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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”

Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756–December 5, 1791), was a prolific and influential Austrian composer of the Classical era. Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 to Leopold (1719–1787) and Anna Maria, née Pertl (1720–1778) Mozart in Salzburg, the capital of the Archbishopric of Salzburg, an ecclesiastic principality in what is now Austria, then part of the Holy Roman Empire, the youngest of seven children, five of whom died in infancy. His elder sister was Maria Anna (1751–1829), nicknamed “Nannerl.” His father, a native of Augsburg was a minor composer and an experienced teacher, who in 1743 had been appointed as fourth violinist in the musical establishment of Count Leopold Anton von Firmian, the ruling Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Four years later, he married Anna Maria in Salzburg. During the year of his son’s birth, Leopold published a violin textbook, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, which achieved success. Leopold became the orchestra’s deputy Kapellmeister in 1763. When Nannerl was seven, she began keyboard lessons with her father while her three-year-old brother looked on. By the age of three Wolfgang was playing the clavichord, and at four he began writing short compositions. In his early years, Mozart’s father was his only teacher. Along with music, he taught his children languages and academic subjects. Young Wolfgang gave his first public performance at the age of five at Salzburg University, and at the age of seven, he picked up a violin at a musical gathering and sight-read the second part of a work with complete accuracy, despite his never having had a violin lesson.

During Mozart’s youth, his family made several European journeys in which he and Nannerl performed as child prodigies. These began with an exhibition, in 1762, at the court of the Prince-elector Maximilian III of Bavaria in Munich, and at the Imperial Court in Vienna and Prague. A long concert tour spanning three and a half years followed, taking the family to the courts of Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, The Hague, again to Paris, and back home via Zurich, Donaueschingen, and Munich. During this trip, Mozart met a number of musicians and acquainted himself with the works of other composers. A particularly important influence was Johann Christian Bach, whom Mozart visited in London in 1764 and 1765. The family again went to Vienna in late 1767 and remained there until December 1768. After one year in Salzburg, Leopold and Mozart set off for Italy, leaving Mozart’s mother and sister at home. This travel lasted from December 1769 to March 1771. As with earlier journeys, Leopold wanted to display his son’s abilities as a performer and a rapidly maturing composer. Mozart met Josef Mysliveček and Giovanni Battista Martini in Bologna and was accepted as a member of the famous Accademia Filarmonica. In Rome, he heard Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere twice in performance in the Sistine Chapel and wrote it out from memory, thus producing the first unauthorized copy of this closely guarded property of the Vatican.

In Milan, Mozart wrote the opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770), which was performed with success. This led to further opera commissions. He returned with his father later twice to Milan (August–December 1771; October 1772 – March 1773) for the composition and premieres of Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772). Leopold hoped these visits would result in a professional appointment for his son in Italy, but these hopes were never realized. Toward the end of the final Italian journey, Mozart wrote the first of his works to be still widely performed today, the solo motet Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165. After finally returning with his father from Italy on March 13, 1773, Mozart was employed as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg, Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo.. Between April and December 1775, Mozart developed an enthusiasm for violin concertos, producing a series of five, the only ones he ever wrote). The last three are now staples of the repertoire. In 1776 he turned his efforts to piano concertos, culminating in the E-flat concerto K. 271 of early 1777, considered by critics to be a breakthrough work.

Despite these artistic successes, Mozart grew increasingly discontented with Salzburg and redoubled his efforts to find a position elsewhere. One reason was his low salary. Also, Mozart longed to compose operas, and Salzburg provided only rare occasions for these. The situation worsened in 1775 when the court theater was closed. Two long expeditions in search of work interrupted this long Salzburg stay: Mozart and his father visited Vienna from July to September 1773, and Munich from December 1774 to March 1775. Neither visit was successful, though the Munich journey resulted in a popular success with the premiere of Mozart’s opera La finta giardiniera. In August 1777, Mozart resigned his Salzburg position and in September ventured out once more in search of employment, with visits to Augsburg, Mannheim, Paris, and Munich. Mozart became acquainted with members of the famous orchestra in Mannheim, the best in Europe at the time. He also fell in love with Aloysia Weber, one of four daughters in a musical family. There were prospects of employment in Mannheim, but they came to nothing, and Mozart left for Paris to continue his search. One of his letters from Paris hints at a possible post as an organist at Versailles, but Mozart was not interested in such an appointment. Mozart’s mother was taken ill and died on July 3, 1778.

While Mozart was in Paris, his father was pursuing opportunities for his son back in Salzburg. With the support of local nobility, Mozart was offered a post as court organist and concertmaster, but he was reluctant to accept. After leaving Paris in September 1778, he tarried in Mannheim and Munich, still hoping to obtain an appointment outside Salzburg. In Munich, he again encountered Aloysia, now a very successful singer, but she was no longer interested in him. Mozart finally reached home in January 1779 and took up the new position. Among the better known works that Mozart wrote on the Paris journey are the A minor piano sonata, K. 310/300d and the “Paris” Symphony (No. 31); these were performed in Paris on June 12 and 18, 1778. In January 1781, Mozart’s opera Idomeneo premiered with “considerable success” in Munich. The following March, Mozart was summoned to Vienna, where his employer, Archbishop Colloredo, was attending the celebrations for the accession of Joseph II to the Austrian throne. Fresh from the adulation he had earned in Munich, Mozart was offended when Colloredo treated him as a mere servant and particularly when the archbishop forbade him to perform before the Emperor at Countess Thun’s for a fee equal to half of his yearly Salzburg salary. The resulting quarrel came to a head in May: Mozart attempted to resign and was refused, but the following month, permission was granted and the composer was dismissed. Mozart decided to settle in Vienna as a freelance performer and composer.

Mozart’s new career in Vienna began well. He performed often as a pianist, notably in a competition before the Emperor with Muzio Clementi in December 1781, and he soon established himself as the finest keyboard player in Vienna. He also prospered as a composer, and in 1782 completed the opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail (“The Abduction from the Seraglio”), which premiered in July 1782 and achieved a huge success. The work was soon being performed throughout German-speaking Europe and fully established Mozart’s reputation as a composer. Mozart moved in with the Weber family, who had moved to Vienna from Mannheim. The father, Fridolin, had died, and the Webers were now taking in lodgers to make ends meet. Aloysia was now married to the actor and artist Joseph Lange. Mozart’s interest shifted to the third Weber daughter, Constanze. The couple were married on August 4, 1782, in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The couple had six children, of whom only two survived infancy:

In the course of 1782 and 1783, Mozart became intimately acquainted with the work of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel as a result of the influence of Gottfried van Swieten, who owned many manuscripts of the Baroque masters. Mozart’s study of these scores inspired compositions in Baroque style, and later influenced his personal musical language, for example in fugal passages in Die Zauberflöte (“The Magic Flute”) and the finale of Symphony No. 41. From 1782 to 1785 Mozart mounted concerts with himself as soloist, presenting three or four new piano concertos in each season. In 1783, Mozart and his wife visited his family in Salzburg. His father and sister were cordially polite to Constanze, and the visit prompted the composition of one of Mozart’s great liturgical pieces, the Mass in C minor. Though not completed, it was premiered in Salzburg, with Constanze singing a solo part. Mozart met Joseph Haydn in Vienna around 1784, and the two composers became friends. On December 14,1784, Mozart became a Freemason, admitted to the lodge Zur Wohltätigkeit (“Beneficence”), and on various occasions he composed Masonic music, e. g. the Maurerische Trauermusik.

Despite the great success of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Mozart did little operatic writing for the next four years, producing only two unfinished works and the one-act Der Schauspieldirektor. He focused instead on his career as a piano soloist and writer of concertos. Around the end of 1785, Mozart moved away from keyboard writing and began his famous operatic collaboration with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. 1786 saw the successful premiere of The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna. Its reception in Prague later in the year was even warmer, and this led to a second collaboration with Da Ponte: the opera Don Giovanni, which premiered in October 1787 to acclaim in Prague, but less success in Vienna in 1788. The two are among Mozart’s most important works and are mainstays of the operatic repertoire today. These developments were not witnessed by Mozart’s father, who had died on May 28, 1787. In December 1787, Mozart finally obtained a steady post under aristocratic patronage. Emperor Joseph II appointed him as his “chamber composer”, a post that had fallen vacant the previous month on the death of Gluck.
In 1787 the young Ludwig van Beethoven spent several weeks in Vienna, hoping to study with Mozart, but no reliable records survive to indicate whether the two composers ever met.

Toward the end of the decade, Mozart’s circumstances worsened. Around 1786 he had ceased to appear frequently in public concerts, and his income shrank. This was a difficult time for musicians in Vienna because of the Austro-Turkish War, and both the general level of prosperity and the ability of the aristocracy to support music had declined. By mid-1788, Mozart and his family had moved from central Vienna to the suburb of Alsergrund. Mozart began to borrow money, most often from his friend and fellow Mason Michael Puchberg, and it seems that his output slowed. Major works of the period include the last three symphonies (Nos. 39, 40, and 41, all from 1788), and the last of the three Da Ponte operas, Così fan tutte, premiered in 1790. Around this time, Mozart made long journeys hoping to improve his fortunes: to Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin in the spring of 1789, and to Frankfurt, Mannheim, and other German cities in 1790. The trips produced only isolated success and did not relieve the family’s financial distress.

Mozart’s last year was, until his final illness struck, a time of great productivity—and by some accounts, one of personal recovery. He composed a great deal, including some of his most admired works: the opera The Magic Flute; the final piano concerto (K. 595 in B-flat); the Clarinet Concerto K. 622; the last in his great series of string quintets (K. 614 in E-flat); the motet Ave verum corpus K. 618; and the unfinished Requiem K. 626. Mozart’s financial situation, a source of extreme anxiety in 1790, finally began to improve. He experienced great satisfaction in the public success of some of his works, notably The Magic Flute, which was performed several times, and the Little Masonic Cantata K. 623, premiered in November 1791. Mozart fell ill while in Prague for September 1791 premiere of his opera La clemenza di Tito, written in that same year on commission for the Emperor’s coronation festivities. He continued his professional functions for some time, and conducted the premiere of The Magic Flute on 30 September. His health deteriorated on November 20, at which point he became bedridden, suffering from swelling, pain, and vomiting. Mozart was nursed in his final illness by his wife and her youngest sister, and was attended by the family doctor, Thomas Franz Closset. He was mentally occupied with the task of finishing his Requiem, but died at his home in Vienna on December 5, 1791, aged 35. The cause of Mozart’s death cannot be known with certainty. One of the most widely accepted hypotheses is that Mozart died of acute rheumatic fever.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was not only one of the greatest composers of the Classical period, but is widely recognized one of the greatest of all time in the history of Western music, showing prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. With Haydn and Beethoven he brought to its height the achievement of the Viennese Classical school. Unlike any other composer in musical history, he wrote in all the musical genres of his day and excelled in every one. His taste, his command of form, and his range of expression have made him seem the most universal of all composers; yet, it may also be said that his music was written to accommodate the specific tastes of particular audiences.He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence on subsequent Western art music is profound. Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.

My collection includes the following works by Wolfgang Mozart:

The Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384 (1782): Overture and Opera Highlights.
Adagio and Fugue, K. 546.
Andante for Flute and Orchestra in CM, K. 315.
Ascanio in Alba (1771): Overture, K. 111.
Clarinet Concerto in AM, K. 622 (1791).
Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra in BbM, K. 191
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra No. 1 in GM, K. 313
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra No. 2 in DM, K. 314
Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in CM, K. 299 (1778)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 in BbM, K. 207
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 in DM, K. 211
(Violin) Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 3 in GM, K. 216
(Violin) Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 4 in DM, K. 218
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 5 in AM, K. 219
Cosi fan tutte, K. 588 (1790): Overture, and Terzettino: Soave sia il vento, from Act 1
Don Giovanni, K. 527 (1787): Overture and Opera Highlights
Divertimento No. 7 in DM, K. 205
Divertimento No. 10 in FM, K. 247, Lodron Night Music
Eine Kleine Nachtmusic in GM, K. 525 (1787)
German Dances, K. 586
Horn Concerto No. 1 in DM, K. 412
Horn Concerto No. 2 in EbM, K. 417
Horn Concerto No. 3 in EbM, K. 447
Horn Concerto No. 4 in EbM, K. 495
Idomeneo, K. 366 (1781): Overture; No La Morte; Padre, Mio Caro Padre
Il Re Pastore: L’amero, saro cosante
The Impressario (1786): Overture, K. 486
La Clemenza di Tito (1791): Overture, K. 621
La Finta Giardiniera (1775); Overture, K. 196
Lucio Silla (1772); Overture, K. 135
The Magic Flute, K. 620 (1791): Overture; and Opera Highlights, including; Ach, ich fuhl’s.
The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492 (1786): Overture; The Letter Duet or Conzonetta sull’aria, Che soave zeffiretto; and Porgi, amor.
Oboe Concerto in CM, K. 314
Piano Concerto No. 5 in DM, K. 175 (1773)
Piano Concerto (for Two Pianos) in EbM, K. 365: Allegro (No. 1).
Piano Concerto No. 12 in AM, K. 414 (1782)
Piano Concerto No. 17 in GM, K. 453 (1784)
Piano Concerto (for Piano and Orchestra) No. 18 in BbM, K. 456 (1784)
Piano Concerto No. 19 in FM, K. 459: #1, Allegro.
Piano Concerto No. 20 in dm, K. 466
Piano Concerto (for Piano and Orchestra) No. 21 in CM, K. 467 (1785)
Piano Concerto No. 22 in EbM, K. 482
Piano Concerto No. 23 in AM, K. 488
Piano Concerto No. 26 in DM, K. 537, Coronation (1788)
Piano Concerto No. 27 in BbM, K. 595
Rondo (for piano and orchestra) in DM, K. 382 (1782)
Rondo for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 in BM, K. 269
Salzburger Symphony No. 1, Divertimento in DM, K. 136 (1772)
Salzburger Symphony No. 2, Divertimento, K. 137
Salzburger Symphony No. 3, Divertimento in FM, K. 138 (1772)
Serenade No. 4 in DM, K. 203
Serenade No. 6 in DM, K. 239, Serenata Notturna; (1776)
Serenade No. 7 in DM, K. 250, Haffner (1776)
Sinfonia Concertante in EbM for Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, and Orchestra, K. 297b (1778)
Sinfonia Concertante in EbM for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, K. 364 (1780)
(Musical) Sleigh Ride.
Symphony No. 18 in FM, K. 130; 4
Symphony No. 19 in EbM, K. 132
Symphony No. 21 in AM, K. 134
Symphony No. 25 in gm, K. 183
Symphony No. 29 in AM, K. 201
Symphony No. 30 in DM, K. 202;
Symphony No. 31 in DM, K. 297, Paris (1778)
Symphony No. 33 in BM, K. 319 (1779)
Symphony No. 35 in DM, K. 385, Haffner (1782/1783)
Symphony No. 36 in CM, K. 425, Linz (1783)
Symphony No. 38 in DM, K. 504, Prague (1786)
Symphony No. 39 in EbM, K. 543, Schwanengesang (1788)
Symphony No. 40 in gm, K. 550 (1788)
Symphony No; 41 in CM, K. 551, Jupiter
Symphony No. 54 in BM, K. 74g
Two Marches (CM, K. 214, DM, K. 215)

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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