Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a Classical Era composer who loved to compose operas. He was taught music by his father and became a notable touring musician (managed by his father, of course) as a young boy. He amazed audiences with his command of the piano, violin and viola, as well as his skill in composition and improvisation. He could improvise in styles of other composers before his age reached double digits.

Passions, whether violent or not, should never be expressed when they reach an unpleasant stage; and music, even in the most terrible situations, should never offend the ear, but should charm it, and always remain music.

~ Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

His gift for music composition is more natural than any other composer. His music exhibits grace, elegance, and balance in a way that has universal appeal. Unlike many composers who write and revise as they compose, Mozart did the work of composing in his mind and spoke of merely writing it on paper when it was complete in his head.

Mozart was employed by the Archbishop of Salzburg, but eventually felt stifled by composing music “on demand” rather than the music that was in his heart (mainly opera). Eventually he left the comfort of a regular salary to become a freelance musician in Vienna, a city widely known for its artistic culture.

Mozart was tremendously popular during his first several years in Vienna, and it was at Vienna that he composed much of his masterwork output, including the string quartets that he dedicated to Franz Joseph Haydn after meeting him. However, despite the genius of his music, his popularity declined, he did not manage his money well and failed to pay taxes repeatedly, and his life “in the fast lane” caused him to be viewed more as a servant than a respectable composer. He died penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave, but his music continues to inspire and soothe all who hear it.

Click here to find out what all of those K numbers mean.

Flute Quartet in D Major, K. 285

The Flute Quartet in D Major, K. 285, is one of three flute quartets that were commissioned by an amateur flutist named Ferdinand Dejean. It is a great example of Rococo style – music early in the Classical Era that retained some of the decor of the Baroque style, but added the lightness, elegance and simplicity that was to become the trademark of Classical Era music.

A flute quartet is not four flutes as one might think, but is a piece composed for flute, violin, viola and cello. In this quartet, the flute is very much a soloist while the strings add accompaniment figures.

Video: Flute Quartet in D Major, K. 285, Jasmine Choi, flute

Scenes from The Magic Flute

Papageno and the Magic Glockenspiel

This is a scene from the opera The Magic Flute, which is a fantasy filled opera with bird characters and magic instruments. In this scene, Papageno and Pamina are ambushed and nearly captured, but Papageno’s magic glockenspiel captivates their captors and they escape!

Video: Papageno and the Magic Glockenspiel from The Magic Flute

Papagena, Papageno Duet

We often think of opera as being serious, but Mozart definitely had a playful side to his comic operas. This duet shows the fun side of Mozart opera. The lyrics are fast and difficult for the singers due to the alliteration with all of the “Ps”.

Video: Papagena, Papageno Duet

Overture

This video of the Overture to the opera Magic Flute is performed on Classical Era instruments by Apollo’s Fire. This Overture is challenging on modern instruments, and it is even more so on the period flutes. This ensemble performs with the same fast, exciting tempo as a modern ensemble.

Video: Overture to The Magic Flute

Adagio for Glasharmonika, K. 356

This video is a play-along for 3 recorders by the Fredericksburg Recorders. There is link for the music, and the music is included in the video. Enjoy some lovely recorder playing, and have fun playing along!

Video: Adagio for Glasharmonika, play-along

The glasharmonika, or glass harmonica, is an instrument made of glass bowls lined up on a rod that spins (either by motor or foot pedal). The player has a bowl of water to keep their fingers wet and runs their damp fingers along the rim of the bowl to make an ethereal sound.

This video is the same adagio played on a glass harmonica – you can see the foot pedal at the beginning.

Concerto in D Major K. 314

We already learned about Mozart’s commission by Ferdinand Dejean for flute quartets. The Concerto in D Major K. 314 was delivered to Dejean as part of that commission.

The interesting part of is that Dejean commissioned Mozart to compose 4 flute quartets and 3 flute concerti. Mozart, who would much rather have been writing opera, delivered 3 flute quartets and 2 flute concerti instead! The Concerto in G Major, also delivered to Dejean, actually was composed for flute for Dejean’s commission. The Concerto in D Major was originally composed for oboe – Mozart adapted it for flute to fulfill the commission! There was some rightful dispute of the billing by Dejean over this commission.

This video features the legendary Sir James Galway performing at the Mostly Mozart festival.

Video: Concerto in D Major, James Galway, flute

Bonus Listening

Symphony 41 “Jupiter Symphonyin C Major, K. 551

This is the last symphony that Mozart composed before he died, and he may not have ever heard it performed. This video features Classical Era instruments – notice that the horns and trumpets do not have valves as do modern brass instruments; they change pitch only by moving their lips and air speed. Also notice how small the orchestra is compared to modern orchestras that we are used to seeing. By modern symphony standards it is also rather short at only 10 minutes (some Romantic Era symphonies last more than an hour!).

Video: Symphony 41 “Jupiter Symphonyin C Major, K 551

Symphony 40 in g minor, K. 550

The final movement of Mozart’s Symphony 40 in g minor, K. 550 opens with a Mannheim Rocket – an ascending arpeggio that explodes with energy at the top. The link starts the symphony right on the Mannheim Rocket. The energy of the HR Sinfonieorchester captures this technique beautifully!

Video: Symphony 40 in g minor, K. 550

Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299/297c

Mozart was commissioned to compose this double concerto (a concerto that features two instruments instead of just one) for a nobleman and his daughter. This is the only work that Mozart composed for harp, which was a relatively new instrument at the time. Unfortunately Mozart was never paid for this commission, which probably added to his lack of interest for writing for the harp!

This video features Emmanuel Pahud on flute.

Video: Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299/297c

Play Mozart’s Music!

Here are some links to flute sheet music of pieces composed by Mozart.

Ave Verum Corpus, K 618

Symphony 40 in g minor, K 550

Rondo from Divertimento 4, K 439

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