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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Superconductor Top Ten: Mozart's Greatest Hits

Celebrating Mozart's birthday with Superconductor.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Mozart as a child.
January 27th marked Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 255th birthday. To celebrate, here's a completely arbitrary list of essential Mozart compositions, and some recording recommendations to  back them up. No particular order--they're as I think of them.

1) Die Zauberflöte
Mozart's last German opera is a hybrid of Masonic rite and rollocking music hall comedy. Packed with memorable arias, duets and choruses, The Magic Flute presents the story of a young prince on a quest to attain enlightenment: helped by his buddy, a bird-catcher who only wants to eat, drink, and get married.
Recording: Berlin Philharmonic cond. Karl Böhm

2) Piano Sonata in C Major K. 545
All of the Mozart piano sonatas are masterpieces--full of rich tunes that delight the ear and astound the listener as to the composer's mastery of the keyboard and technical facility. This one made the "cut" because it's the most famous.
Recording: Carl Seeman, Piano

3) Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor K. 491
Mozart is one of the fathers of the piano concerto. This minor-key work points the way forward to the great concertos of Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. So it makes the list.
Recording: English Chamber Orchestra cond. Jeffrey Tate; Mitsuko Uchida, Piano

4) Bassoon Concerto K. 191
This was Mozart's first wind concerto (he was 18) and one of the few written for this low-voiced instrument. It remains a standard work for bassoonists, and one of the most enjoyable Mozart concertos.
Recording: Vienna Philharmonic cond. Karl Böhm

5) Missa da Requiem
Mozart's last composition has become the stuff of legend. Commissioned by an under-handed nobleman who wanted to pass the work off as his own (an idea used in the last act of the film Amadeus) the incomplete Requiem is a potent, experimental setting of the Latin Mass for the Dead.
Recording: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra cond. Robert Shaw

6) Le Nozze di Figaro
One of the most important opera comedies ever written and still securely in the repertory over two centuries since its premiere. Packed with fine comic moments, great tunes, and class warfare--Figaro never disappoints.
Recording: Vienna Philharmonic cond. Erich Kleiber

7) Don Giovanni
The second collaboration between Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte combines tragic elements with comedy. And the Don's defiance in the face of eternal damnation inspired a whole generation of Romantic writers and composers.
Recording: Chamber Orchestra of Europe cond. Claudio Abbado

8) Symphony No. 39 in G Minor
Mozart's third-to-last symphony explored the possibilities afforded by working in what was, at the time of its composition, an under-used minor key. With strong melodic ideas (including an instantly recognizable "hook") this is one of the composer's most enduring creations.
Recording: Berlin Philharmonic cond. Karl Böhm

9) Violin Sonata in E Flat K. 481
As with most categories of Mozart compositions, all of the sonatas for piano and violin are splendid. The E Flat Sonata breaks new ground with ith its theme-and-variations final movement.
Recording: Radu Lupu, Piano; Szymon Goldberg, Violin

10) Serenade: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
This remains the most enduring and best-known melody written by this august composer. But what you may not know is that this four-part serenade was originally five movements. The Serenades were Mozart's laboratory for musical experimentation. More importantly, listening to them can just make you happy. Promise.
Recording: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

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