Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Music Appreciation Assignment 2006)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an Austrian composer and pianist who was also a child prodigy, writing music by the age of five. His style is reflected in multiple musical genres, including the symphony, sonata, concerto, chamber music, sacred music, and various types of opera. His colorful orchestration and performances for prominent figures as well as his interesting life of rebellion against his dominating father and social restrictions imposed by the patronage system influenced him to become the successful, extraordinary, awe-inspiring and innovative composer educators have chosen to study for generations.

    Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756. Mozart began composing at a young age and by age six he was playing before the Bavarian elector and the Austrian empress. His father, Leopold, thought it would be proper and profitable to set out on a tour that took them to Paris and London to showcase their skills. Mozart astonished his audiences and played to the French and English royal families. During three visits to Italy, Mozart wrote two operas (Mitridate, Lucio Silla) and a serenata for a performance in Milan while familiarizing himself with Italian styles. On a trip toVienna in 1773, Mozart wrote a set of string quartets and, on his return, wrote a group of symphonies including his two earliest, Nos.25 in G Minor and 29 in A. He visited Munich for the premiere of his opera La finta giardiniera and spent time in Salzburg, where he worked as Konzertmeister at the Prince- Archbishop’s court. His works of these years include masses, symphonies, all his violin concertos, piano sonatas, serenades and divertimentos and his first great piano concerto, K271. Seeking opportunity for recognition, his father sent him with his mother to Munich and Mannheim, where he composed for piano and flute and fell in love with Aloysia Weber. His father then dispatched him to Paris where he had minor successes, particularly with his Paris Symphony, no.31. Prospects were poor so Leopold ordered him home, where a superior post had been arranged at the court. “His mother died in Paris (Robbins Landon.” He spent years in Salzburg, playing in the cathedral and at court, composing sacred works, serenades, symphonies, concertos, and dramatic music but opera remained his sole purposeful focus. He went to Munich to compose Idomeneo, which was a success. “In it, Mozart depicted serious, heroic emotion with a richness unparalleled elsewhere in his works, with vivid orchestral writing and an abundance of profoundly expressive orchestral recitative (Rosselli).” Mozart was then summoned from Munich to Vienna, where the Salzburg court was on the eve of accession of a new emperor. Disagreement arose when his employment status was demoted to a lower, unprofitable status. Although no permanent position was forthcoming, he did become acquainted with the Viennese style of composition. His resentment towards his employer was increased by the Prince Archbishop’s refusal to let him perform at events the emperor was attending. Consequently, he resigned or was kicked out of his job. “He wanted a post at the Imperial court in Vienna, but was content to do freelance work in a city that apparently offered golden opportunities. (Gutman)” He made his living over the following years by teaching, publishing his music, playing at patrons’ houses or in public, composing to commission operas and in 1787 he obtained a minor court post as Kammermusicus, which gave him a reasonable salary and required nothing beyond the writing of dance music for court balls. He always earned, by musicians’ standards, a good income, and had a carriage and servants. Through lavish spending and poor management he suffered times of financial difficulty and had to borrow. In 1782 he married Constanze Weber, who was Aloysia’s younger sister.

In his early years in Vienna, Mozart built up his reputation by publishing sonatas for the piano and by having an opera performed, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, a German Singspiel which went far beyond the usual limits of the tradition with its long, elaborately written songs. The work was successful along with six string quartets he wrote which he dedicated to the master of the form, Haydn. “They are marked not only by their variety of expression but by their complex textures, conceived as four-part discourse, with the musical ideas linked to this freshly integrated treatment of the medium (Rosselli).” In 1782, Mozart embarked on the composition of fifteen piano concertos, so that he could appear both as composer and soloist. “They represent one of his greatest achievements, with their formal mastery, their subtle relationships between piano and orchestra and their combination of brilliance, lyricism and symphonic growth (Sadie).” In 1786 he wrote the first of his three comic operas with Lorenzo da Ponte as librettist, Le nozze di Figaro, followed by Don Giovanni, given in Prage. “Mozart treats the interplay of social and sexual tensions with keen insight into human character in the sexual comedy of Cosi fan tutte which transcends the comic framework, just as Die Zauberflöte transcends, with its elements of ritual and allegory about human harmony and enlightenment, the world of the Viennese popular theatre from which it springs (Sadie).”

Mozart lived in Vienna for the rest of his life and undertook a number of journeys to Salzburg to introduce his wife to his family, to Prague three times for concerts and operas, to Berlin where he had hopes of a post, and to Frankfurt to play at coronation celebrations. The last Prague journey was for the premiere of La clemenza di Tito. “This traditional serious opera was written for coronation celebrations, but composed with a finesse and economy characteristic of Mozart’s late music (Gutman).” Instrumental works of these years include some piano sonatas, three string quartets written for the King of Prussia, some string quintets, K516 in g Minor and one of his most nobly spacious, K515 in C. His last four symphonies included no.38 in D which was composed for Prague. The others were written with the lyricism, tragic suggestiveness and grandeur of a climax to his orchestral music. Of his forty-one symphonies, only two use minor keys and of twenty-seven piano concertos, all but two use major keys. His final works include the Clarinet Concerto and some pieces for masonic lodges, apparently influenced by masonic teachings which affected his thinking and his compositions since he had become a freemason. His last work, the Requiem was left unfinished at the time of his death in Vienna on December 5, 1791 from a feverish illness. “Mozart was buried in an unmarked grave, with little ceremony in a Vienna suburb (Robbins Landon).”

Mozart infected virtually all the great cities of Europe with the masterworks of his divine talent, performing in London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Prague, Amsterdam, Rome, Turin, Venice, and Milan. Mozart drew stimulation from his traveling to evolve more sophisticated styles which attributed to the marvelous diversity that characterized his works. He has left us with music that could easily provoke delight as well as sorrow with the all the complexities of his compositions.



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