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Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? A Brief Introduction

May 13, 2024

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is considered one of the greatest musical composers to have ever lived. He resided in Salzburg and Vienna in the latter half of the 18th century.

One of the hallmarks of his brief career is that he successfully wrote for all musical genres of the time, including opera, symphony, and chamber works.  In total, he composed more than 600 works, a particularly monumental feat considering that he died at the age of 35.

The Classical Era

Building from the Baroque Era (link to the Baroque post) which came before it, the Classical period focused on an aesthetic of elegance and simplicity. While Baroque composers incorporated ornamentation and grandiosity in their works, Classical composers were more likely to use simple melodies within defined structures that developed in tonality, tempo, and expression. During the time, there was a newfound appreciation for fifth-century Greek artists, and this influence impacted music by prioritizing order and form. 

While audiences in much of the Baroque Era experienced music in private chambers, the idea public concerts for middle-class audiences was introduced in the Classical Era. Many composers still worked for royal courts, but the increased accessibility to performances widened the exposure of these musical works.

Notable Works

The Marriage of Figaro (1786)

This comedic opera is based on Beaumarchais’  play of the same title, which is a sequel to his play The Barber of Seville, and it was an immediate success. Although the German translation of the play was banned to be performed in Vienna, Lorenzo da Ponte intentionally omitted the more inflammatory parts of the work in the libretto. The story follows a handful of characters whose romantic desires conflict and intertwine. Ultimately, after foiled plots, wild chases, and reconciliations, all ends well. 

Don Giovanni (1787)

Following the success of The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart collaborated again with librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte in the dramatic opera Don Giovanni. The work was premiered in Prague nd tells the legend of the infamous womanizer, Don Juan, and his downfall  with elements of comedy sprinkled throughout the work.

Quintet in A major for Clarinet, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, K. 581 (1789)

This clarinet quintet is one of several works written for Mozart’s friend, clarinetist Anton Stadler, who inspired the composer to write several great works for the instrument, including the Kegelstadt Trio, K. 498 for clarinet, viola, and piano, and the Clarinet Concerto, K. 622.. This was a particularly difficult year in Mozart’s life during which he struggled financially, grew ill, and lost a child. Even in these challenging circumstances, there’s a brightness to the clarinet quintet that shines through, which may reflect the importance of the positive influence of his friendship with Stadler.

To close the season, CMS offers an immersion in the timeless genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

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