Young Wolfgang, his father Leopold and sister Nannerl
Mozart is widely recognized as one of the greatest composers in the history of music. Along with Haydn and Beethoven, he helped bring the Viennese Classical style of the 18th-century to its greatest achievement. Mozart was a genius. He was a versatile composer who wrote masterpieces in all the musical forms of his time: symphonies, string quartets, concertos for various instruments, masses, chamber music and operas.
Mozart's music 'sings', and conveys ease, gracefulness, and spontaneity as well as balance, restraint, and proportion. It fuses elegance with power. Our listening example is one that is used often in today's popular culture and recognized by many.
Mozart at age 13 Mozart's sister Nannerl
LISTEN FOR . . .
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is a serenade that demonstrates the qualities of classical music.
The short introduction has an upward moving theme that reverses and then moves downward.
The main theme begins by "hovering" around the first note in the scale before moving on in a rising sequence.
Repetition allows the listener to become familiar with the melody.
The lively rhythm creates excitement and forward motion in the music.
VOCABULARY WORDS: Chamber music - music written to be performed in a small setting rather than on concert stage. Serenade - a piece of music sung or played in the open air, usually at night.
Music Listening Example:
Symphony No. 40 in G Minor
In the 1700's, children dressed in the same styles as adults.
Did you know that Mozart was one of the first super-stars? Mozart was one of the most amazing child prodigies in history. He wasborn in Salzburg, Austria. By the age of six, he could play the harpsichord and violin, improvise complex forms of music, write dances called minuets, and read music perfectly at first sight. At eight, he wrote a symphony; at eleven, an oratorio; and at age twelve, he wrote his first opera.
Mozart's father, Leopold, a court musician, was eager to show him off. Between the ages of six and fifteen Mozart was continually on tour. He played for Empress Maria Theresa in Vienna, King Louis XV at Versailles, King George III in London, and many aristocrats. On his trips to Italy he mastered the current style of opera. Mozart began his life as an international celebrity!
Salzburg is on the central western border. Vienna is in northeast Austria.
The Mozart family
SOCIAL STUDIES CONNECTION:
What was happening in the rest of the world while Mozart performed for kings and queens?
Here in America, our colonists were fighting the British army in the Revolutionary War to gain our independence from England and King George III. General George Washington became our first president. France also went through a revolution to gain more freedom and equality for its citizens.
Mozart witnessed a time of great upheaval, turmoil and revolution in many European countries. Before, musicians were considered to be servants who worked in the service of someone higher up in social status, such as the nobility. By the time Mozart reached adulthood, he was discontent to be considered a servant. He believed he should be able to make his own decisions about his career and his music.
This is what a classical orchestra would have looked like.
As a child, Mozart played on a harpsichord because pianos were still being developed. By the time Mozart was in his early twenties, pianos had begun to replace harpsichords.
An early fortepiano
LISTEN FOR . . . Our listening example is another of Mozart's compositions that can be heard in popular culture. Symphony No. 40 in G Minor is the most passionate and dramatic of Mozart's symphonies. It is almost romantic in emotional intensity and may have influenced the music of Beethoven.
The first movement conveys a feeling of controlled agitation. A pulsing accompaniment in the strings adds to the tension of the first theme.
The rhythm is dominated by a three-note pattern of short-short-long. This persistent pattern gives the music a sense of urgency.
A second, contrasting theme sounds calmer and more lyrical (song-like). The excitement returns at the end with furious tension.
VOCABULARY WORD: Prodigy - a child who is extremely talented in the fine arts.
Music Listening Example:
Turkish March (Rondo Alla Turca)
Turkish style influenced many areas of life in the late 1700's.
Part of Mozart's genius was his ability to create a complete work of finished music in his head before ever writing down a note. He was able to create compositions rapidly, and each was perfect. As a young adult, he felt his creativity was being held back by his first employer, the archbishop of Salzburg. And, he could not tolerate being treated as a servant. So, at age twenty-five Mozart left Salzburg and moved to Vienna to work as a successful free-lance composer, teacher and performer.
An original handwritten music score by Mozart
During the Classical era of the late 1700's, Vienna, Austria was the music capital of Europe. Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven were all working there. In a city of 250,000, Mozart's music reached a wide range of audiences, from royalty to everyday workers. His tuneful melodies were easy to remember and made their way into many walks of life.
Our listening example is from Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11. This three-movement work is best known for the lively third movement. It is marked "Alla Turca", popularly known as the "Turkish March". It is often heard on its own and is one of Mozart's best-known piano pieces. It imitates the sound of Turkish military bands. The "Turkish style" was popular not only in music, but in other art forms and clothing styles.
Turkish costume from the film Amadeus
LISTEN FOR . . .
The form, or organization of this piece is called rondo and has five contrasting sections. Each section has its own melody, rhythm and character.
The sections are labeled A-B-C-D-E-C-A-B-C-coda. (The coda is like a tail ending.) Can you tell when one section ends and the next begins?
Music Listening Example: "Papageno, Papagena" duet from
The Magic Flute Opera (Die Zauberflote)
A scene with Papageno from The Magic Flute
Mozart is well-known for his operas, which include (to name only a few)
The Abduction from the Seraglio based on a Turkish rescue theme The Marriage of Figaro a comedy where servants trick their masters Cosi Fan Tutte in other words, "Women Are Like That" Don Giovanni a Spanish Don Juan is visited by a "ghost"
At a time when most operas were written in Italian, Mozart wrote in his native language, German. He set a new trend in opera ensembles by having six to eight singers across the stage, singing together at the same time, but with different words, melodies and subjects. Yet, he somehow turned it into a cohesive work of musical art. Mozart's student and friend, Samuel Shikaneder, wrote the libretto, or words,for The Magic Flute.
Mozart's fun-loving sense of humor is present in The Magic Flute, his last opera, which is a comedy based on a fairy tale about a prince and a bird catcher who each hopes to find a wife. Gifted with a magic flute and a set of magic bells, they embark on a series of adventures that will lead them to the end of their quest.
LISTEN FOR . . .
The persistent repetition of "Pa-" at the beginning reminds us of birds chirping.
The bells played by Papageno are actually played by a professional in the orchestra, on either a glockenspiel, (orchestra bells), or on a celeste, a small piano that produces a light, bell-like sound.
Emanuel Shikaneder, librettist, as the first Papageno in 1791
VOCABULARY WORDS: Opera - a large musical form with singers and instrumental accompaniment that tells a story, with acting, costumes and scenery. Libretto - the words sung in an opera
Music Listening Example:
Piano Concerto No. 9
and Other Masterpieces
Mozart's place of birth in Salzburg
Mozart died of ill health just before his thirty-six birthday. Because of his debts, he was given a pauper's funeral in a mass grave. To this day no one knows exactly where Mozart was buried.
However, his music lives on throughout the world. It is heard often in various areas of popular culture and is used in music therapy. There is even research on the "Mozart effect" which suggests that listening to Mozart can make you smarter, and that early childhood exposure to classical music improves mental development.