But a while back I noticed that I had almost no Mozart on my CD shelves so I decided to fill the gap. The Complete Mozart was available at an amazingly low price so I ordered it. I did a quick browse through the discs--which took a few months since there are 170 of them! But now I am just completing a second, more thorough listening. The operas come last and I am just about to listen to Don Giovanni. A few days ago I listened to The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze de Figaro in the original Italian).
I also read a couple of biographies of Mozart, one execrable and one quite good. As I recall, in one passage in the quite good one the author writes that every couple of months, for most of his life, Mozart would write a work of true genius. He names a few, like the Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra or the Quintet in G minor, or the Linz Symphony.
One of the real failings of the very successful film of Mozart's life, Amadeus, is that his genius is underrated if anything. When you say that every couple of months he wrote something of real genius this means that every couple of months he wrote something that was as good if not better than what most composers manage once in their lives. If that. Stravinsky wrote one astonishing piece of music in his life: the Rite of Spring. Shostakovich perhaps two. Beethoven wrote perhaps four or five. Bach a dozen or so. But Mozart wrote something devastatingly astonishing every couple of months.
I ran across one of these feats of genius in the Marriage of Figaro. Act II (of four acts) ends with a twenty minute finale, as was common in the opera buffa. Mozart precedes this with a little duet:
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Followed by a quartet:
Followed by a quintet:
And finishing, almost unbelievably, with a septet in which there are seven different characters on stage simultaneously, each with different lyrics to different melodies and rhythms:
Here is what Charles Rosen had to say about it:
The tour de force of this new conception of musical continuity in drama as an increasing complexity of independent units is the famous second act finale, which moves from duet, through trio, quartet and quintet to septet in a magnificently symmetrical tonal scheme.I couldn't possibly sort it all out for you today, but Paul Zweifel has done a beautiful job of giving the background and sorting out the plot for you here. Oh yes, and the whole thing is structured by being in sonata form: exposition, development and recapitulation.
Here is just that final septet, with subtitles in English:
And here is the whole of Acts 1 and 2 from the 2006 Salzburg Festival: