Composer of the Month Club

January 2020

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart's Birthday was January 27, 1756!

Happy Birthday, Mozart!

Week 1

Part 1

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the most famous composers in all of history. Mozart started playing music on the keyboard and violin when he was very young, and he started composing his own music when he was about 5 years old.

Listen to this version of one of his first compositions played on a modern piano. Can you follow along with the sheet music as it's played?

Part 2

Before long, Mozart was writing symphonies. People often think of symphonies as being extremely long and written for huge orchestras with 50 or 100 musicians. 250 years ago (when Mozart was composing his music), symphonies were often shorter in length and didn't need very many musicians to perform. Listen to this version of his Symphony #1 performed by a very small orchestra of strings and wind instruments. Mozart composed this symphony when he was 8 years old!

How many different kinds of instruments can you spot in this video?

Week 2

Part 1

Did you know that when Mozart was writing music, they hadn't finished inventing the piano yet? The pianos that we play today weren't invented until later. Instead of pianos like we have, people in Mozart's time played instruments like the harpsichord or the fortepiano. Listen to this video of one of Mozart's compositions played on a fortepiano. How is this instrument different than the pianos that are played today?

Part 2

One of Mozart's most famous pieces is "Eine kleine Nachtmusik." This German title means "A Little Night Music" or "A Little Serenade." This piece has four movements (large, separate parts), but the first movement is probably the most famous. Do you recognize this music?

Week 3

Part 1

Mozart wrote music for orchestras, for soloists, for small ensembles, and for the opera. Have you ever been to the opera? This aria (an "aria" is basically the name for a "song" within an opera) from Mozart's "The Magic Flute" is one of his most famous compositions. In this part of the opera's story, the evil Queen of the Night is very angry, but don't worry, by the end of the story, the evil queen is defeated! Listen to how the music matches the story, and watch how the costumes and characters create a scary scene for this opera!

Note for parents of young children: If this video is too scary for young listeners (I don't want anyone to have nightmares!!), then listen to the recording in the second video.

Part 2

Did you know that Mozart is sometimes given the credit for composing the song "Twinkle, Twinkle little Star"? Actually, this melody was a French folk song that Mozart heard and turned into a "theme and variations." Many composers have written pieces that are "theme and variations." They start with a simple melody (or theme) and then embellish (or decorate) the melody in different ways in each new section Can you hear the different versions of the "Twinkle" melody throughout this whole piece?

Week 4

Part 1

Mozart played both the keyboard and the violin, and wrote wonderful music for both. He wrote many sonatas for violin and piano. Do you hear any parts of the music where the two instruments sound like they are replying to each other with similar music, as if they are having a conversation?

Part 2

Mozart wrote over 20 piano concertos for piano and orchestra, along with concertos featuring many other instruments (like oboe, bassoon, violin, or clarinet). A concerto is a musical form that features a soloist and an orchestra sharing the stage together. Many concertos are written in 3 movements, with the first and last movements being fast and exciting and the second movement being slower and lyrical.

This recording of Mozart's Piano Concerto #23 features a fortepiano instead of a modern piano, just like it might have sounded when it was written almost 250 years ago.

Congratulations! You've learned about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and completed the first month of the Composer of the Month Club!!