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Music Workshop at Stony Brook

OLLI Spring 2020

Ten Great Composers – Their Lives and Their Music

Session three: February 26

The Viennese Classical Style (1750 – 1804) Part II

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Music selections

Serenade No. 13 in G Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Leopold Mozart: Toy Symphony

Piano concerto No. 23 in A K488 (first movement)

Piano Concerto No. 24 in c K491 (2nd movement Larghetto)

Variations in D on a minuet by Dupont (Alfred Brendel)

Symphony No. 35 in D “Haffner” excerpt

Symphony No. 41 in C “Jupiter” K551 (First movt. allegro vivace & final molto vivace)

The Abduction from the Seraglio (overture and opening)

The Magic Flute: Papageno’s comic aria

Don Giovanni: final scene

Cosi van Tutti – Come scoglio…Like a rock (Cecilia Bartholi)

Clarinet concerto in A

Ave Verum Corpus

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – a brief biography

Born: January 27, 1756, Salzburg; Died: December 5, 1791, Vienna

Mozart’s life has been almost overwhelmed by his legend. His genius for music was extraordinary, and perhaps unique. In the short period of thirty five years, he produced more superb music than a dozen other composers. Yet his actual life was difficult and, in the end, tragic.

As a child prodigy, Mozart was both encouraged exploited by his musician father, Leopold. The boy could compose, and play the piano and the violin by the time he was six. He could also memorize long and complicated pieces of music. As a result, Mozart and his talented sister Anna Maria were sent on tour in 1762, and Mozart never had a normal child’s life after that.

The boy played in front of the Empress Maria Theresa, and the young Marie Antoinette, and he astonished the aristocratic courts of Europe. He composed his first symphonies at the age of eight (they are still played), and created his first opera at the age of eleven.

After many of these exhausting tours, Mozart settled in Vienna in 1781, and remained there. Unlike Haydn or Salieri, he never obtained a secure job with the church or at court, perhaps because of his immature personality and dislike of discipline. He eked out a precarious living by selling his music, by giving lessons, and by borrowing money from his friends. In spite of these difficult circumstances, Mozart produced a string of masterpieces in the 1780s, including the comic operas “The Marriage of Figaro” and Don Giovanni,” forty-one symphonies, and at least nine great piano concertos as well as concertos for horn, oboe and violin.

Mozart composed so fast that it is often said that he seemed to write down works already fully-created in his mind. Yet it would be a mistake to imagine that music came to him without effort, in some miraculous way. He studied and wrote day and night, and overwork may have been responsible for his early death.

In one extraordinary year, 1788, Mozart composed his three greatest symphonies (numbers 39-41), the popular “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” (A Little Night Music), the string quartet in G minor, and the lovely Clarinet concerto in A.

He continued to compose at this breakneck speed into the last year of his life. His death, dramatized in the 1984 movie “Amadeus,” was theatrical enough. A mysterious visitor came to his door to commission a Requiem Mass. Mozart, already ill, thought that his was a summons from God. He succumbed to a terrible fever, and died a few weeks before his thirty sixth birthday. The exact location of his grave has never been identified. There is no historical truth in the story that Mozart was poisoned by a jealous Salieri.

Mozart excelled in every genre, from opera to chamber music, and he left us a legacy of immortal works. His genius for harmony and melody was unique, and his music is full of human feelings. The distinguished theologian Karl Barth wrote: “When the angels sing for God, they sing Bach; but I am sure that when they sing for each other, they sing Mozart – and God listens.”

From: David Bouchier, The World’s Great Classical Composers (1999)

Reading suggestions:

Mozart by Paul Johnson (an excellent short introduction to his life)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – a biography by Piero Melograni (new definitive biography, very comprehensive and very expensive)