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ELDER MUSIC: Mozart

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.


category_bug_eldermusic One source I read says that Mozart’s name at birth was Joannes Chrisostomos Wolfgang Gotlieb Mozart. Another thinks it was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. Whichever it was, or even something different, in adult life he generally called himself Wolfgang Amadé Mozart, or just Mozart.

I’ll call him Wolfie just to annoy any Mozart scholars who may be reading this. He was the seventh child of Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart and only the second who survived childhood. The other was his big sister Maria Anna, called Nannerl by those who knew her well.

Mozart when a Child

That’s the Mozart family - except for mum who must have been taking the snaps that day.

Leopold taught both his kids to play the piano (or what passed for a piano back then). He also taught them academic subjects including several languages – they were quite useful later on.

Mozart

When Wolfie was six years old, Leopold took both the kids on what became a three-and-a-half-year tour of Europe playing anywhere that would have them (which was pretty much everywhere). People were taken by their precocious music talents, especially young Wolfie’s.

He had already started composing music and this is his first composition, the Andante in C for Keyboard K1a with a couple of other works he composed around the same time. He composed this when he was five. What were you doing at five? Pretty much the same as me, I’ll bet.

♫ Andante in C for Keyboard

Mozart

Skipping over a lot of years - Wolfie is now 18 - we get to what is probably the first of the great works, the Piano Concerto No 9 in E flat K271 where he turned things in the piano concerto game on their head and didn’t wait for the orchestra to fiddle around for some time, but came in with the piano almost immediately as if to say, “Hey, what about me? I want to play too.”

Then, when the piano comes in for real, it trills away for quite a bit as if wondering what to do next. This may seem normal now but was unheard of at the time. This is the first movement.

♫ Piano Concerto No 9

Mozart

For some reason Wolfie decided not to write any more violin concertos after the first five. This is a bit odd as he was an accomplished violinist himself and he could have shown them off as he did with his piano works.

A couple of sketches of more violin concertos were found after his death but these are of very dubious provenance. Sounds like someone was trying to cash in.

However, there is a similar work he wrote later and this is one of his greatest masterpieces, the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola & Orchestra K364. It sounds to me like a concerto for violin and viola but that’s not the name he chose. Whatever it’s called this is the sublime second movement from that work.

♫ Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra

Mozart

When Wolfie went out on his own, much to Leopold’s chagrin probably because he was losing his cash cow, he stayed for a while with the Weber family. There, he was rather taken by the oldest daughter but she was not interested in an out of work musician. So he checked out the other daughters and spotted Constanze.

Eventually they were married, much against Leopold’s wishes (he was turning into a grumpy old man by this time). The only people at the wedding were Constanze’s mother and a younger sister. Her father had died some years earlier. I’m telescoping these events considerably – they took place over several years.

By the record of the letters they wrote to each other, of which there are many still in existence, they had a loving and happy marriage. Old Leo eventually gave his grudging consent.

Costanze

Constanze had a decent soprano voice and when Wolfie was commissioned to write a mass he wrote the soprano parts with her in mind. This is the Laudamus te from the Gloria from the Mass in C minor K427. Hmm, sounds like something a Victorian lady would take for a touch of the vapors. This isn’t Constanze singing. I couldn’t find any of her records.

♫ Gloria - Laudamus te

Mozart

Wolfie was in Paris in 1778, when he heard that his first son had died. The Piano Sonata No 13 K333 was the first piece he wrote after receiving this news. The second movement in particular shows a deep melancholy and a brooding, even menacing, tension that keeps hanging over the piece until the end.

The third movement relieves this mood but I’m going with the second movement. It’s a wonderful piece of work.

♫ Piano Sonata No 13

Mozart

The Clarinet Concerto in A K622 was one of the very last of Wolfie’s compositions. It was the last concerto of any kind that he wrote. Some say they can hear that he had premonitions of his death in this work. That’s only because of the slow, sad second movement. The third movement is so optimistic and joyful it puts paid to that notion.

However, I’m going with the second movement because it is so lovely.

♫ Clarinet Concerto in A



Comments

Having taken both violin and piano lessons as a kid (and certainly never to the level of playing anything remotely Mozart-ian), I am in awe of anyone who can both compose and play with such masterfulness.

Thanks the for lovely music this morning, and the introduction to "Wolfie"!

Ha Ha! You crack me up, Peter! I imagine Mozart at age 6 busking in the subways of Vienna (with snorkeling gear and an anxious and muttering Papa pacing). I see Mozart Moonwalking across the stage with a portable keyboard in front of a shocked and confused orchestra. I envision Mozart writing out his heart to his sweetheart, Constanze, with a swarm of little black notes swimming around in his noggin. Now here is Mozart stooped over the piano trying to reconcile the loss of his child and contemplating his mortality. Beautiful pieces of music. The Clarinet Concerto in A was so sublime it made me cry!

I think you might be the greatest music teacher EVER! Thanks for making classical music so accessible and offering me the opportunity to listen in new ways.

Mozart composed such glorious music and you have selected some of the best, Peter.

The Piano Sonata and the Clarinet Conerto were just breathtaking in their beauty.

Even though I am still struggling with hearing music the way I know it sould sound, I fully enjoyed these selections and will listen to then over and over again in hopes that the clarinet will stop sounding so screechy and the piano so tinkly. My brain is still learning.

Thank you for your descriminating selections.

What, you can't find a single recording of Constanze!

Impossible!

Nope, that one even stumped me

Not sure if I enjoyed Wolfie's potted history or the collection of music more - but well done again Tibs

Thank you for this wonderful post. You started my day in a most positive way. Nothing nourishes my soul like Mozart!

The clarinet is such a versatile instrument. Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and ...Mozart (though he probably didn't play it?) They all sound great and Mozart's Clarinet Concerto is a wonderful piece.
Thanks once again Peter.

Well done indeed! Of all the heartbreakingly beautiful music Wolfie created, you've chosen the creme de la creme! Thanks!

Peter, you continue to build a real treasure trove of musical history here with humorous little tidbits to spice things up a bit. I don't always get here regularly, but guess there isn't really a timely issue given Mozart's age. His stuff will likely be around a while longer.

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