Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born 27th January 1756 - Died 5th December 1791

By Tim Reynish

He breathed into his instruments the passionate breath of Human Voice, that voice toward which his genius bent with overmastering love. He led the staunchless stream of teeming harmony into the very heart of melody; to give it that depth of feeling and fervour that forms the exhaustless source of human utterance within the inmost chambers of the heart. Richard Wagner


The two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Mozart gives us an opportunity, should we need one, to include some of his music in our programming for wind ensemble. The three great serenades are major works which take up a great deal of time, but since they are undoubted masterpieces by any standards, now is the time to programme them. This article is designed to throw a little background information on their genesis, and also to suggest alternative works to enrich our concerts.


One idea I suggested recently was to include a couple of some of the wonderful Notturni orCanzonettas for two sopranos and bass, with two clarinets and basset horn. They are ravishing miniatures, not easy to perform, but rewarding and virtually unknown.

All are scored for two sopranos and bass, with a wind trio. They date from around 1787, and can be found in editions with two clarinets and basset horn:

K 436 Ecco quel fiero istante 3 basset horns
K 431 Se lontan, ben mio 2 clarinets and basset horn
K 439 Due pupille amabili 3 basset horns
K 346 Luci care, luci belle 3 basset horns
K 549 Piu non si trovano 3 basset horns

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The Gran Partita for thirteen players, twelve wind with double bass, is built on Brucknerian lines, with seven movements, the whole lasting almost an hour and taking up half a concert. But if you want to programme a smaller version of it, there is a contemporary arrangement, possibly by Mozart, for regular wind octet of four movements, the first, the first minuet and trios, the sublime slow movement and the rondo finale. This is published by Doblinger in their Diletto Musicale series DM 1173, and there is a recording available by the Amsterdam Wind Ensemble conducted by the editor of this edition, Bastiaan Blomhert, STH-CD 19053.

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Many of Mozart's operas were arranged by his contemporaries; Went the oboist, who was a member of the Imperial Harmonie, Triebensee, Sedlak and Heidenreich were the chief arrangers, and you will find stylish transcriptions of Die Entführung, Die Zauberflöte, Le Nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan tutte, Don Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito. However, it seems extremely possible that a manuscript of Die Entführung aus dem Serail found in the library in Donaueschingen and edited by Bastiaan Blomhert was actually the arrangement by Mozart of which he wrote to his father in 1782:

I have no little work in front of me. By Sunday week my opera must be orchestrated for a band, or someone will step in in front of me and take the profit... You cannot imagine what hard work it is to orchestrate such a thing to make it fit for wind-instruments without sacrificing the whole effect. Well, I must just spend the night over it.

There are seventeen numbers, lasting for over an hour, and the scoring is more complex than in those mentioned above, in style more similar to the virtuoso writing in the Serenades. It is available on a number of recordings, including Amadeus Winds and the Sabine Meyer Wind Ensemble, and there is an excellent account of the research by Bastiaan, with a full score of the whole work, entitled The Harmoniemusik of Die Entführung aus dem Serail by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and performing material is available from Bärenreiter.

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2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, double bass.

The German composer Werner Egk had written a couple of works for the Mainz Wind Ensemble and its director Klaus Reiner Scholl, and shortly before his death conceived the idea of an arrangement of the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, scoring the accompaniment for wind and turning the work into a piece of Harmoniemusik for Octet with Double Bass. It is published by Schotts

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Divertimento in Bb K186
Divertimento in Eb K 166

These two works are his earliest for wind, and date from a visit to Milan, where he found not only clarinets but also cor anglais.

The scoring is for ten players: 2 oboes, 2 cor anglais, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns

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Divertimento in F K213
Divertimento in Bb K240
Divertimento in Eb K252
Divertimento in F K253
Divertimento in Bb K 270

These are good examples of background music, witty and charming, scored for 2 oboes 2 bassoons and 2 horns

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Serenade in Bb, K361, the Gran Partita
Serenade in C Minor K 388
Serenade in Eb major K375


Composed in 1781 in Vienna Of the three great masterpieces, we know most about the Eb Serenade, its composition and its first performances. Mozart gives us a charming picture of the premiere and why he wrote it, to curry favour with a certain Herr von Strack, Chamberlain to the Emperor. He writes to his father:

I wrote it for St Theresa's Day, for Frau von Hickel's sister, or rather the sister-in-law of Herr von Hickel, court painter, at whose house it was performed (October 15, 1781) for the first time. The six gentlemen who performed it are poor beggars, who however, play quite well together, especially the first clarinet and the two horns. But the chief reason why I composed it was in order to let Herr von Strack, who goes there every day, hear something of my composition; so I wrote it rather carefully. It has won great applause too, and on St Theresa's night it was performed in three different places; for as soon as they finished playing it in one place, they were taken off somewhere else and paid to play it.

Later Mozart wrote about an unexpected performance on his nameday October 31st:

At 11 o clock at night I was treated to a serenade performed by 2 clarinets, 2 horns and 2 bassoons - and that too of my own composition... these musicians asked that the street door be opened, and placing themselves in the centre of the courtyard, surprised me just as I was about to undress, in the most pleasant fashion imaginable with the first chord of Eb

There are three particular points of interest. First, it was originally scored for sextet for the traditional Harmonie, pairs of clarinets, bassoons and horns. Secondly a pair of oboes were added in July 1782 - perhaps to try to impress the Kaiserlich Königlich Harmonie, the Imperial and Royal Harmonie. Mozart could well have done with a court appointment at this time to pay all of the bills. Thirdly, it is in five movements, with two minuets and trios, and all five movements are in Eb, whereas symphonic works invariably used related but contrasting keys for the slow movements.

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This is a remarkable work; it was as if Mozart suddenly threw off the shackles of the exquisite taste of the light music genre to write a work passionate and romantic, intense and tragic. We know nothing about who commissioned it, where it was first performed, or why Mozart leaped into the maelstrom of C minor, an unheard of choice of key for a serenade. His great friend and mentor Haydn was influenced considerably by CPE Bach, and both Bach and Haydn experimented wildly with tonality. However, minor keys are very rare in Mozart; out of 23 piano concertos, there are two in a minor key, out of 41 Symphonies, again only two, both in G minor and out of some 40 works of the serenade type, just one.

Psychologists often discuss whether there is a hidden meaning behind choice of keys, and certainly with Mozart keys seem to lead him into particular stylistic views of a work. C minor seems especially to develop a special intensity in Mozart. Works such as the Fantasia for forte piano, the C minor Piano Concerto or the Entracte from King Thamos have an intensity, but nothing in the oeuvre prepares us for the stormy intensity of the C Minor Serenade.

The work remains an enigma, although we do know when he rescored it for string quintet. In 1788 his finances were in a particularly poor state and he advertised three new quintets for 2 violins, 2 violas and cello finely and correctly written. He had already written the C major K 515, the G minor K 516, and needed another quickly, so rather than attempt a brand new work he turned to the C minor K388 from 1782 and it became String Quintet K516b.

In 1782 he completed Die Entfuhrung, first performed on 16th July in Vienna. On the 20th July he wrote to his father about the huge success of Die Entfuhrung, and also indicated a problem that he had to cope with.

I have no little work in front of me. By Sunday week my opera must be orchestrated for a band, or someone will step in in front of me and take the profit... You cannot imagine what hard work it is to orchestrate such a thing to make it fit for wind-instruments without sacrificing the whole effect. Well, I must just spend the night over it.

We know of a performance of wind music advertised for Sunday 18th August, arranged in the Augarten by P J Martin. He was good friend of Mozart, he would later be Godfather to Mozart's eldest son, and so it was very likely that Mozart would have arranged Die Entführung for a fee. An arrangement of the opera, just then an enormous popular success, would have been a great hit, and this suggests to me that the C minor Serenade might have been written a little later.

Mozart wrote to his father on 27th July 1782:

I have had to compose in a great hurry a serenade, but only for wind instruments

It has always been supposed that he was in fact writing about the C Minor Serenade. However, he was still very busy with performances of the Die Entführung, and he was preparing for his wedding to Constanze. From his letters, he was clearly madly in love. In writing to his father to ask consent he says:

Constanze is a respectable good girl of good parentage. I am in a position to support her - we love each other - and want each other.

The C Minor seems to me to be a cri de coeur, certainly not the music of a man about to be married, at the peak of his popularity, so I feel that it may have well been written later in the year for those great players of the opera orchestra who also played in the Emperor's Harmonie in Vienna.

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SERENADE IN Bb K361 - The Gran Partita

In a lecture last September entitled The Gran Partitta Puzzle, preceding performances of the C minor and Bb major Serenades, I posed a number of questions about the Bb Serenade.

When did Mozart write the Gran Partitta?

When did he hear the music of a chess grandmaster which so influenced the first movement?

What happened to the score?

Why was it called Gran Partitta and why the wrong spelling?

Why was Mozart not present at the premier?

Did he ever hear the work?

Why was it written for thirteen instruments when the norm was eight?

Why does a work on so huge a scale not even get a mention in the catalogue which Mozart began in the same year, 1784?


First perhaps we should look at the genesis of the genre Harmoniemusik. The term Harmonie means a chamber ensemble of pairs of wind, originally pairs of oboes or clarinets, horns and bassoons. The golden age of the Harmonie was for a very short period after 1780, the world of the aristocratic patrons was fatally wounded by the French Revolution. The Harmonie had developed from the military and civic music of the Renaissance and Baroque.

One of the earliest examples of the ensemble dates from 1762 and the formation of a band for the Royal Artillery. Formed in 1716, the regiment was on active service in Minden in 1762 during the Seven Years War, when the commanding officer, Lt Colonel Philips, decided that the long winter evenings would be enlivened by the appointment of a band. He proposed the following:

i. The band to consist of eight men, who must also be capable to play upon the violoncello, bass, violin and flute, as other common instruments.

ii. The regiment's musick must consist of two trumpets, two French horns, two bassoons, and four hautbois or clarinetts; these instruments to be provided by the regiment, but kept in repair by the head musician.

It was for this sort of ensemble that Haydn was writing his Feldparthie, field partitas, or divertimenti. These pieces were suites usually in 5 movements and are typical of some 2000 works written in the next forty years, light music, a sort of 17th century equivalent of today's juke box music, background music throughout Europe in the dining halls of the courts, in Weinstube or Inns, in the salon, parks and gardens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

We read in the Musikalische Almanach of 1782:

Music at the festive midnight hour, in the month of May, under the gentle shimmer of the triste moon, enveloped by the thrilling horns of Fischer and le Brun, the singing bassoons of Schubart and Shwarzer - God - whereto might the soul, drunk with bliss, soar.

Holmes, writing a little later in A Ramble among the musicians of Germany pointed out that:

The music in the garden is played in a kind of summerhouse and the performers do not scruple during the pauses to avail themselves of certain ham sandwiches and sundry bottles of wine , thus repairing dilapidation of the spirits and keeping up excitement.

And Haydn writing from England :

Lord Claremont ordered the wind band to play the well known song, God Save the King in the street during a wild snowstorm. This occurred on 19th February 1792, so madly do they drink in England.


Mozart clearly adored wind instruments. The operas, symphonies and piano concertos are full of wonderful solo or ensemble for his wind, and clearly in Vienna he relished working with some of the greatest virtuosi of the time.

Then there is the Piano and wind quintet K452, composed in 1784. He was very pleased with this work and wrote to his father:

For my part I consider it the best thing I have written as yet in all my life. It has met with extraordinary success.

In March 1784, an announcement had appeared in the Wienerblättchen for a benefit concert for the clarinettist Anton Stadler, to be given in the Burgtheater in Vienna on 23 March 1784.

Herr Stadler, senior, in actual service of His Majesty the Emperor, will hold a musical concert for his benefit at the Imperial and Royal National Court Theatre, at which will be given, among other well-chosen pieces, a great wind piece of a very special kind composed by Herr Mozart.

A great wind piece of a very special kind.

Well, the Serenade in Bb is great and special. It is scored for twelve wind instruments and double bass, and is in seven movements. Why so many players? Possibly because unlike most serenades which were played as background music during meals or in the open air, this was to be played and listened to in the dry acoustic of a theatre, and so Mozart may have decided to add extra instruments in order to make it especially resonant.

Of the seven movements, only four were played at the premiere. Did Mozart misjudge the length of the concert? Hardly, since concerts at the time were extremely long. Were the other three movement written by then? We just do not know. There are three theories about when it was written.

In 1781, Mozart was in Munich for the premiere of Idomeneo, and for a long time it was thought he wrote it here - but there were few clarinets in Munich. The Serenade is written on the sort of paper he was using in 1781 and 1782, so 1782 is a possibility, the year in which he wrote the other two serenades. The latest possible date was 1784, for performance in Vienna.


What about the title - why was it called Gran Partitta - that's easier. Partita or Parthia was another name for divertimento or serenade or suite, and the name dates back to the suites of the Baroque. With seven movements, this was a good title, and Gran because it really is great. But the title was not Mozart's. The score disappeared for many years, sold on to various owners until it was eventually given to the Library of Congress in Washington, and scholars spotted quite soon that not only was the title mis-spelt, P A R T I T T A , but also the title had been added in red crayon in a different hand, probably in the 1790's

What happened to the score?

We know that it was written between 1780 and 1784 when the four movements were performed. We know of no other performances, in fact nothing until 1800 when the publisher Andre purchased the autograph score from Mozart's widow Constanze. For some reason he did not publish it, but presented the score in 1803 to the future Grand Duke Ludwig of Hessen-Darmstadt. It then passed to a number of owners, eventually arriving in the Library of Congress in 1942. The facsimile is published in very handsome edition dated 1976, with a superb introduction by Alfred Einstein


Another puzzle is the existence of a version for wind octet of four of the movements. Was this originally written in 1782 or 1783, and then used as the basis for expansion into the Serenade as we know it. It seems that there are six sources of the octet version, in Esterhazy, Donaueschningen and elsewhere, all with much the same text, no mention of an arranger.

The work is often known as the Serenade for 13 Wind, and is played with a contrabassoon - this is wrong, since the bass part from time to time is clearly marked pizzicato, a difficult effect to bring off on the contra bassoon. The 3rd and 4th horn parts are simply harmonic additions, very rarely do they, or indeed the 1st and 2nd horns have any melodic interest, but the basset horns are very important. The instrument is something like an alto clarinet, with a dusky, darkish tone. Mozart first wrote for it in Die Entführung in 1782, and clearly loved its dark colour.


Mozart did not attend Stadler's benefit concert at all, but rather heard the first performance of the piano concerto the same day instead, at the home of its dedicatee, Barbara Ployer. It is scored for strings with optional oboes and horns, so that the whole ensemble could fit into Babette's drawing room. In a letter to his father in February of 1784 Mozart claimed to be very busy writing works that would bring in money. This refers certainly to the piano concerto K449, written for Babette, for which Mozart was well paid. In fact, Mozart made K449 the first entry in his catalogue. There is no mention of a large work for winds in his catalogue, nor in letters to his father; he would most probably have disapproved, seeing the serenade as a commercial waste of time since almost certainly Mozart received little or no money from Stadler for it, and scant recognition.

Although Mozart was away, we have the critic Johann Schink, obviously a fan of Stadler, to thank for a review:

My thanks to you, great Virtuoso! I have never heard the like of what you contrive with your instrument. Never should I have thought that a clarinet could be capable of imitating a human voice so deceptively as it was imitated by you...I heard music for wind instruments today, too, by Herr Mozart, in four movements - glorious and sublime! It consisted of thirteen instruments, viz four corni, two oboi, two fagotti, two basset-corni, a contre-violin, and at each instrument sat a master - oh, what an effect it made - glorious and grand, excellent and sublime!


I have always felt that the first movement is melodically uncharacteristic of Mozart. There is a magnificent introduction featuring the clarinet as the operatic diva, and then the allegro starts, built on short breathed phrases, which re-appear again unusually for Mozart as the basis for the second subject group.

This opening phrase is drawn from an opera by Philidor, Le Grand Marechal, which Mozart would have seen on his visits to Paris. Philidor is an interesting person, an accomplished composer, he was also unofficial chess champion of the world, playing against Voltaire and Rousseau and his book analysing six games was best seller, he even sold 119 copies to officers of the British Army. He is buried in St James Church in London, and a newspaper obituary stated:

On Monday last, Mr. Philidor, the celebrated chess player, made his last move... into the other world.

The 6th movement is a set of variations, variations which also appear in Mozart's Flute Quartet K 171. Scholars believe that this work is possibly not by Mozart and was in fact an arrangement after the Serenade by some other hand, but what is undoubtedly a fact is that Mozart jotted down the Andante from Haydn's Symphony no 47, and based the outline shape of his variations on those by Haydn. The theme for the last movement, a rollicking Rondo, is borrowed from one of Mozart's earlier works, the Sonata for Piano four hands, K 19d from 1765.

We are indeed fortunate that the three great Serenades were written by a composer at the height of his powers. The wonderful writing for wind instruments in Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi fan Tutti, the choral music and the great piano concertos and symphonies of the next seven years, all owe its genesis to these three wonderful serenades.

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