10 works by Mozart that you might not know

Pieces by music’s most famous composer you may not have heard before

10 works by Mozart that you might not know
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart pictured with his sister Maria Anna and father Leopold and a portrait of their mother, Anna Maria

Everybody has heard Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and there aren’t many who wouldn’t recognise the 'Queen of the Night' aria from The Magic Flute. But several of the great composer’s works are performed far less often. Here are 10 you may not have heard before…


1. ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te?’ K505

Mozart’s concert-arias are a treasure trove of neglected masterpieces. ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te?’ is actually an aria and miniature piano concerto rolled into one, showing us just how closely related the worlds of Mozart’s operas and concertos really are.



2. Davide penitente, K469

Mozart salvaged the music of his great unfinished Mass in C minor K427 by turning it into an oratorio with new words, and adding two spectacular arias. The music itself places grand Handelian choruses cheek by jowl with passages in operatic style.



3. Adagio & Rondo in C minor, K617

The most ethereally beautiful of the shorter pieces Mozart composed in the last months of his life combines the unique sound of the glass armonica (the part was composed for the blind virtuoso Marianne Kirchgässner) with a quartet consisting of flute, oboe, viola and cello.



4. Sonata in F major for piano duet, K497

This grandest of all Mozart’s piano duets is in effect a symphony in disguise, complete with an imposing slow introduction. The last two movements, in particular, find Mozart revelling in his contrapuntal mastery.



5. Adagio for two clarinets & three basset horns, K411

The mellow sound of clarinets and their lower-pitched cousins called basset horns gives Mozart’s wind writing a special character. This piece scored for them has a velvety sonority that lends the music a nostalgic quality. 



6. Fantasia in F minor, K608

One in a small group of pieces for a mechanical organ, which Mozart wrote in his last year. Its intense and dramatic outer sections enclose a middle section in the form of a serene series of variations.



7. Suite for piano, K399

In 1782 Mozart became fascinated with Bach and Handel. He completed no more than the Overture, Allemande and Courante of this Baroque-style suite, but they can stand comparison with the corresponding movements in Bach’s Partitas and English Suites.



8. Zaide, K344

This Singspiel, a forerunner of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, was left incomplete, but it’s full of great music. Mozart’s use of melodrama – music interspersed with spoken dialogue – is striking.



9. Masonic funeral music, K477

Opening with deep ‘sighs’ on the oboes, echoed by three basset horns and double-bassoon, this is one of the most tragic and austere of Mozart’s orchestral pieces. The use of a plainchant melody from the Lamentations of Jeremiah adds to the atmosphere of grief.



10. Duos for violin & viola, K423 & 424

These two miraculous pieces are the portal to the inner workings of chamber music. The two players are treated as equals virtually throughout, and Mozart’s scoring for this slenderest of ensembles is endlessly inventive. 



Words: Misha Donat

Tom Service’s The Joy of Mozart is on BBC Four on Sunday 18 January, 9pm. Visit: bbc.co.uk to find out more




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