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Mozart's Music

Updated on March 13, 2015
Joseph Lange's portrait of a 26 year-old Mozart, (considered to be the best likeness of the composer.)
Joseph Lange's portrait of a 26 year-old Mozart, (considered to be the best likeness of the composer.) | Source

Master of music

As well as being a musical prodigy and a profound master of melody, Mozart also had a deep and sincere understanding of people. Within his religious works, his operas and his concertos one hears every known emotion: grief, panic, anxiety, hope and peace. Mozart's work reflects humanity back on itself with grace and heart-rending beauty. He was, (and is,) the master of music.

The Marriage of Figaro, (Opera)

Mozart's 1786 opera, the Marriage of Figaro is expertly crafted, shining a perceptive light on all of its characters. The opera tells the story of Susanna and Figaro who are die to be married that very day. The couple's plans, however, are constantly thwarted by the arrogant count who is hell-bent on reintroducing his droit de seigneur, (or his right to have a physical affair with Susanna before she is married.) Throughout the opera, the count's plans are dashed by Figaro and Susanna, (with help from the countess, Rosina, the count's lonely and forgotten wife.) After a great deal of confusion and a web of confusing schemes and plans, the opera ends on a note of harmony and reconciliation, with the count kneeling before his wife and pleading her forgiveness for treating her so poorly.

Each character in the opera is perfectly crafted by Mozart: Figaro is impetuous and, sometimes easily led, whilst Susanna is a savvy, intelligent woman who realizes, almost instantly, that the count's motives are not above board. The count is ridden with jealousy, hatred and frustration and, yet, at the end of the opera, his cry "Contessa perdono" (countess/wife, forgive me") is full of heartfelt emotion. The countess' state of mind, and her longing for the days when her husband loved her sincerely and unconditionally, are perfectly captured in the aria "Porgi amor."

The count begs his wife to forgive him

The countess laments the loss of her husband's love

Don Giovanni, (Opera)

Mozart's opera Don Giovanni had its premiere in 1787. It tells the story of the libertine Don Giovanni, charting the last events in his life. As the opera begins, Don Giovanni is busy trying to seduce Donna Anna, However, he is caught red-handed by Donna Anna's father. In the argument that ensues, Don Giovanni mortally founds Donna Anna's father. Donna Anna, hurrying back with her betrothed, Don Ottavio, is horrified by the site of her father's dead body. As well as spending the opera trying to run from this come, Don Giovanni also tries to seduce a peasant girl Zerlina, whilst doing his utmost to avoid Donna Elvira, (a lady he left behind in another town.) At the end of the opera, Don Giovanni meets his comeuppance: he is visited by the statue of Donna Anna's deceased father. Through music of magnetic drama and tension, the statue urges Don Giovanni to change his life and repent. Don Giovanni refuses and, so, he is dragged down to hell.

Within Don Giovanni, Mozart, again, presents a fully rounded picture of human nature: whilst Don Giovanni, as a character, is arrogant and unfeeling, the music Mozart wrote for him is exquisite. Mozart paints Don Giovanni as the ultimate musical chameleon who is able to relate to all the other character, musically, on may different levels. Don Giovanni's seductive music even draws the audience in! Similarly, although Donna Elvira is angry at Don Giovanni for abandoning her, in the deepest recesses of her heart, she still loves him. Mozart highlights, beautifully, Elvira's dilemma: she so desperately wants to hate a man she loves. As well as reaching into the heart of Elvira's character, Mozart also crafts music that poignantly expresses Anna's grief, both at the loss of her father and at her inability to rely solely on Don Ottavio. Many writers down the ages have been awed by their experience of this opera. overwhelming, as it is, both musically and emotionally.


Don Giovanni tries to seduce Zerlina

Ildebrando D'Arcangelo plays Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival in 2014.
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo plays Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival in 2014. | Source

Don Giovanni is dragged down to hell

The Magic Flute, (Opera)

Unlike Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute was written for the vaudeville stage. On the surface, The Magic Flute seems like a child's fairy tale: the Prince Tamino is hounded by a snake but is saved by three mysterious women. He then meets the imposing Queen of the Night who tells him that her daughter, (Pamina,) has been kidnapped by an evil man called Sarastro. Tamino sets out to rescue Pamina, (as he has fallen in love with her,) accompanied by Papagano, (the bird catcher.) On their travels, Tamino and Papagano find out that Sarastro, (the head of a wise masonic order,) is not evil at all. Rather, it is the Queen of the Night that has questionable motives. Tamino endures a number of masonic challenges and is finally able to join with Pamina. Whilst this story sounds fantastical, it also masks a deep philosophical message about a person’s move from the darkness of ignorance and idle speculation to the light of reason and empirical truth.

Mozart was a child of the enlightenment wand was deeply moved by the emphasis the movement placed on equality and knowledge. In the sun-bathed music at the end of The Magic Flute one sees Mozart trying to pull the human species out from under its prejudices; in the light at the end of the opera all people, male and female, stand united in unity and worth.

The Queen of the Night tells Tamino her daughter has been kidnapped

The end of The Magic Flute

Some of Mozart's sacred music

  • Exsultate Jubilate, (Solo motet, K.165.)
  • Ave Verum Corpus, (Motet in D-major, K.618.)
  • Great Mass in C minor, (K.427.)
  • Requiem Mass in D minor, (K.626.)
  • Coronation Mass, (K.317.)
  • Vesperae solennes de confessore, (Vespers in C major, K.339.)

Ave Verum Corpus, conducted by Leonard Bernstein

Some of Mozart's concertos

  • Clarinet concerto in A-major, (K.622.)
  • Piano concerto No.21 in C-major, (K.467.)
  • Piano concerto No.22 in E-flat, (K.482.)
  • Piano concerto No.23 in A-major, (K.488.)
  • Violin concerto No.5 in A-major, (K.219.)
  • Bassoon concerto in B-flat major, (K.191/186e)
  • Flute and harp concerto in C-major, (K.299/297c.)

The sublime second movement of Mozart's clarinet concerto

Croce's portrait of Mozart.
Croce's portrait of Mozart. | Source
Mozart's signature.
Mozart's signature. | Source

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