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Chill with Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Probably the greatest genius in Western musical history,Wolfgang Amadeus was born in Salzburg in 1756, the youngest child and onlysurviving son of Leopold Mozart. He showed early precocity both as akeyboard-player and violinist, and soon turned his hand to composition.

His obvious gifts were developed under his father'stutelage, and through the patronage of the Archbishop of Salzburg the familywere able to travel abroad to Paris and to London, to show off the youngMozart's remarkable gifts. A series of other journeys followed, with importantoperatic commissions in Italy between 1771 and 1773.

The following period proved disappointing to both father andson, as the young Mozart grew to manhood, irked by the lack of opportunity andlack of appreciation of his gifts in Salzburg where a new Archbishop provedless sympathetic. Visits to Munich, Mannheim and Paris in 1777 and 1778 broughtno substantial offer of other employment and by early 1779 Mozart wasreinstated in Salzburg, now as court organist.

In 1781, Mozart broke his ties with Salzburg and spent thelast ten years of his life in precarious independence in Vienna, his materialsituation not improved by an unsuitable marriage. Initial success with Germanand then Italian opera and a series of subscription concerts were followed byfinancial difficulties. Then, in late November of 1791, Mozart became seriouslyill and died in the small hours of 5th December.

Mozart's compositions were catalogued in the 19th century byKochel, and they are generally now distinguished by K. numbering from hiscatalogue.


Mozart was one of the first great opera composers in thehistory of western classical music. Salzburg offered him no real opportunity toexercise his talents in this direction during his life. The greater stage worksbelong to the last decade of his life, starting with Idomeneo in Munich inJanuary 1781. In Vienna his first success came with the German opera orsingspiel Die Entf??hrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio).  Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage ofFigaro), an Italian comic opera, was staged in 1786 and Don Giovanni, with alibretto by da Ponte, received its first performance in Prague in 1787.   Cos?¼ fan tutte (All Women BehaveAlike) was staged briefly in Vienna in 1790, its run curtailed by the death ofthe Emperor. His last stage work, Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), wasrunning in the suburban Theater auf der Wieden at the time of his sudden death.

Church Music

As he lay dying Mozart was joined by his friends to singthrough parts of a work that he left unfinished. This was his setting of theRequiem Mass, commissioned by an anonymous nobleman, who had intended to passthe work off as his own. The Requiem was later completed by Mozart's pupilS??ssmayer. Mozart composed other church music, primarily for use in Salzburg.Settings of the Mass include the Coronation Mass of 1779, one of a number ofliturgical settings of this kind. In addition to settings of litanies andvespers, Mozart wrote a number of shorter works for church use. These includethe well-known Exsultate, jubilate and the simple four-part setting of the Aveverum.

Orchestral Music

Mozart wrote his first symphony in London in 1764-5 and hislast in Vienna in August 1788. The last three symphonies, Nos. 39, 40 and 41,were all written during the summer of 1788, each of them with its own highlyindividual character.

The best known Serenade of all is Eine kleine Nachtmusik (ALittle Night Music), a charming piece of which four of the five originalmovements survive. It is scored for solo strings and was written in the summerof 1787, the year of the death of Mozart's father. The Serenade K. 361, knownas the Gran Partita, was written during the composer's first years ofindependence in Vienna and scored for a dozen wind instruments and a doublebass.

Mozart wrote some 30 keyboard concertos, the earliest beingarrangements of movements by various composers. The more important compositionsin this form, designed clearly for the fortepiano, were written in Viennabetween 1782 and 1791, principally for the composer's use in subscription. Ofthe 27 numbered concertos particular mention may be made of the concertos in Cminor and D minor, Nos. 24 and 20, K. 491 and 466. Mozart completed his lastpiano concerto No. 27, K. 595 in B flat major, in January 1791.

Five concertos for solo violin - one in 1773 and four in1775 - were written at a time when Mozart was concertmaster of the courtorchestra in Salzburg. Mozart's concertos for solo wind instruments include aconcerto for bassoon, two concertos for solo flute and a concerto for solooboe, with a final concerto for clarinet written in October 1791. Mozart wrotefour concertos for French horn and a Sinfonia concertante for solo windinstruments. During his stay in France in 1778 he also wrote a fine concertofor flute and harp.

Chamber Music

Mozart's work for string instruments includes a group ofstring quintets, written in Vienna in 1787 and, over the course of aroundtwenty years, some 23 string quartets. Particularly interesting are the laterquartets, a group of six dedicated to and influenced by Joseph Haydn and threefinal quartets, the so-called \Prussian" Quartets.

Piano Music

Mozart's sonatas for the fortepiano cover a period from 1766to 1791, with a significant number of mature sonatas written during the yearsin Vienna. The sonatas include much fine music, ranging from the slighter Cmajor Sonata for beginners (K. 545) to the superb B flat Sonata,      K. 570. Inaddition to his sonatas he wrote a number of sets of variations. The publishedworks include operatic variations as well as a set of variations on the themeAh, vous dirai-je, maman, known in English as Twinkle, twinkle, little star.


Track 1 - Serenade No. 10 in B flat major, K.361: Adagio

Track 8 - Serenade in D major, K.203: Andante 

The Serenade in B flat, K.361, known sometimes as the GranPartita seems to have been written in 1783 and 1784. It is scored for twooboes, two clarinets, two basset-horns, four horns, two bassoons anddouble-bass and is in eight movements. The Adagio is the fourth of these, inwhich the poignant melody is shared by the instruments, the first oboe phrasecapped by the clarinet and followed by the basset-horn. 

The Serenade in D major, K.303, was probably written inSalzburg in the summer of 1774 and was possibly intended for the name-day ofthe Archbishop on 30th September. Including strings, oboes, horns and soloviolin, the Allegro allows the solo violin interesting patterns of cross rhythmwith the rest of the string section.

            Furtherexamples of Mozart's Serenades can be heard on:

            8.550026       SerenadeNo. 6, K.239 "Serenata notturna"; Serenade No. 13

            8.550333       SerenadeNo. 7, K.250 "Haffner"

Disc: 1
Cosi fan tutte: Soave sia il vento
1 Serenade No. 10 in B flat major, K. 361, "Gran Par
2 Laudate Dominum
3 Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K. 459: Allegro
4 Flute Quartet in A major, K. 298: Andante
5 String Quintet in D major, K. 593: Larghetto - All
6 Requiem, K. 626: Benedictus
7 Ave verum corpus in D major, K. 618
8 Serenade No. 4 in D major, K. 203: Andante
9 Concerto for Flute and Harp in C major, K. 299: II
10 Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K. 297b: And
11 Soave sia il vento
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