Posts Tagged 'Mozart'

Mozart: Requiem

It takes just the first twelve bars of the opening movement to get a strong concept of the writing Mozart is about to use in his Requiem. The strings begin with what can be crudely, but fairly accurately, as an Oom-Pah figure. This figure, and variations of it, appear throughout the work. In later movements Mozart alters the amount of notes the violins play in response to the strong ‘on the beat’ presented by basso.

The Bassoon enters in measure 1 with melodic materiel that prepares us for the entrance of the choral parts, seven bars later. In measure 2, the basset horn (An instrument similar in tone to an ‘A’ Clarinet) begins a fugue on the same melody. By the fourth measure both Bassoons and Basset Horns are involved in this fugal counterpoint. These are the only woodwind instruments Mozart makes use of in the Requiem, and I found it quite interesting to note that he uses only the lower and mellow woodwind instruments and ignores the generally common flute and oboe, perhaps he felt they were too bright in timbre for such a sombre composition.

Just before the choral parts begin, Mozart briefly airs the three trombones, two trumpets and timpani. I found it very interesting that on the score I used for this study, the trombone parts do not have their own staves, instead are placed wherever it is possible. At some points they appear on the choir staves, and in the trombone solo in the Tuba Mirum the part is scored on the Bassoon staff.More often than not the trombones were scored on the trumpet and timpani staves, which I found very odd as it reduced the occasions when those instruments would be used together.

I noticed a few common practises with his writing for the choir. Firstly, as was set out from the very start by the winds, writing in the style of a fugue was very common, and very effective in creating interest for the vocal lines. Mozart also makes use of repetition between the male and female voices, almost like a call and response. These two compositional tools ensure that on the occasions that he does write the voices as tutti chords, it really hits you.

The other thing from the vocal writing that I really noticed was that it was fairly rare for a vocal part not to be doubled by at least one of the instruments in the ensemble. This must make it much easier for the choir to sight read.

I found his writing for the choir of great interest as I’m currently workshopping a choral piece. I had gone to some effort to give clues prior to entries so the singers knew each new starting tone, but I hadn’t put any real thought into making use of the accompaniment to achieve this. Definitely something I will think about in future compositions.


W.A Mozart – Symphony .41 in C major, k.551 A.K.A The Jupiter Symphony.

“Someone once wrote that it is better for the 41st Symphony to be called “Jupiter” than to have a “mathematical dissertation” (i.e. “No.41 in C major, K.551″) for a name.”

– Chia Han Leon

The Jupiter symphony was created in Mozart’s prolific summer of 1788, in which he completed, Symphony’s no. 39, 40 and 41. It’s a piece full of energy; from the forte, tutti beginning to the five part fugato final movement.

The first two movements have quite a bit in common: They both begin with contrasting sections one loud tutti, the other quiet and lyrical which then proceeds into a melody. They are both in Sonata form, both have repeats at the same point in the piece and, as far as note durations, rhythms and accidentals go, they look very similar on the page, that being said, they sound completely different from each other. The tempo is far slower in cantabile and it has a much sweeter tone, it also modulates from F major to C minor and sustains the minor key for quite sometime whereas the first movement is mostly in major also the second movement is a sarabande.

But of all four movements the most spectacular is the finale, Allegro Molto. The movement that prompted the title “Jupiter” for it’s gallant and epic proportions.

Allegro Molto uses five themes, which are interweaved into one single body. Each theme in it’s own right could be the focus for a single piece of music. What is incredible about Molto Allegro is how it does not sound convoluted. The lack of confusion in this piece is aided by;

  • no accidentals being used (though there are key changes, but all instruments follow suit).
  • The rhythms are also very simple, mostly crotchets, quavers and minims
  • as well as partially repeated rhythmic patterns being used.
  • Throughout the five themes small parts of each other are repeated through the use of inversions, retrograde and sequences.

There are multiple elements being repeated but cohesion is maintained by the similarities between the instruments and their parts. In 1788 a five part fugato had never been attempted, the most was three. I can only imagine the self-restraint required and difficulty of balancing the parts for the final movement.

As I’m sure many music-lovers feel, there is a part of me that would love to be hearing this in the 1700’s, to hear the Symphony for how ground breaking and spectacular it truly is. Because although I enjoy Mozart’s music, I find the Jupiter Symphony excites me in a way his other works don’t, it is challenging to listen to and even more so in attempting analysis.

– Jamie-Leigh

Requiem Mass in D minor, W. A Mozart


This movement is quite brilliant in its simplicity. In 12/8 the bar is divided into four sections, the lower instruments play the pulse and root note on straight, unornamented crotchets while the higher instruments play two notes straight after, this creates a lilting ¾ feeling. The opening section structurally reminds me of a modern day pop song in that there is a simple ostinato played once. The first bar rises and falls, the second bar beginning on even higher notes floating back to the original note (C#) the first bar began on. Once this is completed a new voice enters, the vocals singing “Lacrimosa dies illa” (tearful will that day be), the soprano takes the lead melodically as it contains a very prominent leap of a minor sixth and ends on the C# which is a the same note the accompaniment ends on. The next line “qua resurget ex favilla” (on which from the ashes will rise) is a contrast to the previous section as the notes are shorter and quieter, this rises in intensity via increased volume and register to the next line which creates a contrast by becoming louder and sustaining the notes “Judi candus homo reus” (The guilty man for judgement). The final interval for this opening section contains an octave leap from the soprano (which I feel is the leading voice) to create a sense of closure. The contrast occurs every two bars in this opening section, one would expect the ears to grow tired of such a simple bit of music but the harmonies and constant pulse of the accompaniment is so perfectly contained and constructed as phrases that if it wasn’t repeated so much I would be disappointed. The ongoing pulse also adds to the feeling of underlying intensity the piece is trying to create.

When the voices enter with “Huic ergo parce deus” (so have mercy oh lord on this man) the piece becomes much quieter and simpler with very little rhythmic variation between the parts, and the accompaniment still plugs away at the pulse. The sweeter tone created by this section allows a major section to enter which is then, while still retaining the identical rhythmic ostinato as at the beginning, changed to a minor key and the same melody that appeared at the beginning enters again.

This movement closes with long sustained notes from the vocals and the rhythmic pulse in the accompaniment.

As an interesting note (again through my completely unextensive internet “research”), Lacrimosa’s final harmonies are in a major key while the rest is in a minor key. This is called a Picardy Third, it’s when a piece in a minor key ends in a major key by raising the 3rd scale degree and is intended to create a sense of closure.


Requiem Mass in D minor, W.A Mozart

This is such an enjoyable piece to look at. Not only because I really enjoy listening to it but also because of the mystery surrounding the composition.

It was written in 1791 during the last years of Mozart’s life for 2 basset Horns, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets in D, 3 trombones (alto, tenor and bass), timpani, violins, violas, basso continuo (cello, contrabass, organ or harpsichord), soprano, contra alto, tenor and bass soloists, as well as an SATB choir.

From my Internet “research” the story goes;

Count Walsegg commissioned Mozart to write the requiem (an ode to his late wife) with the intention to pass it off as his own and advanced Mozart half of his fee. When Mozart passed away before the works completion Constanze (his wife) contacted other composers to complete the requiem so she could collect the rest of the payment. At the time of his death only the opening movement, Requiem Aerternam, was finalised with the other movements being in fragments or sketches. Though Contanze insisted that Mozart had left explicit instructions for the works completion it is impossible to know for certain whether this is true. The remainder of the Requiem was completed predominately by Franz Xaver Sussmayer. Sussmayer was familiar with Mozart’s work, as he had helped him transcribe parts of the requiem in his final days when Mozart was too ill to write himself.

There are still debates over the structure of some of the movements and whether Mozart would have written it that way himself. Also, the inclusion of “Amen” is uncertain as sketches were found for this work but musicologists are in disagreement as to whether these sketches were intended for the requiem. This is highlighted in considering that the recording I have of the Requiem does not include “Amen” whereas the vocal score I have includes it.

I’m going to look at the two sequential movements Confutatis and Lacrimosa.


This movement has two distinct “characters”. The first introduced is an aggressive, loud, fast paced, lower register “character” performed by the bass and tenor soloists singing “confutatis maledictus flammis acribus addictus” (When the accused are confounded and doomed to flames of woe) Very dramatic and dark in theme. The tenor and bass perform a rhythmic imitation of each other separated by two crotchets, this achieves the feeling of confusion and madness (in the emotional, not musical sense). This is accompanied by a rhythmic ostinato on low strings whose starting note rises with every bar (A, B, C, D etc), and as it does it adds to the feeling of confusion and madness and creates a growing intensity. The opening section is contrasted (dramatically!) with the introduction of a second character a gentle, slower paced, quiet, angelic melody sung by the Alto and Soprano in, mostly, rhythmic unison a major third apart. The lyrics are “voca me cum benedictus” (call me among the blessed) a much nicer tone of language than the previous section. The first character cuts in and performs a part very similar to the opening section. When the Soprano and Alto enter for the second time, the sweet and angelic quality previously possessed is lost as the harmony is altered to a minor sixth, the retained slow tempo provides unity with the first time it was performed but the there is a sense of longing, despair and “giving up” as a result of the slow tempo and gentle tone of the voices.

The two character unite under the shared darkness the soprano and alto part created to bring the piece to a close singing “Oro supplex et acclinis, cor contritum quasi cinis, gere curam mei finis” (I kneel with submissive heart, my contrition is like ashes, help me in my final condition) The lyrics express the same sense of despair as the music.


W.A Mozart – Jupiter Symphony, 1st Movement, Allegro Vivace

This is one of Mozart’s last symphonies, and he was determined to make it revolutionary, despite the fact he was broke and in debt when he wrote it.

Before I begin it should be noted that Mozart did not name his Symphony in C Major (K.551) the “Jupiter” symphony. The name was believed to have been coined by Johann Peter Salomon.

I’m going to mainly focus on the Allegro-Sonata forms of the symphony for this analysis.

The symphony is scored for the classic Orchestra, with the exception of the clarinets, of which there are none.

The first movement, Allegro Vivace, is in Sonata-Allegro form, and has no Introduction, moving straight into the Exposition.  The two motifs introduced in the Exposition contrast beautifully. We have the loud and abrupt tutti opening call, followed by the soft and lyrical response provided by the strings. Both of which are in the tonic, C major. This is repeated twice, before a series of fanfares takes over. Then there is a bridge sequence where in the two opening motifs are developed. A second lyrical theme begins in the dominant, G major. I quite enjoyed the sound of the suspended seventh chord that ends this section, and loved it even more when it moves abruptly to C minor. After that, the expositional coda begins, in G major, and the exposition ends with another selection of fanfares. The development begins  by modulating from G major to E flat minor, and (obviously) develops the first section. The recapitulation is as pretty typical as it gets, with a few differences: there are a few differences in the key transpositions, and some of the minor key parts are expanded upon.

It is a beautiful piece of music, and sounds very stereotypically Mozart, as he is using all the tricks of his trade to again produce a perfect classical symphony. But, as was said in the introduction, he was determined to make it revolutionary. Hence, I am going to speak briefly about the groundbreaking final movement of his Jupiter Symphony.

In this finale, Mozart creates a contrapuntal masterpiece that could rival even the great J.S Bach. The exposition is made up of 5 interweaving themes, each it’s own theme that could easily have it’s very own exposition in and of itself. Mozart again out does himself in the development, where each theme is transformed using tools such as stretto, inversions and even retrogrades. The recapitulation follows the exposition closely, with slight differences.

The Coda, again, is an amazing work of contrapuntal and polyphonic art. It moves from 27 bars of the interweaving of themes 1, 3, and 4 before all five themes come together for the ultimate finale. The keys change between G major and C major, before the final announcement is made in C. The Symphony ends quite abruptly with a few homophonic bars in the tonic of C.

I love Mozart’s music, and this symphony is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed listening and studying this amazing work, and I hope y’all will enjoy it as much as I did :)


Mozart – Symphony #41 – 4th Movement

As promised I’ve returned to Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony #41 to look at the final movement. Somehow this score study has resulted in me listening to a fairly rank Techno version of the Russian national anthem as I write this up. Why? You ask. I’ll get to that later, first let’s look at movement four.

WOW! This is a very energetic and exciting movement. The first eight bars are quiet as the violins present the first subject, then POW – in comes there rest of the ensemble and punches you in the face, and continues to do so for most of the rest of the work. Clearly compared to the wide range of music we can listen to today this isn’t the most incredible sounding work, but I can easily appreciate how it would have been seen as revolutionary in 1788. This was first heard by people who had not yet heard Beethoven’s 5th which came along nearly 20 years later. It must have been like giving Beatles fans in the 60’s a copy of Nevermind by Nirvana to listen to.

Mozart’s love of sequences is taken to a new level in this movement with use of phrases several bars long, in an ‘iterative’ manner to create impressive part writing. Common writing sees the four different string lines enter 2 beats after each other with the (or a variation of) the same phrase. You have to feel sorry for the Bassists who were expected to play the rapid cello parts.

A two bar sequence that appears several times in the music is very typical of the Mannheim ‘Rocket’ themes with the ascending pattern of ‘Crotchet, Crotchet, Crotchet, Dotted Crotchet, Quaver, Minim. This little melodic line stuck out to me as I was sure I had  heard it elsewhere. Tchaikovsky uses the same figure in his ‘Festival Overture on the Danish Anthem’. I checked out the Danish anthem to see if this was actually part of that piece, but it wasn’t. Tchaikovsky also used elements of the Russian Anthem in that composition, but the figure is not taken from that either. In fact the Russian authorities were so upset at Tchaikovsky’s use of the Russian anthem in a Minor Key that the overture was never used for its intended performance.  So perhaps Tchaikovsky had been listening to Mozart when he wrote the overture. On a further random point, YouTube has some great Rock and Techno versions of the Russian Anthem.


Mozart Symphony #41 ‘Jupiter’ K551 – Movement 1

The piece begins loudly with the full orchestra stating the key (C Major) with some rapid perfect cadences then it is suddenly stripped back to just strings who play a very soft melodic figure that almost questions what came before it with it’s gradual rising melody with each rise in melody followed by a ‘sigh’ back down a step. The initial 23 bars are fairly predictable of the style and the writing of Mozart with the use or terraced dynamics and the winds/brass playing block chords whilst the strings supply a bit of interest. The rhythmic sequence of ‘crochet – dotted quaver – semi quaver – crotchet – crochet’ is found in many Mozart compositions.

Mozart uses small motifs, often no greater than 1 bar in length and then makes use of these ideas in various different harmonic or rhythmic modulations throughout the piece to continuously provide the listener with familiar material.

The movement seems to consist of three sections which are then repeated. Whist it starts and ends in C major, the piece constantly modulates and each time we hear material it is generally within a different key and despite being divided fairly visibly into sections, sequences from each section appear throughout the piece.

The part I consider to be the second (or B) section begins with a very simple 3 note melodic idea consisting of ascending semitones. It reminds me of the 2nd motif in the first movement of Mozart’s 40th which descends by semitone. Given they were written around the same time I wonder if Mozart did this intentionally.

One of my favourite bits is the use of a bars silence prior to a change of key which is pronounced by the full ensemble at forte. It gives the effect of the modulation to the new key great power.

Some research into this piece I’ve done suggests the 4th movement is of greater compositional interest due to it’s extensive part writing so I’ll aim to do one of my future posts on that movement.


What’s It about?

This is a blog for staff and students in the Composition Program at Monash University. We intend to keep a record of our study, thinking and compositional projects to document our work, show the world outside what we do and invite comment. We hope that over time the blog will provide useful hints and ideas about the creative processes of composition.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.