Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a name that has surpassed the boundaries of the classical music world, and is imbedded into society itself.
Mozart’s music really and truly defines the Classical era, better than any other. An era characterised by the clean, crisp, graceful and sophisticated melody lines and clear textures, Mozart’s works are the embodiment of this. They have stood the test of time and will continue to be played for hundreds more years, we have no doubt.
And would you believe that he only lived for a short 35 years? It’s fascinating to consider the work that we might have got from a 60-year-old Mozart, however, his catalogue appears as though his career was extremely long! He composed more than 600 (yes, 600) pieces in his lifetime, certainly a valiant effort. That being said, he did begin composing at the age of 5!
Born in Salzburg (you can go and visit his house!), Mozart showed an extreme ability from his earliest years, and was able to write his first symphony at 8 years of age. He was often booked to play in front of royalty! Eventually he moved to Vienna which is ultimately where he would find his success – though financially his success was a little rocky! Mozart always had high expectations and goals for his career as a musician, and saw himself playing to the most prestigious of audiences. He’d already bagged a position with the archbishop (a job not to be sniffed at!) but his sights were set on the Emperor, which, of course, he eventually achieved. The Emperor would support him substantially for many years.
Mozart’s archetypal compositions of the classical style were extremely versatile. He could write in a variety of different genres; from operas to sonatas, from concertos to chamber works. But, as you may imagine, we’re most interested in all the wonderful piano pieces that Mozart wrote in his career, and we may have a vested interest…
Minuet in D, K7
In the RSL Classical Piano Grade 2, you’ll find one of our favourite little Mozart pieces. “Minuet in D, K7” was supposedly written when he was only 7! The piece features in Nannerl Notenbuch, a collection of pieces written by both Mozart and his father. The minuet is a dance with a lilting ¾ time signature and, in true Mozart style, contains neat little phrases that should sound effortlessly elegant. This piece is also a wonderful introduction to the Alberti bass technique which can be found in lots of his piano music.
Sonata in C, K. 545 (first movement)
This piece was described by Mozart himself as one “for beginners”, and is often nicknamed the “Sonata Semplice”, which translates to simple sonata. Mozart’s definition of simple is questionable, though maybe from a child prodigy this is unsurprising! The piece can be found in the RSL Classical Piano Grade 6 syllabus. It wasn’t actually published during Mozart’s lifetime, but has become one of his most popular sonatas since its publication in 1805.
“Sonata in C, K. 545” is written in typical sonata form – the music theory nerds amongst us will know that this consists of the three main sections; the exposition, development and recapitulation. As with most Mozart pieces, the performance of this should be polished, precise and controlled, to ensure the character is not lost. Our familiar Alberti bass is back in this song too to kick things off.
Sonata in F, Op. 332 movement 1, Allegro
The final Mozart masterpiece you can find in the RSL Classical Piano syllabus is the “Sonata in F, Op. 332” in the Grade 8. The challenge in this piece comes in the form of frequent style switch ups; melody and accompaniment for four bars, a contrapuntal style for the next phrase, and a homophonic texture for the next – all within the space of 12 bars! Phew, we’re exhausted just thinking about it. Looking ahead will be of great importance when learning this one. Most of all, you want to make sure you capture that contrast and drama that we love so much about this piece, of course, without losing the careful and neat nature of playing Mozart.
We hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about Mozart today! Aside from his piano works, there really is so much more to explore including some of the world’s favourites like The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro and the Requiem Mass in D Minor, the last work he ever wrote.In the meantime, why not explore some other classical music legends including Johann Sebastian Bach, Clara Schumann and Béla Bartok.