Composer of the Month: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Welcome to Composer of the Month!
Each month, we celebrate the anniversary of a composer by highlighting their work and history, and giving you nice arrangements of some of the artist’s most iconic pieces that you can download directly into your Newzik library! For this second article of the series, we focus on a composer everyone knows and whose 264th birthday is celebrated today: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“I tell you before God, and as an honest man, your son is the greatest composer known to me by person and repute, he has taste and what is more the greatest skill in composition.”
Joseph Haydn to Wolfgang’s father Leopold Mozart
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A few words about Mozart
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The childhood of a musical prodigy
Mozart was born on January 27th 1756 in Salzburg, then part of the Holy Roman Empire and now in Austria. His father, Leopold Mozart, also a musician, was vice-choirmaster at the court of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Like his sister Maria-Anna, the young Wolfgang demonstrated very early an obvious gift for music. Their father quickly realized it and provided them with musical education.
Leopold understood the potential of his infant prodigies, and began to tour with them in several European cities. Thus, starting from 1762, the Mozart family traveled to Vienna, Munich and Augsburg, before leaving the Holy Roman Empire to reach Paris, London, Brussels, Geneva, Amsterdam… Each concert was an opportunity for the public to get a grasp of the fascinating skills of young Wolfgang: perfect pitch, great memory, and already some original pieces such as his Minuets KV 2, 4 and 5. A famous German character of that time, the Baron von Grimm, heard about the talented child. He decided to support the family financially and help Mozart attend the greatest salons of the Old Continent. On April 10th 1764, they left Paris to get to London.
During his trips, Mozart befriended many prominent musicians of this time, among whom Johann Christian Bach, the youngest child of the famous composer, after they met in London. It was him who first introduced Mozart to the pianoforte, invented in the beginning of the 18th century, as well as the Italian opera. In 1767, aged only 11, Mozart composed his first opera: Apollo and Hyacinthus, a Roman comedy meant to be played by the high school students of the University of Salzburg.
When he returned, Leopold taught his son counterpoint, fugue, Latin and Italian. On September 11th 1767, they traveled back to Vienna for the celebrations of the marriage of the Archduchess Maria Josepha but a smallpox epidemic was wreaking havoc among the population, eventually killing the Archduchess herself. Back in the Austrian capital, Mozart was ordered a new comic opera, which he wrote within three months: La Finta Semplice… which was ultimately not performed in Vienna due to a plot carried out by jealous musicians. He then composed another score: Bastien und Bastienne (K.50).
Mozart’s Italian period
Mozart then spent some time of his life in Italy. In Bologne, Wolfgang visited father Martini, a well-know theorist of that time. He also met famous castra Farinelli as well as other famed composer in Naples: Paisiello, Caffaro, Jommelli… All these meetings influenced and helped him develop his skills as a composer. The Pope himself got word of young Wolfgang’s talent, and decorated him with the badge of the Order of the Golden Spur.
An anecdote about Mozart’s visit to Rome remains famous today. The Sixtine Chapel “exclusively” possessed the Allegri Miserere, a musical pearl of the Classical era. While it was obviously forbidden to reproduce this work, at the risk of being excommunicated, 14-year-old Mozart was able to rewrite the score perfectly after here it only twice! Mozart’s fantastic memory was one of his best assets: he could “compose” entire works inside his head and was then able to write them on music paper without any mistakes.
Under the Archbishop Colloredo‘s, teaching, young Mozart wrote a lot of sacred music and six piano concertos. The archbishop, recently appointed, was a demanding and austere man but he payed the family generously in exchange for Wolfgang’s services. However, Mozart soon wanted more freedom in his compositions, rather than fulfilling specific orders. At the end of 1774, he put a final touch to La Finta Gardiniera for Munich, which was a great success in 1775. Wolfgang also composed the Violin concertos No.1 to No.5. The remarkable Piano Concerto n°9 was also written during that period.
W. A. Mozart’s friendships and love affairs
During a trip in Vienna, Mozart met composer Joseph Haydn. They shared a true admiration for one another. “I tell you before God, as an honest man, your son is the greatest composer known to me by person and repute; he has taste and what is more the greatest skill in composition”Haydn declared to Woflgang’s father. “Only him has the ability to make me laugh and touch me in the depths of my soul”, Mozart answered about Haydn.
At that time though, things began to change for the Mozart family at the Vienna court. In 1777, the situation became too harsh for Mozart, who decided to leave the city with his mother while the archbishop refused to grant his father a permission. After spending some time in Munich, Wolfgang and his mother went to Mannheim. In January 1778, Mozart fell in love with Aloysia Weber, daughter of Carl Maria von Weber‘s uncle. It is only because of his father compelling him to that he left Mannheim in March 1778 and settled in Paris.
In France, the Mozarts reconnected with the Baron von Grimm, and a new symphony nicknamed “Paris” (K297) was a big success. This Parisian period was however affected by a sad event: the demise of his mother Anna Maria on July 3rd 1778 in the aftermath of a typhoid. If affected, Wolfgang was however not traumatized by this event as he had already seemingly parted with his mother, often leaving her alone at home for several days. The composer then left the city, going to Nancy and Strasburg, and reaching Mannheim on November 6th 1778. Despite his father pressing him to go back to Salzburg to honor his charge, he stayed more than a month in the town, although his love for Aloysia had diminished – so as Aloysia’s love for him. He finally got back in Salzburg in January 1779.
After a brief period as Colloredo’s organist, he eventually quarreled with him following a triumphant stay in Munich. On May 9th, 1781, Mozart was insulted and discharged by the archbishop.
The dawn of a superstar
On August 4th 1782, Mozart finally married Constanze Weber, Aloysia’s sister. He was then a music teacher for wealthy families, and was experiencing an ever-growing success for instance with Die Entführung aus dem Serail (K. 384) , all of which earned him quite a lot of money. In 1784, he was made a member of the Freemasonry, and wrote a few pieces for the order. In 1786, he finished one of the most important pieces of his repertoire: The Marriage of Figaro (K. 492).
A counterpoint to this happy time of his life, his father Leopold died on May 28th 1787, which deeply affected Wolfgang (much more than the death of his mother a few years earlier). Moreover, in spite of his latest successes such as Don Giovannni (K. 527), Mozart’s finances were not well at the time. To say the least, Wolfgang was not a great accountant, and squandered all the resources he got from his work. Exhausted, in debt, ill, Mozart was also affected by the death of Emperor Joseph II, who was his protector. He then had to square with his successor Leopold II, who didn’t like the composer nor the Freemasonry. Moreover, his friend Haydn left the city for London at the time, leaving Wolfgang alone.
In July 1791, a last order was received by Mozart: willing to honor his wife’s memory, Franz Walsegg-Stuppach asked the composer for a Requiem. Mozart felt this macabre Mass would be his own, and he could never finish this final work. His wealth suddenly worsened on December 4th 1791. Vienna’s best doctors could not save him. He died of a sudden fever on December 5th 1791, and was buried in a mass grave on the next day.
Contrary to what the legend argues, this wasn’t due to any “misery” in which Mozart allegedly found himself at that time, but simply to a sanitary measure passed by the Emperor to prevent the Viennese citizens from catching diseases by going to the cemetery. The funeral took place in the Chapel of Saint-Stephan cathedral in Vienna. In Prague and Vienna, other commemorations were also organized, gathering thousands of people.
Mozart’s legacy: a considerable and diverse work
Mozart’s work is particularly impressive, all the more so as he died very young. He composed not fewer than 12 operas, 41 symphonies, 17 concertos, 23 string quartets, 43 violin sonatas, and many other compositions. A strong supporter of freedom of speech, Mozart had a great influence on his successors and his death left a hole in the music scene of the late 18th century, which is perfectly encapsulated by French playwriter Sacha Guitry’s famous quote:
“The silence that follows Mozart’s music is still Mozart’s music.”
And now, the music!
We focused on instrumental music in this list, but of course Mozart wrote a lot of choral pieces such as operas and Masses.
W.A. Mozart – Piano Sonata No.16 in C, “Sonata facile”
Thus, the piece seems indeed rather “simple” in terms of composition and was considered by Mozart himself as a work “for beginners”, though it is not that easy to play for actual beginners.
Challenge yourself with this free piano sheet music that can download instantly into your Newzik library! (Make sure you have installed Newzik installed on your device.)
W.A. Mozart – String Quartet No.19 in C, K465, “Dissonance”
The nickname of the quartet comes from the harmonies that are used, and that represent (a part of) Mozart’s precursor composition skills. The first movement opens with the cello, followed by the viola, and then violin I and II: a very well-made dissonance is created, and the tune in C major is only reached after the Adagio section, at the beginning of the Allegro which is still in the same movement. Chromatic scales are widely used, which reinforces this impression of controlled dissonance.
For this one, we propose you the four different parts of this string quartet as well as the full score with each of these parts (meaning 2 parts per link).
W.A. Mozart – Sonata No.19 for piano and violin in E minor (K304)
The general mood of the sonata reflects the sadness and melancholy that affected Wolfgang in the aftermath of this event. Lyrical sections alternate with more reflective and quiet themes, almost giving the work a Romantic intensity. It is besides the only piece he composed in the E minor tune. The sonata consists in two movements, one Allegro and a Tempo di minuetto.
We offer you both movements of this Mozart sonata, which you can download directly into your Newzik library.
W.A. Mozart – Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor, K466
The Allegro sounds extremely dramatic and spirited, and requires a high virtuosity. The second movement is in Bb minor, and is much more lyrical, while the third and last one forms a triumphant ending to one of Mozart’s masterpieces, which he performed himself as the soloist for its first representation.
Challenge your piano skills with the free score of this famous concerto! It requires some experience on the instrument, but we’re confident you can do it.