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8.578096-98 - Easy-Listening Piano Classics: Mozart

Easy-Listening Piano Classics


The youngest child and only surviving son of Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus wasborn in Salzburg in 1756, the year of publication of his father’s treatise onviolin-playing. He showed early precocity both as a keyboard-player and violinist, andsoon turned his hand to composition. His obvious gifts were developed under his father’stutelage, with those of his elder sister, and the family, through the indulgence of theirthen patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg, was able to travel abroad, between1763 and 1766, to Paris and to London.A series of other journeys followed, with important operatic commissions in Italy between1771 and 1773. The following period proved disappointing to both father and son, as theyoung Mozart grew to manhood, irked by the lack of opportunity and lack of appreciationof his gifts in Salzburg, where a new Archbishop proved less sympathetic. A visit toMunich, Mannheim and Paris in 1777 and 1778 brought no substantial offer of otheremployment and by early 1779 Mozart was reinstated in Salzburg, now as court organist.Early in 1781 he had a commissioned opera, Idomeneo, staged in Munich for the Electorof Bavaria, and dissatisfaction after being summoned to attend his patron the Archbishopin Vienna led to his dismissal.Mozart spent the last ten years of his life in precarious independence in Vienna, hismaterial situation not improved by a marriage imprudent for one in his circumstances.Initial success with German and then Italian opera and series of subscription concertswere followed by financial difficulties. In 1791 things seemed to have taken a turn forthe better, in spite of the lack of interest of the successor to the Emperor Joseph II, whohad died in 1790. In late November, however, Mozart became seriously ill and died inthe small hours of 5 December. Mozart’s compositions were catalogued in the 19thcentury by Köchel, and they are generally now distinguished by K. numbering from thiscatalogue.

Mozart’s sonatas for the fortepiano cover a period from 1766 to 1791, with a significant number of mature sonatas written during the years in Vienna. The sonatas include muchfine music. In addition to his sonatas he wrote a number of sets of variations, while hisephemeral improvisations in similar form are inevitably lost to us. The published worksinclude operatic variations as well as a set of variations on the theme Ah, vous dirai-je,maman, known in English as ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’.An outstanding virtuoso pianist himself, and bearing in mind that his sonatas andvariations pose substantial technical challenges—not least in order to ensure that theysound completely effortless and perfectly poised—Mozart played so that the notes‘simply fell as if they were raindrops, scattering like pearls on velvet’, in Carl Czerny’smemorable words. Like those precious jewels, Mozart’s piano music shimmers, glows and rarely fails to delight with its subtle, sophisticated magic.

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