shown that Mozart had a calming effect on people (and animals - Mozart is played by some farmers to cattle as they go into the slaughter house to calm them)- Beethoven and Wagner by contrast make people agitated and too much Chopin makes people depressive. It's something to do with the mathematical purity of Mozart's music - then again Bach's music is also mathematically pure but doesn't have the same effect, possibly because it's too cold and neglects the emotional side.
Whatever. In my opinion it is not possible to have too much Mozart and I always play some when feeling agitated as it calms me down straight away. I hope I've inspired people to seek his music out. The following bbc link will allow you to listen to Mozart online as performed by the BBC symphony orchestra.
Thanks for reading.
'Mozart is sunshine' Antonin Dvorak
Mozart is undoubtedly one of the most famous composers there ever was. His music is simply put spellbinding and has to be listened to at least once by everyyone in the course of thier lives. His abudance of talent has to be heard by all. All of Mozart's scores are individual from any of his other pieces and should be appreciated piece by piece and not at all as a whole.
For those of you who are not familar with Mozart here are a few basic facts.
FULL NAME: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
SPECIALIST MUSIC GENRES: Opera, symphonies, piano concertos, string quartets, church music.
Mozart has one of the most colourful lives of all the composers, and this is well illustrated in the film 'Amadeus' which follows his life and is well worth viewing.
---Le Nozze di Figaro---
'Le Nozze di Figaro' or more popularly known as 'The Marriage of Figaro' is a monument of western art and is one of Mozart's most widely recognised songs. Although an opera I've here tried to describe the music, as unless you buy a DVD video of the opera you would not neccessarily understand the plot (and anywhay I'd prefer to conjour up my own thoughts for the music). It starts simply with just one instrument playing a few notes gradually picking up in speed and complexity and then quickly infuses many parts of the orchestra to bring its powerful effect up to full strength for the listener. It then calms to a more gentle pace as if one section of the orchestra were talking to the other and in turn replying.
Later in the middle of the piece the conversation between the instruments gradually intensifies with one part trying to woo or persuade the other to reply gently. What you get though is a short sharp burst in reply. This gradual persuasion from one section of the orchestra to the other is attempted many times until, finally the whole orchestra is communicating harmoniously with one another and all the previous attempts bear fruition in an amazing melody.
--- Conclusion ---
If you are to get any of Mozart's songs this one is perfect to start off your classical music collection although there are so many famous and high quality scores of his to choose from. For any of you interested in purchasing the song it is cheaply available on its own or as part of a compilation CD for approximately £5 from most retailers such as Virgin or HMV. Even better is to look out for the Naxos music label as most of my classical music collection comprises of them. For £5 it is very cheap and they've practically got all the classical music ever created under there wings. Alternatively (whether its your thing) you can look in second hand shops and charity shops as they have a lot of classical CD's at a very low price(look out for scratches and the like though).
I don't know much about Mozart, but I know what I like. Everything. Buying his music is easy, because all you need is the name. If it says "Mozart", and you've not heard the piece or this particular performance of the piece before, it will be worth listening to. Sometimes astonishingly so. Mozart's music has the beauty and grace of bird-song and he seems to have created it with the same ease as a bird might have done: without conscious thought or effort. He was a stereotypical genius, in other words, creating enormous complexity and beauty in a mysterious, almost supernatural way. He's been called a conduit to the divine, for example. Only perhaps Mozart's genius isn't so mysterious after all. There seems to be a recipe for genius that works not just in music, but in sport too. The Australian cricketer Donald Bradman, who's recently died, stands out in sport as Mozart stands out in music: his batting average of 99-odd stands out in the record books like a sunflower among daffodils. No-one else even gets close. But I don't think anyone would suggest there was anything supernatural about that ability. No, it seems to have been based on natural ability plus a great deal of practice at a very young age: Bradman spent hours bouncing a ball off a wall with a cricket-stump. Mozart did the musical equivalent: his father taught him to play instruments very young and he practised them a lot. He composed then too, but his very early work isn't supposed to be very good. No, the great pieces -- the sublime ones -- came later, when he combined an adult's sensibilities with the unshakeable foundation of technique and intuition he had laid down in his childhood. And perhaps it wasn't just an adult's sensibilites, but an adult male's ones. Evolutionary biology says that because men went out hunting while women searched for fruit and tubers, men are better at throwing things and women better at n
oticing things. In other words, men are good at manipulating space and time and women are good at recognizing color and detail. Music is manipulation of space and time, and so the greatest composers and performers would have been men regardless of culture and sexism (and who have to ask where culture and sexism come from in the first place). Naturally enough then, the two composers generally recognized as the greatest of them all, Mozart and Beethoven, were male. But they weren't the same kind of male and their music isn't the same kind of music. Although his early work was heavily influenced by Mozart and is sometimes difficult to distinguish from Mozart's, Beethoven in his maturity was far, far more passionate and aggressive. In fact, passion and aggression aren't terms I would apply to Mozart at all (though some might disagree). Mozart spins and weaves gold and silver thread; Beethoven hews and erects marble and granite. And that difference in their music, and psychology, seems to be reflected in their physiology. Mozart was delicately built; Beethoven was stocky and bullet-headed. And hormones affect bodies just as they affect brains and, I suggest, the music brains create.
It is interesting that the one "Mozart" work that seems to be mentioned most is his Requiem - and that wasn't by him! Well, that's not quite true. When he died, he had completed the Requiem Aeternam and the Kyrie and had done the vocal lines and made notes on instrumentation for the next 8 parts. The last three parts were entirely written by his friend Sussmeyer who also filled out the rest of the work from Mozart's notes, but had Mozart completed it, would he have stuck to his outlines? I rather doubt it. However, it does stand as a splendid monument to an amazing man and I would in no way try to dissuade people from it. But do look at the rest of his prodigious output. If you like one piece, you are bound to like others though I do realise that some folk dislike certain genres - my wife can't stand chamber music, for instance, but that is her loss! For myself, Mozart (and Haydn) stand out as among my absolute favourites. His Piano Concertos are, without exception, the most wonderfully inventive, melodic and fluid music. I have the Barenboim/ENO set and play right through it without a break about once a month. But I simply love all his work, or at least the stuff I know, I haven't heard absolutely everything! Apart from the Magic Flute, I hardly know his operas. I wish I could afford the huge Philips "Complete Mozart", but it costs several hundred quid! Mozart died in 1791 at the age of 36. Had he lived as long as (say) Haydn, what dizzy heights would he have reached?
Mozart is a composer about whom I am in two minds. On the one hand several of his compositions are among those pieces which move me the most. His Requiem. for instance, is simply profound. And Don Giovanni is one of the only operas I can listen to at all. On the other hand, I can't stand most of his output. It's not that it isn't great music. In fact quite the opposite is true. Even in the works that I can't bear to listen to I can appreciate that Mozart's was a genius that will never be matched. Still I find something about it aggravates me. At times it all seems too sugary and twee. This is undoubtedly a product of listening to too much aggressive 20th century music; the sounds of the Classical period no longer seem to contain the same power which they must have had for their first listeners. So don't be put off. If you are a casual Classical listener then you will find some of the greatest music around in Mozart. His imagination was powerful in a way that only a handful have been - Beethoven, Stravinsky, Bach maybe - and it was matched by a technical perfection completely unrivalled. If, though, you regularly listen to Penderecki, Birtwistle, Ligeti, and find their music pallatable, then you may find that Mozart annoys the heck out of you as he frequently does me.
This man was a genius! I am 36 now and to think that I would have been dead one year frightens me, because this man fitted so much into a short life. I cannot think of superlatives good enough for mozart as he was the the greatest, he died penniless but his memory is eternal. he was a prolific composer, and all his work is just brilliant, from the recognisable to the obscure! If you are a clssical novice try this man out, and you will want more and more. died too young but simply the best look around your library and borrow a cd to start with, you will soon buy.
I'm not a classical person, I don't know any latin ( except what I read on the occasional packet of garden seeds!) I can't read music and couldn't tell my Brahms from my Orff ( well I probably could but I'm trying to make a point here!!) However Mozart's Requiem is enough to send shivers down the most heathen of spines!!! I rushed out and bought this cd after watching the film Amadeus on the tv. It cost next to nothing, there is probably a soundtrack that accompanies the film which you pay far more for but my copy just came from Woolworths classical range and is simply entitled Requiem, and I have listened to it more than any other cd I've ever purchased. There is only one way to play this and that is loud!!!!! Lie back, relax, close your eyes and just let it wash over you!!! It is the most incredibly moving exciting, exhilarating, powerful, frightening, moving piece of music I've ever heard. I cannot rate this too highly, it costs next to nothing and if it doesn't move you then nothing will .... I'm listening to it now and I think I'm going to cry.....
I couldn't even begin to write my opinion on Mozart in such a small space, I really need a whole website! Mozart's short life gave us some of the best music of his era and there is little I have listened to that affects me emotionally quite as much as his music. From the Clarinet Concerto to the piano sonatas, from quintets and masses to the beautiful Requiem, his work was ans still is regarded as amongst the best. If you listen to one piece, please make it the Requiem and bear in mind that he wrote it on his death bed. A master forever
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Allegro ma non troppo
3 Rondo. Allegro
4 Allegro (Cadenza with Michal Baranski)
5 Andante cantabile (Cadenza with Michal Baranski)
7 Horace Silver (arr. Kennedy): Creepin' In