Mozart

Mozart

[moht-sahrt]
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-91, Austrian composer, b. Salzburg. Mozart represents one of the great peaks in the history of music. His works, written in almost every conceivable genre, combine luminous beauty of sound with classical grace and technical perfection.

Early Years

A remarkable prodigy, Mozart was taught to play the harpsichord, violin, and organ by his father, Leopold, and began composing before he was five. When Mozart was six, he and his older sister, Marianne, were presented by their father in concerts at the court of the Empress Maria Theresa in Vienna and in the principal aristocratic households of central Europe, Paris, and London. His progress as a composer was amazing; by the age of 13 he had written concertos, sonatas, symphonies, a German operetta, Bastien und Bastienne (1768), and an Italian opera buffa, La finta semplice (1769). During a tour in Italy (1768-71) he absorbed Italian style, received great acclaim for his concerts in Rome and other major cities, and successfully produced his opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770).

In 1771 Mozart was appointed concertmaster to the archbishop of Salzburg. However, he was dissatisfied with his position and the restrictions placed on his work, and after six years he went on tour in search of a better post. He traveled with his mother, visiting numerous cities, including Munich, Mannheim (where he fell in love briefly with the singer Aloysia Weber), and Paris. Despite the successful performance in Paris of his Symphony in D (1778), known as the Paris Symphony, Mozart did not receive much attention there.

Maturity

After resuming his post at Salzburg in 1779, Mozart composed Idomeneo (1781) for the Bavarian court. One of the best examples of 18th-century opera seria, it marks the first opera of Mozart's maturity. In the year of its production he resigned from the archbishop's service and moved to Vienna, where in 1782 he married Constanze Weber, the sister of Aloysia. Financial difficulties beset him almost immediately, since he was unable to secure a suitable position and had to earn his living by teaching and giving public concerts.

In Vienna, Mozart met Haydn, and the two developed a long and warm friendship that benefited the work of each. Mozart's six string quartets (1782-85) dedicated to Haydn are testimony of his influence. Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio, 1782), a singspiel combining songs and German dialogue, brought Mozart some success.

The Viennese court opera was dominated by Italian tradition, and in his next operas Mozart turned to the style of the Italian opera buffa. With the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte he created the comic masterpiece Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, 1786), which, after a lukewarm reception in Vienna, became a sensation in Prague. From that city also came the commission that resulted in Don Giovanni (1787). Although it has come to be regarded as one of the most brilliant operas ever written, it was considered rather difficult by his public, which preferred his more frivolous works.

At the death of Gluck (1787), Mozart succeeded him as chamber musician and court composer to Joseph II. His salary was far less than Gluck's had been, however, and his financial troubles persisted to the end of his life. An example of the elegant pieces written for social occasions at this time is the famous serenade for strings, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1787).

Last Works

In the space of three months in 1788 Mozart composed his last three symphonies—No. 39 in E Flat, No. 40 in G Minor, and No. 41 in C, called the Jupiter Symphony; they all display a complete mastery of classical symphonic form as established by Haydn. In 1789 Mozart traveled to Berlin, where he was presented to King Frederick William II. Mozart's last three string quartets (1789-90) were written for the king, an accomplished cellist. Returning to Vienna, Mozart composed his clarinet quintet (1789); his last opera buffa, Così fan tutte (1790), and his last piano concerto, the Piano Concerto in B Flat (1791).

In Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute, 1791), with libretto by the actor Emmanuel Schikaneder, Mozart returned to the German opera in the singspiel, bringing this form of light musical entertainment to a height of lyrical and symbolic art. Its composition was interrupted by a commission from a wealthy nobleman for a requiem mass and by the composition of La Clemenza di Tito (1791), an opera seria for the coronation of Leopold II as king of Bohemia.

After the production of Die Zauberflöte, Mozart worked feverishly on the requiem, with the foreboding that it would commemorate his own death. He died at the age of 35 without finishing it; the work was completed by his pupil Franz Süssmayr. A thematic catalog of Mozart's works was made by Ludwig von Köchel and published in 1862; an edition revised by Alfred Einstein appearing in 1937. Mozart's works are usually identified by their numbers in this list.

Leopold Mozart

Mozart's father Leopold, 1719-87, besides being the teacher and promoter of his famous son, was a capable composer and author of A Treatise on the Fundamental Problems of Violin Playing (1756; tr. 1951), of interest today as a record of 18th-century musical practice.

Bibliography

See W. A. Mozart's letters, ed. by E. Anderson (tr., 2 vol., 2d ed. 1966), and selected letters, ed. by R. Spaethling (tr., 2000); biographies by O. Jahn (tr. 1891, 3 vol.; repr. 1970), A. Einstein (4th ed. 1959), O. E. Deutsch (2d ed. 1965), E. Blom (rev. ed. 1937, repr. 1985), M. Solomon (1995), P. Gay (1999), R. W. Gutman (2000), and J. Rushton (2006); studies on his quartets by T. F. Dunhill (1927), his operas by E. J. Dent (2d ed. 1947, repr. 1970), his symphonies by G. de Saint-Foix (tr. 1947, repr. 1968); J. Liebner, Mozart on the Stage (1972, repr. 1980), H. C. Robbins Landon, Mozart's Last Year (1988, repr. 1999); W. Stafford, The Mozart Myths (1991).

orig. Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart

(born Jan. 27, 1756, Salzburg, Archbishopric of Salzburg—died Dec. 5, 1791, Vienna) Austrian composer. Son of the violinist and composer Leopold Mozart (1719–87), he was born the year of the publication of Leopold's best-selling treatise on violin playing. He and his older sister, Maria Anna (1751–1829), were prodigies; at age five he began to compose and gave his first public performance. From 1762 Leopold toured throughout Europe with his children, showing off the “miracle that God allowed to be born in Salzburg.” The first round of touring (1762–69) took them as far as France and England, where Wolfgang met Johann Christian Bach and wrote his first symphonies (1764). Tours of Italy followed (1769–74); there he first saw the string quartets of Joseph Haydn and wrote his own first Italian opera. In 1775–77 he composed his violin concertos and his first piano sonatas. His mother died in 1779. He returned to Salzburg as cathedral organist and in 1781 wrote his opera seria Idomeneo. Chafing under the archbishop's rule, he was released from his position in 1781; he moved in with his friends the Weber family and began his independent career in Vienna. He married Constanze Weber, gave piano lessons, and wrote The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782) and many of his great piano concertos. The later 1780s were the height of his success, with the string quartets dedicated to Haydn (who called Mozart the greatest living composer), the three great operas on Lorenzo Da Ponte's librettos—The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and Così fan tutte (1790)—and his superb late symphonies. In his last year he composed the opera The Magic Flute and his great Requiem (left unfinished). Despite his success, he always lacked money (possibly because of gambling debts and a fondness for fine clothes) and had to borrow heavily from friends. His death at age 35 may have resulted from a kidney infection. No other composer left such an extraordinary legacy in so short a lifetime.

Learn more about Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus with a free trial on Britannica.com.

orig. Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart

(born Jan. 27, 1756, Salzburg, Archbishopric of Salzburg—died Dec. 5, 1791, Vienna) Austrian composer. Son of the violinist and composer Leopold Mozart (1719–87), he was born the year of the publication of Leopold's best-selling treatise on violin playing. He and his older sister, Maria Anna (1751–1829), were prodigies; at age five he began to compose and gave his first public performance. From 1762 Leopold toured throughout Europe with his children, showing off the “miracle that God allowed to be born in Salzburg.” The first round of touring (1762–69) took them as far as France and England, where Wolfgang met Johann Christian Bach and wrote his first symphonies (1764). Tours of Italy followed (1769–74); there he first saw the string quartets of Joseph Haydn and wrote his own first Italian opera. In 1775–77 he composed his violin concertos and his first piano sonatas. His mother died in 1779. He returned to Salzburg as cathedral organist and in 1781 wrote his opera seria Idomeneo. Chafing under the archbishop's rule, he was released from his position in 1781; he moved in with his friends the Weber family and began his independent career in Vienna. He married Constanze Weber, gave piano lessons, and wrote The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782) and many of his great piano concertos. The later 1780s were the height of his success, with the string quartets dedicated to Haydn (who called Mozart the greatest living composer), the three great operas on Lorenzo Da Ponte's librettos—The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and Così fan tutte (1790)—and his superb late symphonies. In his last year he composed the opera The Magic Flute and his great Requiem (left unfinished). Despite his success, he always lacked money (possibly because of gambling debts and a fondness for fine clothes) and had to borrow heavily from friends. His death at age 35 may have resulted from a kidney infection. No other composer left such an extraordinary legacy in so short a lifetime.

Learn more about Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331 (300i) is a sonata in three movements:

  1. Andante grazioso - a theme with six variations
  2. Menuetto - a minuet and trio
  3. Alla Turca: Allegretto

A typical performance takes about 24 minutes.

It is uncertain where and when Mozart composed the sonata, however Vienna or Salzburg in around 1783 is currently thought to be most likely (Paris and dates as far back as 1778 have also been suggested).

The last movement, Alla Turca, popularly known as the Turkish Rondo, is often heard on its own and is one of Mozart's best-known piano pieces. It imitates the sound of Turkish Janissary bands, the music of which was much in vogue at that time. Various other works of the time imitate this music, including Mozart's own opera The Abduction from the Seraglio. For more on Turkish music influences, see Turkish music (style).

Since all of the movements have the same tonic, the work is homotonal.

Relationships to later compositions

  • The theme of the first movement was used by Max Reger in one of his best known works, the Variations and Fugue on a theme of Mozart (1914) for orchestra.
  • Jazz musician Dave Brubeck named his own famous Turkish-influenced work with a nearly parallel title, "Blue Rondo à la Turk" on Time Out (1959).
  • A version of the Turkish Rondo appears on the album Benny Goodman Today entitled Venus H.B. (Turkish March), performed on pencil and teeth. The album was released in 1970 and recorded live in Stockholm, Sweden.

Media

All sound files are based on midi files from the Mutopia Project unless otherwise specified.

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