Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Composer Study - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The second composer that Olivia is learning about this month for her composer study is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There is a book that I checked out from the library called Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? by Yona Zeldis McDonough that had some interesting information in it. The book is geared to younger children, but the facts are still relevant:

- He was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. Six children had come before him, so he was the baby of the family. Only Wolfgang and his big sister, Maria Anna, lived past their first birthdays. At that time, when babies or young children got sick, there were no medicines like there are today. So, sadly, it was common for children to die.

- Mozart learned to play the clavier (a type of stringed instrument that also had a keyboard) at the age of three. By the time he was five, he was composing music. At eight, he had learned to play the violin and organ. 

- Mozart was writing music even before he learned to write words.

- When he was happy, he would write an allegro. When he felt sad, he would compose a slow tune, called an andante. 

- When he was young, he and his sister went on tour with their parents. On tour, Mozart was often sick. Most days, he gave concerts in the early afternoon and evening. Sometimes he might give three concerts in a single day. He composed music in the morning and at night. Sometimes he stayed up all night and didn't go to sleep until dawn.

- Mozart overworked himself and also may have suffered from kidney disease. The disease might have been what kept him from growing. He was always small for his age, and he remained short all of his life.

-  When he was on tour in London, his father was sick and needed to rest to get better. They left London and went to Chelsea for seven weeks so his father's health could improve. During this time, Mozart and his sister could not practice their music because the noise might disturb their father. So, 9-year-old Mozart composed his first symphony, Symphony in E-flat. At that time, an orchestra was made up of at least eight different instruments.

- His father recovered from his illness, but on the way back to Salzburg, Mozart caught smallpox. At that time, since there was no vaccine, many people died from smallpox. He eventually recovered from smallpox. 

- Mozart wrote his first opera before his 13th birthday. Although he would compose several great operas later in his life, his first attempt wasn't a success.

- When he was in Italy, he heard the Miserere written by composer Allegri. The music had never been printed. When Mozart heard the music being performed in the cathedral, he was amazed by it. He ended up that he wrote it note for note - the first time it had even been outside the Pope's choir room. 

- He enjoyed playing cards, billiards, and writing to his family. He liked writing funny and silly letters to entertain and amuse those to whom he wrote letters.

- When he was 21 years old, Mozart fell in love with Aloysia Weber. However, his father said no. He insisted that Mozart help support the family. 

- By July 1778, his mother died in Paris. The climate there was chilly and she suffered from earaches and sore throats frequently, and always said it was cold despite there being a fire in the fireplace.

- His father blamed him for his mother's death because she had accompanied him to Paris. In response and to deal with his sadness, he composed music at a furious pace.

- He married Constanze in 1782 and set up their home in Vienna. He left Salzburg permanently.

- Mozart and Constanze struggled to make ends meet. They used their wooden furniture as firewood. When they ran out of money, Mozart would teach, give concerts, and compose music. 

- Other times they had a lot of money, but Mozart spent it as quickly as he made it. He bought fancy clothes and gave big parties with music, dancing, and lots of food. He even had his own coach, which cost a great deal of money.

- Constanze and Mozart had six children, though only two sons lived more than a year. 

- In 1787, Mozart became the chamber composer for Emperor Joseph II. This was the most important job Mozart ever held. He composed music and gave performances. 

- In 1786, Mozart wrote The Marriage of Figaro. The following year he wrote Don Giovanni. In 1790, he wrote Cosi fan Tutte, and finally, his last great opera - The Magic Flute - was written in 1791. Many people think that these operas are Mozart's finest works and that the years in Vienna were the most productive in his whole life. They also were probably the happiest years of his short life.

- He composed his last three symphonies in about three months. Unfortunately, he never had the chance to hear them played. He was so accurate that the music performed today is exactly as it was written. There were no corrections at all because Mozart didn't need to make them.

- In July 1791, a very strange thing happened. Mozart was alone in his house. A stranger wearing dark clothes and a dark hood came to the door with an unsigned letter. The letter asked Mozart to write a requiem (a piece of music composed to honor a person who has died). The letter promised Mozart a lot of money for the job. For the next several months, Mozart worked on the requiem. He thought about it all of the time. His health declined and he felt like he was writing the requiem for his own funeral. Soon he could not get out of bed and it became hard for him to breathe. 

- On December 4, 1791, he asked his friends to join him at his bedside. Together, they sang different parts of the requiem. The next day, he died. He was only 35 years old. 

- Mozart wrote more than 600 works including: 41 symphonies, 27 piano concertos, 5 violin concertos, 27 concert arias, 23 string quartets, 18 Masses, and 22 operas. 

- In 2002, on the one-year anniversary of the September 11th attack, choirs around the world sang Mozart's requiem for a span of 24 hours in a global effort to honor those who died.

Olivia listened to three of Mozart's pieces and then commented on them:

- Serenade No. 13 "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

According to Mozart's 5 Greatest Masterpieces (redlandssymphony.com), "There's no evidence Mozart even cared that much about this piece. He sketched it out really quickly while he was writing 'Don Giovanni,' but no one bothered to publish it until 40 years later, long after he was dead.  

Olivia thought:

- You hear this all the time. That first 20 seconds is what everyone knows...and then no one knows the rest. 

- The next part sounds like it is about an octave higher.

- This sounds like a very hurried piece. It sounds like someone is moving around quickly or trying to get somewhere quickly.

- Something dramatic is happening around the 2:00 mark. Then it just repeats again. 

- They repeat that familiar part many times. It's nice to hear it again. 

- This potentially would be an easy song to learn because there are sections that repeat. You could probably memorize it because it repeats a lot.

- It changes near the end. It goes back to the beginning and then ends.

- The Magic Flute - Queen of the Night Aria

- Red Lands Symphony noted that with this piece The Magic Flute, Mozart kind of invented the musical. Opera had existed for about 200 years, but The Magic Flute wasn't really an opera. 

It was a Singspiel - a song-play - which was a genre of theater popular in Germany featuring spoken (rather than sung) dialogue interspersed with songs. A Singspiel was a pretty lowbrow artform, and most were simple comedies written for lower-class audiences and performed by itinerant actors traveling from village to village. 

Until Mozart. The Magic Flute dragged Singspiel from the town square onto the stages of Austria's prestigious theaters. This gave the genre legitimacy in the eyes of the upper class and established a theatrical tradition that would eventually lead to Broadway.

Olivia thought:

- I would have to say that I never envisioned it that way until I saw the performance.

- It made the song seem a lot darker - the fact that she was disowning her child and gave her a knife.

- The makeup and costuming that made it look a lot darker and creepy. 

- I've heard the part where the queen is having high vocalization in a movie. I think it was the Barbie Swan Lake movie. It's been in some movie that we watched when we were younger.

- It kind of makes me want to see other parts...but in other ways no because it is so long and I'm not a huge fan of opera...plus it is in a different language. 

- I like the music to it. I feel like I've played a part of it before. I've played an aria, but I don't remember which one. 

- Requiem

This is one of the most moving pieces in all of classical music. The fact that he wrote it on his deathbed and it had to be completed after he died only makes it that much more impressive. 

Olivia thought:

- It sounds like it is more on the dark, sad side - the notes, how fast it is going. It sounds like there is a pedal in there.

- I wasn't expecting the opera (chorus). Well...I wasn't expecting that. It definitely makes it sound more dramatic. 

- It sounds like something you would hear in a sword fight. There's a lot of tension with going back and forth.

- It sounds like something you would hear at an important person's funeral - maybe during the procession or at the very end.

- All of his pieces are on the dramatic side. It would be interesting to see if any of his pieces aren't as dramatic. Though maybe that's his thing. 

1 comment:

Rita said...

He was definitely a true genius. :)