The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Ten Mozart performers name their favorite Mozart works to mark the composer’s 259th birthday this past week for the BBC Music Magazine. | January 31, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

This past week -– on Tuesday to be exact -– we celebrated the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born in 1756 and died in 1791.

Mozart c 1780 detail of portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce

It was his 259th birthday.

For all his fame, familiarity and popularity, Mozart is a curiously underestimated composer. His best work is so sublimely beautiful that it is easy to overlook how different and revolutionary it was in its day. Mozart changed music, and we don’t always appreciate that fact.

Anyway, a lot of radio stations, including Sirius XM Satellite Radio, WFMT in Chicago, WQXR in New York City and Wisconsin Public Radio, broadcast a lot of Mozart on that day.

But one of the most interesting celebrations that The Ear saw came from BBC Music Magazine. It asked 10 celebrated Mozart performers — including pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, conductor Sir Neville Marriner, pianist Dame Mitsuko Uchida, conductor Sir Roger Norrington and singer Barbara Bonney — to name their favorite work.

Mozart old 1782

It covered the range of Mozart’s enormous output: piano music, string quartets, operas, symphonies, violin works, operas and of course choral works. And the website provided generous sound samples of the works.

Here is a link:

At the bottom is a YouTube video of one of my favorite Mozart works — the Piano Sonata in C minor, played by Daniel Barenboim. It was also a favorite of Ludwig van Beethoven who seemed to use some of it in the slow movement of the familiar “Pathetique” Sonata.

What is your favorite Mozart work?

What else do you want to say about Mozart?

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. So many so hard to chose but Marriage of Figaro is the one. His operas are what set him above any other composer.


    Comment by Drew Fondrk — February 3, 2015 @ 8:11 am

  2. Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola and Great Mass in C Minor


    Comment by Ron McCrea — February 1, 2015 @ 10:35 pm

  3. Sir Denis Forman (author, “A Night at the Opera”) on Mozart and his pivotal role in the development of opera: “Mozart hauled opera out of history and placed it firmly in the present day. …Mozart stands at the watershed between museum opera and living opera. …””(He) brought the orchestra into opera not as an accompanist, but as a principal and he used his mastery of orchestration to point the plot, to describe the opera’s characters in music, to set the mood, control the tempo, and to make the orchestra a front runner along with the stage drama. He was the first composer to write music that is ‘theatrical’… . The world in general sees Mozart, Wagner and Verdi as 3 equal greats in the history of opera, but for some of us, of the 3, Mozart is the most equal.”

    Mozart, by the way, in his short lifetime, wrote the music for 17 finished operas, 7 of which, are still mainstays of the opera world.


    Comment by fflambeau — January 31, 2015 @ 3:29 am

  4. Others that Mozart influenced greatly: Rossini and Max Reger. The theme of the opening movement of the Piano Sonata in A major K. 331 (itself a set of variations on that theme) was used by Reger for his Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart, written in 1914, and remains probably Reger’s best-known work.

    Mozart’s novel works in the world of opera completely changed that whole sector of music: he introduced comedy to the opera, he brought the opera to the public at large etc.

    In addition, Mozart received outstanding praise from several notable composers, including Frédéric Chopin, Franz Schubert, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, Robert Schumann, and many more.

    Mozart as a composer/improviser has remained an influence in popular contemporary music in varying genres ranging from Jazz to modern Rock and Heavy metal. An example of this influence is the outstanding jazz pianist Chick Corea, who has performed piano concertos of Mozart and was inspired by them to write a concerto of his own. See also his collaboration with Bobby McFerrin on the “Mozart Sessions” CD, a best seller that features McFerrin singing and conducting the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra with Chick Correa on piano, playing their “version” of Mozart. As McFerrin has rightly pointed out (Mozart playing on most any instrument) was one of the world’s greatest improvisers, and improvisation is at the heart of jazz. Hence, the “crossover” interest in Mozart.


    Comment by fflambeau — January 31, 2015 @ 2:01 am

  5. “For all his fame, familiarity and popularity, Mozart is a curiously underestimated composer.” Really? His music is played by almost everyone, everywhere and sells well. Best selling, Oscar winning movies have been made about his life. Tons of music festivals feature/highlight his work, including perhaps the most famous one in all of music, the Salzburg Festival. Many famous composers have used his music to write variations upon it (Beethoven; Chopin; Glinka; Sor). Tchaikovsky wrote the “Mozartina”, as its name indicates, as a tribute to the great one. In Europe, his image is even used to sell chocolates! A nonsensical statement, Jacob. As far as favorite works: his famous Clarinet Concerto in A Major K. 622 and his opera “The Magic Flute”, Die Zauberflöte, K. 620.


    Comment by fflambeau — January 31, 2015 @ 12:53 am

  6. My favorite Mozart work: a toss up between K.488 Piano Concerto in A & his Requiem. Both divine pieces of musical revelation.


    Comment by buppanasu — January 31, 2015 @ 12:35 am

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