Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed this, his first symphony in E flat major when he was eight years old in 1764.
What must that have been like? Did he know he had an unusual ability? In all probability, yes he did. His father touted him and his sister, Anna Marie around Europe to show them off as young prodigies.
But can he really have known the extent of his talent. Did he, at such a tender age, while scratching notes on manuscript, stop and think ‘hang on, I’ve got something here’? We can’t know of course. But what about you, dear reader. Do you stop and think when you hear the work of this genius? Because if not, you should give yourself a treat sometime.
But where might one begin, with such a vast repertoire to choose from? Well, let me offer just a few pointers and then you can go off exploring on your own.
First, I’m going to indulge myself a little and plunge in with the piano concertos. Mozart wrote 27 in total. I’d have a listen to number 24 in C Minor for starters. This, by ‘general consent’ is seen to be one of the greatest piano concertos ever written. I say this on the basis of various academic opinions and ‘top concerto’ polls that one can google. Such things are ridiculous, I realise. But I include reference to them here to give an idea of the esteem in which this work is held. It’s one thing for me to gush about how truly magnificent this concerto is. Why is it, though, that this is such a seminal piece of music?
It’s to do with the scoring – which is the most extensive of all Mozart piano concertos. It’s the most accomplished; the most ‘integrated’. The most sophisticated if you like. None of this particularly matters though when one immerses oneself in the music. It tumbles over you like rain; like warm summer rain; perhaps like a river – sometimes rippling; other times torrential. It never lets up, however. It is its own thing. It is nature. It has its own power; its own force. You are at its mercy.
So let me know what you think – this version has the advantage of being a performance by the wonderful Lang Lang, so it is doubly entertaining.
And then how about some chamber work? The clarinet quintet in A Major really is a must, as is the Serenade number 10 in B Flat. Both these works are exquisite pieces and are laden with emotion, as well as rich, beautiful scoring.
Next, a brief stop at another symphony. I opened this post with his very first. Why not let’s take a look at his last – the 41st in C Major. Nicknamed the ‘Jupiter’ symphony, although the provenance for this is not absolutely clear, Mozart finished this work three years before his death in 1791 (aged 35). It is not known whether he lived to hear it performed. But like the piano concerto number 24 above, it is held up to be one of the greatest symphonies of all time. Schubert said ‘you can hear the angels singing in it’.
Finally, The Requiem in D Minor. Yes – that’s right. Capital T, Capital R.
I once touched on this work in a former post, so I will try to avoid repeating myself too much and go straight into the music itself.
I have performed this work with a big choir on a big stage. It felt very serious. It felt other-wordly. It felt like an honour and a priviledge to be able to sing this magnificent music. It felt like Mozart was with us. When we had finished, I felt bereft and wanted to start all over again. I always do when I listen to this work. I have tried to think why this might be. Is it something about having to confront one’s own mortality but not wanting to?
Gosh, it seems so wrong to reduce dear old Wolfgang to a single post like this. But he could be the subject of a whole blog of his own even. In fact, the more observant of you will have spotted at least one major omission in my list of suggestions. Have a quick look back now if you want to cheat….
Shhhh (I’m whispering now, and looking side to side) – no opera. Eeek! A post on Mozart and no opera??? Well I don’t have any opera on my iPhone, but let me flout my own rules briefly and sneakily tell you, if you don’t already know, that all his operas are wonderful. The Marriage of Figaro is usually the critics’ favourite, but I like Don Giovanni. I think I might start an opera blog as a LeapingTracks side-shoot when I get to Z…
Anyway, let me tell you what a joy it has been to be listening to all these works in preparation for writing this post. I urge you to wallow in the same Mozart-ian joy too, whatever pieces you end up choosing. There are plenty of them. And just give a thought to that eight-year old, composing away nearly 250 years ago.