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Awesome Music / Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may not have a name beginning with B, but he is still routinely named alongside Bach and Beethoven as one of the three greatest classical composers ever.

  • The Krönungsmesse (link to the Kyrie) is Awesome Music of Crowning.
  • He wrote a song titled "Leck mich im Arsch" which, in German, means "Kiss my ass". We need a Funny Music section for that.
  • Mozart composed his first symphony when he was eight years old; much more awesomeness followed from there.
    • No.25 in G minor, used to memorable effect in the film version of Amadeus, hits the ground running with its furious syncopated opening measures, leading straight into one of the more captivating uses of the "Mannheim rocket" (a rising arpeggio) and, eventually, to an equally frenzied second subject. If that wasn't enough, the symphony also has an affable slow movement, a stately minuet, and a dark finale that preserves the minor tonality to the very end.
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    • No.29 in A major was also used in Amadeus, its graceful falling octave opening gesture returning in style in the finale, providing a sense of unity to a charming symphony that almost has the intimacy of chamber music.
    • No.31 in D major (Paris) is a work of Mozart's early twenties from when he was job hunting in the French capital. He took advantage of the large orchestra available to him to compose his first symphony to feature clarinets, as well as flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani, and an enlarged string section. His father Leopold found it a noisy symphony, but it is a glorious showcase of Mozart's gift for melody and orchestration.
    • No.35 in D major is nicknamed the Haffner after the Salzburg family who commissioned it for the ennoblement of one of their members, and grew out of a serenade Mozart originally planned for the occasion. It grabs the listener straight away with a fiery opening theme that repeatedly jumps back and forth across two octaves, and the energy remains at fever pitch for most of the first movement. After a respite in the slow movement, it's back to adrenaline with a particularly extroverted minuet and a finale bursting with life and merriment.
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    • No.36 in C major (Linz) was written in just four days when Mozart, on a journey from Salzburg to Vienna with his wife, made a stopover in the town that lends the symphony its nickname and the local count decided to announce a concert featuring the visiting maestro. Even when composing at short notice, Mozart could still craft a piece full of outstanding melodies; the Siciliano-influenced slow movement is a particular highlight.
    • Mozart paid tribute to his considerable fanbase in the Bohemian capital city with No.38 in D major (Prague). Though in just three movements, its first movement has a slow introduction so long and substantial that is almost a movement of its own, and the ensuing sonata allegro (which is reminiscent of several of Mozart's operatic overtures) presents and develops at least six major ideas where most Classical-era symphonies seldom used more than three, and yet it retains a sense of cohesion throughout.
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    • No.39 in E-flat major begins with a grand gesture to herald a slow introduction that leads into one of his most inventive and elaborate symphonic first movements. After a genial Andante, the third movement places a delightful clarinet solo-led Ländler in the middle of a forceful minuet, and the playful finale sees the various sections of the orchestra winding scalar passages around each other.
    • Just one month after polishing off Symphony No.39, Mozart put the finishing touches on No.40 in G minor. The restless first movement has survived overexposure as a popular ringtone in the early 2000s and still reels in the listener straight away, and the remaining movements - a lyrical Andante, an angry minuet (unsuitable for dancing!), and a highly chromatic finale - are just as memorable, and show Mozart at the height of his abilities with counterpoint.
    • And within two weeks of completing Symphony No.40, Mozart gave the world No.41 in C major (Jupiter). Once again, Mozart grabs the listener's attention straight away with the boisterous opening measure, and keeps it throughout a deightful sonata allegro, one of his most beautiful slow movements, a minuet that cleverly foreshadows one of the main themes of the finale, and the finale itself, a masterpiece of counterpoint in which, in the coda, Mozart rotates the five main themes of the movement around the five string instruments (first and second violins, violas, cellos, basses). Together with No.39 and No.40, it represents the apex of the Classical-era symphony.
  • Mozart was a prolific composer of piano concerti, credited with either 23 or 27 (his first four were arrangements of works by other composers), twelve of them (Nos.14-25) written in the space of just two years, and while they may not have the virtuosic fireworks of the piano concerti of the Romantic era, they are packed with memorable and delightful melodies and harmonies.
    • No.9 in E-flat major (Jeunehomme)note  made the then-audacious move of introducing the solo pianist in only the second measure rather than after an extended orchestral ritornello (which instead comes after the piano's first flourishes). The concerto also manages to fit a four-movement structure into just three movements with a minuet interlude in the sparkling finale. Truly one of Mozart's early gems.
    • No.10 in E-flat major is scored for two pianos and orchestra, and the ingenious back-and-forth between the two soloists makes for one of the most exhilarating Mozart pieces both to hear and to play, from the quadruple octave trill with which the pianos make their dramatic entrance through a charming slow movement and a buoyant finale.
    • No.17 in G major is packed with delightful melodies from start to finish; the theme to the third movement set of variations is so catchy that Mozart's pet starling started singing it after listening to the composer playing it while writing the concerto.
    • No.20 in D minor is the first Mozart piano concerto in a minor key, and the first movement is appropriately tense and dramatic, while the fiery third movement eventually gives way to a triumphant, edge-of-the-seat coda.
    • No.21 in C major has at its centre one of the most outstandingly beautiful slow movements Mozart ever composed; it was used to great effect in the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan. The outer movements are just as rewarding to hear.
    • Although No.22 in E-flat major is somewhat overshadowed by the two pairs of concerti just before and after it, it still follows the lead of No.9 by packing four movements of awesome into just three movements with another minuet interlude in the finale, and the extroverted opening movement is an utter delight.
    • No.23 in A major features a heart-rending slow movement in F-sharp minornote  bracketed by a charming opening movement and a finale overflowing with life and energy.
    • No.24 in C minor is the second and last Mozart piano concerto in a minor key, and while the first movement is once again overshadowed by the darkness of the tonality, this time the clouds do not break for the end of the theme and variations in the finale, for a conclusion that really sticks in the memory.
    • No.27 in B-flat major sees the composer experimenting with style and form in a way he had not previously attempted, and it provides a tantalising glimpse of the sort of artistic direction he might have taken had he not died so young.
  • And Mozart didn't stop with the piano when it came to writing concerti.
    • Of his five violin concerti, No.5 in A major (Turkish) is rightly the most famous for both its gorgeous melodies and technical difficulty for the soloist, although the ever-shifting tempi of the finale of No.4 in D major make for a memorable conclusion.
    • The Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major is a compelling musical argument for the adage that "two heads are better than one", with the solo violin and viola winding outstandingly beautiful melodies around each other in a masterpiece of counterpoint. The moment in the first movement when the two soloists almost seem to float in over the orchestra to make their initial entrance, one of the few passages in which they are playing in unison, is especially charming.
    • Mozart's four concerti for French horn are still cornerstones of the instrument's repertoire. By far the most famous is No.4 in E-flat major, especially its boisterous finale, but there's a lot to like about the other three as well (there are early hints of the famous finale of No.4 in the the finales of No.2 in E-flat major and No.3 in E-flat major).
    • Each of the major woodwind instruments - flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon - gets a concerto from the master, every one a winner. The clarinet concerto, written near the end of Mozart's life, is perhaps the most famous of the four, with a wealth of melodic brilliance in all three movements.
  • Mozart's chamber music may not quite enjoy the popularity of his more large scale works, but there are some real winners in there.
    • Of the Quintet for Piano and Woodwinds in E-flat, Mozart wrote to his father, "I myself consider it to be the best thing that I have written in my life." The quintet's wealth of charming melodies and clever counterpoint make it easy to see why the composer was so proud of it; the passage in the introduction to the first movement in which the bassoon, horn, clarinet, and oboe take turns playing descending scalar figures over florid accompaniment in the piano is a highlight.
    • The Divertimento for String Trio in E-flat, a surprisingly happy piece given the misfortune that dogged Mozart's life at the time, is one of his masterpieces, framing alternating slow movements (one a theme and variations) and minuets (one with two trios instead of the standard one) with two lively movements in the home key; all six movements are utter delights, and the counterpoint is so dense that it's easy to forget there are just three musicians.note 
  • Mozart's piano sonatas include many fine examples of the form, and were an inspiration to many late Classical and early Romantic composers.
    • The extroverted No.6 in D major (Dürnitz) moves through a lively sonata allegro and a polonaise-inspired slow movement to a finale which explores the limits of what can be done with a theme and variations in a piano sonata as it runs the theme through twelve variations.
    • The anguished No.8 in A minor was composed shortly after Mozart's mother died, and frames a heartfelt Andante with two movements that are all fire and brimstone, especially the compact rondo finale.
    • The genial No.11 in A major opens with one of Mozart's finest theme and variations movements, moves on to a stately minuet and trio, and finishes with the Standard Snippet-led Rondo alla Turca, deservedly one of the composer's most popular works and regularly used in films, television series, and video games.
    • The jagged No.14 in C minor (nearly always preceded in performances and recordings by the Fantasy in the same key) has a first movement that blasts off up a C minor arpeggio and just gets better from there, followed by one of the composer's loveliest slow movements for piano solo (with a theme that, like many other aspects of the C minor sonata, seems to predict Beethoven's Pathetique sonata in the same key, composed fifteen years later) and a stormy rondo finale.
    • No.16 in C major, sometimes nicknamed Sonata facile for its modest technical demands, has been a fixture of piano lessons since it was first composed, and whether the student is learning the Standard Snippet-filled opening Allegro, the gentle and songlike Andante, or the playful Rondo - or all three - it's a perfect gateway to the richness of Mozart's piano output.
  • Mozart is one of the five most frequently performed operatic composers (along with Gioachino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner, and Giacomo Puccini). As a bonus, he is the only one of the five who composed operas with libretti in Italian and German.note 
    • The Marriage of Figaro was a huge success from the first performances, and with such moments as an overture that practically buzzes with giddy anticipation and Cherubino's aria "Voi che sapete", it's not hard to see why audiences have always loved it.
    • Mozart's own favourite among his operas - and, according to his wife Constanze, his favourite among all his compositions - was Don Giovanni, also one of his darkest operas. The overture sets the tone for the opera, with a heavy minor key introduction that gives way to major key merriment. Vocal highlights include the love duet "Là ci darem la mano", which gives a sense of why so many women have fallen for Don Giovanni's charms.
    • The light-hearted Così Fan Tutte starts with another of Mozart's classic overtures, and the quartet "Alla bella Despinetta" shows Mozart's flair for vocal counterpoint.
    • Beethoven considered Mozart's masterpiece to be his final opera, The Magic Flute.note  It includes yet another first rate overture that really takes off once the introduction gives way to the fugato statement of the main theme, and the Queen of the Night's aria "Der Hölle Rache" is one of the most dazzling arias ever composed, requiring pitch perfect command of the very top of the soprano vocal register as it reaches F6 ("high F") several times.note 
  • Among Mozart's various serenades and divertimenti, the best known is the Serenade for Strings in G major nicknamed Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Flanking an easy-going Romanze and a stately minuet are two movements of pure joy and merriment; the first movement in particular opens with one of classical music's most instantly recognisable melodies and just gets better from there, while the finale may be familiar to BBC Radio 4 listeners as the theme to the long-running quiz show Brain of Britain.
  • The Requiem Mass was the last piece Mozart began composing; left unfinished at his deathnote , it is still packed with awesome in every measure. The "Dies irae" is a shining example, and "Confutatis, maledictis" will leave you breathless. (This was the one that Mozart was doing additive composition on with Salieri near the end of Amadeus.)
    • Mozart's Requiem is also notable for being one of the first headbang-able pieces of music ever written. Seriously. Mozart invented heavy metal. And Punk, according to some pundits.
    • The Requiem was also used to great effect in X2: X-Men United during Nightcrawler's attack on the White House, and in World at War, when you, as the Russian, sack Berlin.


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