Friday, December 29, 2017

Tis The Season For Mozart? (My Christmas Music, Part 2)

Every season is Mozart season.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) needs little introduction. He is one of the greatest classical composers of all time. Mozart's music covers the entire 18th century European repertoire: church music, ensemble music, concertos, sonatas, symphonies, operas, and songs and dances. And much of it has a joyful exuberance which is the result of the intersection of great intuition and technical perfection.

I fell in love with Mozart's music when I was 11 years old. I was old enough to borrow vinyl records from the library for two weeks at a time and wear them out with listening. He inspired me to dream of becoming a classical composer, and even to try my hand at it (after all, Mozart himself began composing at the age of five).

He was a child prodigy. I was not. But it was fun trying.

Anyway, it's not hard to find Mozart's music on Christmas playlists or in choral performances during this time of year. He didn't write music specifically for Christmas, but he wrote festive music for sacred and secular contexts that is appropriate for accompanying this joyful season.

After Advent, the Gloria returns to the Latin liturgy on Christmas, and is sung throughout the week. I find the Gloria from Mozart's magnificent Mass in C major especially lovely this time of year:

Another Mozart work appropriate for enjoying at Christmas is the Motet Exsultate, Jubilate. Though it has prayer as its theme, this has been a concert piece from the beginning. It calls for the kind of vocal dexterity that really showcases the talents and skill of an operatic soprano.

Here's another thing that makes YouTube great. Pick someone awesome, like Kathleen Battle. Search on YouTube and BOOM listen to and watch a performance from 1994. Here's the first part:

Mozart also wrote music for parties. Among his German Dances is the one titled "Sleigh Ride," complete with jingling bells. If this isn't yet part of your Christmas playlist, you should really add it. Even this "light" music has that touch of the Maestro's hand, that elegance, delightful flow, perfection, and joyful quality that mark Mozart's genius and make his music so wonderful for Christmas: