The Museum of Islamic Art is hosting a night of Eine kleine Nachtmusik on December 4, provided by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. With that in mind, we look at some of his most famous pieces and the myths and facts that are associated with the genius.
Child genius, celebrated the world over. Long after we turn to dust, one man will remain immortal: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. What we know about him is generally tainted by the wonderful, but not necessarily accurate play Amadeus, written by Peter Shaffer, subsequently made into the 1984 masterpiece movie, showing his inability to assimilate into society, scatological vocabulary and, at the centre of the film, his fall from grace, brought about by Antonio Salieri.
What we do know is that his music has survived the ages and his name lives through time. And with Eine kleine Nachtmusik coming to the MIA, there’s no better reason to write about this genius.
Some of the works
Eine kleine Nachtmusik
A ‘little night music’ to enjoy. It is comprised of four movements: allegro, romanze, menuetto and rondo. Mozart wrote the score for an ensemble of two violins, a viola and a cello, with the option of adding a double bass. However, it is now often performed by string orchestras.
The Marriage of Figaro
A comic opera in four acts, premiering at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 1 May, 1786, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais.
It continues the plot from The Barber of Seville, also written by Beaumarchais. Rosina is now the Countess and Dr. Bartolo seeks revenge against Figaro for stopping his marriage to Rosina.
The libretto was written by Lorenzo De Ponte, who collaborated with Mozart on other works, including Don Giovanni.
An opera in two acts, based on the legendary and libertine tales of Don Juan, blending comedy and melodrama. It premiered at the Teatro di Praga by the Prague Italian Opera on October 29, 1787.
Giovanni cheats, abuses and outrages the entire cast. Going to the Commendatore’s house to attempt to seduce his daughter, Donna Anna, his seduction fails. With Giovanni masked, Donna Anna screams out and the Commendatore challenges the masked man to a duel.
Giovanni kills him but, ultimately, the Commendatore returns as a ghost, gives Giovanni the chance to repent, which he refuses, and then demons come and carry him away to Hell.
It is commonly believed that Mozart, suffering from one final illness, wrote this requiem for himself. In reality, Count Franz van Walsegg commissioned the requiem to memorialise the passing of his wife, but it is undoubted that Mozart was aware he was also writing it for himself. He never did fully finish it, but certain pieces, including Rex Tremendae, the Dies Irae and Requiem aeternam have become some of the best-known works of Mozart.
The myths and facts of Mozart
Fact: Mates with Haydn
Mozart and Joseph Haydn met around 1784 in Vienna. They would occasionally play together in an impromptu music session.
Myth: Salieri despised Mozart
Records suggest that it was more the other way around. Their relationship has been immortalised by Shaffer’s play Amadeus and the subsequent film.
Fact: He began composing at the age of five
It is well-known that Mozart was a child prodigy and he first performed in front of European royalty at this age.
Myth: Mozart died a pauper
This myth has been brought about because he was buried in an unmarked grave. Although the Mozarts did live lavish lifestyles and came into relative hardship in later years, his friends at the Masonry helped him out financially. It was the norm for people to be buried in a common grave in Austria. Individual graves were for royalty.
Fact: Mozart composed over 600 works
Mozart, in his 35 years, was commissioned to compose a vast array of work.
Mozart in Film
Mozart’s work has been credited in hundreds of films. One of the most iconic scenes occurs in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, with villain Stromberg feeding his female assistant to the sharks, believing she betrayed him and then raising his under-water lair, with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21, Movement II playing. Bond at its best.
Two of Mozart’s pieces are used in X-Men II. The Dies Irae is used at the start of the film as Nightcrawler attempts to assassinate the president of the USA, and Movement II of Eine kleine Nachtmusik is played later on when Magneto is in his plastic prison, reading a book.
Movement I of Eine kleine Nachtmusik is synonymous with the start of Amadeus, with a crazed, old Salieri performing it on the piano to the priest, confirming that Mozart’s music is to be immortalised and his forgotten with time.
Listen to Mozart
Listen to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra play Eine kleine Nachtmusik at the atrium of the Museum of Islamic Art from 6pm-7pm.
Museum of Islamic Art, Corniche (4422 4444).