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The Music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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On the 27th of January in 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria (Lüsted, 2017). However on the 28th of January the same year, he was baptized at St. Rupert’s Cathedral in Salzburg and was given the baptized name of Johannes Chyrsostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, though the full name varies by one name or another depending on the source (Biography of Mozart, 2019). Sitting on pillows to reach the keys, Mozart received his first piano lessons from his father at the age of 3 (Lüsted, 2017). At the age of 5, before being able to write his name, Mozart was composing music (Lüsted,2017). At only 6 years old, young Mozart was able to astound musicians and friends by playing both the organ and violin perfectly without having any prior lessons (Lüsted, 2017). In 1763, the Mozart family headed to London and Paris, allowing Mozart to give “performances along the way, both to extend his reputation and to help defray the family’s expenses” (Morace, 2018).

Just as music itself, the music of Mozart is divided into three stages: early (1761-1772), middle (1772-1781), and late (1781-1791) (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, n.d.). Some notable works from his early stage of music include “La Finta Semplice,” “Bastien und Batienne,” and ‘Mitridate, re di Ponto” (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, n.d.). A popular work from his middle stage is “Missa in C, Coronation Mass.” Lastly, a few important pieces from late stage of music are “The Marriage of Figaro,” “Requiem,” and “La Clemenza di Tito.” (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, n.d.). The music Mozart composed was at the time considered “radical” as it was “complex and extraordinary” (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, n.d.). Throughout his life “Mozart composed over 600 works including: 21 stage and opera works, 15 Masses, over 50 symphonies, 25 piano concertos, 12 violin concertos, 27 concert arias, 17 piano sonoatas, 26 string quartets” and so much more (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, n.d.). However, with all of this composing, it is to no surprise that some works were left unfinished. Two of Mozart’s unfinished works include “The Mass in C Minor” and “Requiem.”

Exultate, Jubilate was composed in 1772 after Mozart took a trip to Milan with his father to see the premier of his opera “Lucia Silla, K.135” (Tobias, 2016). Upon watching the opera, Mozart became “overwhelmed” by the voice of Venazio Rauzzini, a castrato singer at the time (Tobias, 2016). Mozart stated that Rauzzini “sang like an angel” and two weeks later composed “Exultate, Jubilate” to showcase Rauzzini’s voice (Tobias, 2016). “Exultate, Jubilate” was performed in the Church of San Antonio on January 16, 1773 (Tobias, 2016). Judging by the length of recorded performances online, the Motet can last anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes when performed in whole. There are four parts to the motet including: Allegro: Exultate jubilate, Recitativo Fulget amica dies, Andante: Tu virgnum corona, and Allegro: Alleluja (Tobias, 2016). Written in the key of F major, “Exultate, jubilate” “lies quite low in the soprano register” as it the highest note only spans to an A above the treble clef (Armstrong, Zwiefel, 2007). Due to the “low” A above the clef, most modern sopranos “move the final cadence upward by an octave” having it reach a high C (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). The high C has become such a well-known option that even when mezzo-sopranos sing ‘Alleluja,’ they transpose the whole song “down a whole tone or more from F to Eb, or even D, rather than just simply reverting to the original notes” (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). Regardless of its popularity, Mozart would continue to revise “Exultate, Jubilate” two more times resulting in three versions of the Motet, even though the original is the one that has had the greatest longevity (Tobias, 2016).

A compelling article by Richard Hamilton Armstrong and Paul F. Zweifel highlights the differences between the three versions of “Exultate, Jubilate.” The first version of “Exultate, Jubilate” is the Milano version and the two others are known as the “Salzburg” versions (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). The Salzburg versions of the Motet were not discovered until 1978 at the Stadtpfarrkirche St. Jakob in Wasserburg am Inn in Austria (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). The three versions of “Exultate, Jubilate” differ not only in text but in instrumentation, key, and more. The Salzburg versions of the motet are different from the Milano version as they do not have the original voices of the Italian Oboes but instead that of the Italian flutes (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). The Salzburg version number one “was intended to be sung on Trinity Sunday” and it was indeed performed then at Mass in Trinity Church by the castrato, Francesco Ceccarelli (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). It was also transposed up to G major as the organ in the church was tuned a “whole tone higher than normal (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). The second of the two Salzburg versions was meant to be sung during Christmas, though when or if it was ever performed is unknown (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). The Archbishop Colloredo “was not happy to have Mozart composing music except for church services” so, the need for different lyrics is apparent depending on different seasons (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). “The words of the two Salzburg versions (where they differ from the Milano version) do not possess the lyric beauty of the original” (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). Though the music is beautiful regardless of the words, it is clear when reviewing the music in accordance to the words that the Milano version’s text is the best suited for Mozart’s masterpiece (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). The music is used to enhance the words, emphasize rhymes, and have the music respond to the singer (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). This “idea of musical response is further underscored by the imitative texture” of the music (Armstrong, Zweifel, 2007). All in all, the music is gorgeous and instrumented perfectly to fit the original lyrics that were set by Mozart.

In his final moments of life, Mozart did not fail to attempt the production of the “Requiem Mass” (Wigmore, 2015). Mozart was assisted in writing this final Mass by his student Xaver Süßmayer, who would go on to finish “Requiem Mass” after Mozart’s death (The Death of Mozart, n.d.) At the time of his death, Mozart was considered to be killed by a ‘miliary fever,’ though now many rumors circle this assumption (Bakalar, 2009). Mozart fell ill only two days after his final public performance on November, 22 (Bakalar, 2009). It was suspected for many years that Mozart could have died from: “syphilis, the effects of treatment with salts of mercury, rheumatic fever, vasculitis leading to renal failure, or eating undercooked porkchops” (Bakalar, 2009). It is now assumed by Dr. Richard H. C. Zegers that Mozart may have passed away from Strep, which matches the symptoms he was exhibiting and also was a common illness in Vienna at the time of his death (Bakalar, 2009). Regardless of what the exact illness was that killed Mozart, it is without a doubt that he helped to shape and define classical music. Mozart was a gift to his era and to music in itself. It is hard to wonder at times where certain things would be without a specific occurrence, but it should be wondered where music would be if it were not for Mozart.

References

  1. Armstrong, R., & Zweifel, P. (2007). The Three Versions of Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate.
  2. A musical genius. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.wolfgang-amadeus.at/en/biography_of_Mozart.php.
  3. Exsultate jubilate. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.indianapolissymphony.org/about/archive/program-notes/wolfgang-amadeus-mozart/Exsultate-jubilate.
  4. Lüsted, M. A. (2017). Mozart: A Boy Wonder.
  5. Morace, R. A. (n.d.). Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.smwc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=88365115&site=eds-live
  6. Roberts, M. S. (2018, November 8). Did you know Mozart’s middle name isn’t really Amadeus? Retrieved from https://www.classicfm.com/composers/mozart/mozart-not-really-called-amadeus/.

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