10 essential pieces by the great composer |
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791) is one of the greatest and most influential composers in the history of Western music. He composed over 600 works for all musical genres of his time, including operas, concertos, symphonies, chamber music and sonatas, and excelled in all of them. Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756 and was the son of Leopold Mozart, a composer, violinist and assistant concert master at the court of Salzburg. He was a child prodigy and composed his first piece of music when he was only five years old. Leopold recognized his son’s extraordinary talents and took him on several performance tours across Europe. At 17, Mozart was hired as a musician at the court of Salzburg, but became restless and traveled in search of a better position. On a visit to Vienna in 1781 he was discharged from his post in Salzburg and chose to remain in Vienna where he composed many of his best known symphonies, concertos and operas during his later years. He died on December 5, 1791, while working at his famous Requiem, at the age of 35. Discover our selection of ten of Mozart’s best works, including a range of opera, symphony, concerto, chamber and piano masterpieces by the legendary composer.
Mozart’s best works: 10 essential pieces by the great composer
“Opening” of The Marriage Of Figaro, K492
Figaro’s wedding (The Marriage of Figaro), premiered in 1786, is a great place to begin an exploration of Mozart’s best works and the opera’s ‘Overture’ sets the mood perfectly. It seems that Mozart had the idea of staging the scandalous play by Pierre-Augustin Caron De Beaumarchais, which had already been banned in Paris and Vienna, but what is not said can sometimes be sung. A suitably adapted opera libretto by his new collaborator Lorenzo Da Ponte produced a score from the composer that matched the shifting moods of this busy, complex, and loving comedy.
Symphony No. 41 in C, K551 – Jupiter
If he kept count, Mozart could not expect his 41st Symphony to be his last – but it turned out to be so. He certainly wrote nothing more complex than this brilliant and ambitious work, whose finale offers a display of contrapuntal skill unmatched in the whole of music. However, this is not a mere demonstration of technical knowledge, but rather an eye-opening demonstration of what can be achieved by simultaneously combining thematic material in complex ways. While the rest of Symphony is first-rate, it is certainly the remarkable writing of the finale that has earned the piece the nickname of Jupiter, king of the gods.
Requiem Mass in D minor, K626
Our understanding of Mozart Requiem is inevitably colored by the fact that it was his last work and that he died before he could complete it. Mysteriously commissioned by a nobleman who wished to pass it off as his own work, as a memorial to his wife, it has given rise to a great deal of myth and conjecture. It is certain, however, that Mozart was genuinely haunted by premonitions of death when he composed it, and that it was used – at least in part – as his own requiem.
Quintet in A for clarinet and strings, K581
Mozart’s affinity for the clarinet is evident in many of his works, but particularly in the late pieces written for his friend Anton Stadler to play. the Concerto for clarinet (1791) and the Clarinet Quintet (1789) both date from Mozart’s full maturity and testify not only to Stadler’s excellence as a performer, but also to the sheer beauty that Mozart could draw from this instrument – an expressive immediacy that few later composers have equaled. Something about the more intimate scale of Quintet makes it exceptionally attractive as a sample of Mozart’s chamber music.
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K467
Mozart was a great pianist and first made a name for himself in Vienna as a composer of piano concertos which he wrote for himself to perform at public concerts. by Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major was completed on March 9, 1785, just four weeks after the completion of his dramatic Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, and is one of his best-known and technically demanding concertos. The famous “Andante” was featured in the 1967 Swedish film Elvire Madigan and, as a result, the work became widely known as the Concerto by Elvira Madigan.
Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), K620
A complex allegorical opera combining elements of magical quest and symbolic references to Freemasonry, The magic flute was Mozart’s last opera to be staged. It forms a fitting summary of the incredible variety of his art, with the diversity of music attributed to all the different characters and situations showing his exceptional range of invention and style. Alternately comic and serious, this ultimately triumphant opera is one of Mozart’s finest works.
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A, K331/K300I
Probably composed in 1783 and published the following year Mozart’s Sonata No. 11 became famous above all for its finale, the so-called “Rondo Alla Turca”, which is written in the percussive Turkish style that was well known in Vienna due to the groups of Turkish musicians who roamed the streets and played in public. Mozart also used the style in his opera Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail (The Abduction of the Seraglio) of 1782. But there is more to the Sonata than that – the opening movement is a particularly clever and charming set of variations, while the slow movement is a graceful minuet and trio. In addition to Mozart’s original version, the Sonata became known via arrangements and sets of variations, by later musicians such as Max Reger and Dave Brubeck.
Symphony No. 36 in C, K425 – Linz
Mozart’s ability to work quickly is evidenced by his so-called linz Symphony – it was composed in the Austrian town, on a return trip from Salzburg to Vienna in November 1783, to fulfill a commission from a local nobleman. It took the composer only four days to write the piece, which is a mature production full of ingenuity and compositional spirit. There are four movements: the first substantial movement begins with a slow introduction, the second is a slow movement in Sicilian rhythm (which has pastoral associations, but not necessarily of Sicilian origin), the third is a standard minuet and trio, and the fourth is an animated finale.
Clarinet Concerto in A major, K 622
by Mozart Concerto for clarinet, widely regarded as the greatest clarinet concerto and his last instrumental work, was completed in October 1791, less than two months before the composer died at the age of just 35. Mozart composed his Concerto for clarinet for the clarinetist Anton Stadler, who was Vienna’s most gifted clarinetist, and he performed the work at the premiere on October 16, 1791. It was the first clarinet concerto written by a major composer – but it was not not strictly composed for the clarinet at all. Mozart originally composed the Basset Clarinet Concerto.
Avenue Verum Corpus, K618
Mozart composed this short motet, which is only 46 bars long, during the last year of his life, while he was writing his opera. The magic flute. Hail Verum Corpus was composed to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi and was written for his friend Anton Stoll who was choir master at the parish church in Baden, Austria. The piece’s extraordinary harmonic appeal to nineteenth-century composers was such that Liszt makes transcriptions for solo piano and organ and Tchaikovsky incorporated an orchestration of Liszt’s transcription into his orchestral suite Mozartian.
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