You already know quite a bit of music by Mozart, even if you don’t know you know it. His music shows up in movies, TV shows, and elevators. He wrote literally hundreds of pieces— his catalog lists 626 published works!
What’s his best music, though? You can answer that question in any number of ways, but we’ve decided to narrow it down to Mozart’s five greatest hits… the five most famous, most influential pieces of music ever written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Think we got it wrong? We’d love to hear your list. Let us know your favorites on Facebook.
5. Serenade No. 13 “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”
You tell us: catchy tune, or catchiest tune? One way or another, you know this piece, and we’re really sorry that it’s going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. There’s a reason it’s been arranged for pretty much any combination of instruments you can think of, including this one:
The funny thing is, there’s no evidence Mozart even cared that much about this piece. He sketched it out really quickly while he was writing Don Giovanni, but no one bothered to publish it until 40 years later, long after he was dead.
4. Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter”
In the course of his 41 symphonies, Mozart transformed the genre from its often-lighthearted roots into a much more profound artistic statement, setting the stage for Beethoven’s symphonic revolution.
And Mozart left the best for last. The “Jupiter” is his longest and most intense symphony. We could talk about the first three movements, but it’s in the finale that Mozart really cuts loose and makes it clear that he’s in charge. In this movement, he doesn’t just create a five-voice fugue, he makes it fit into the constraints of sonata form, never missing a beat or letting the energy lag.
3. Clarinet Concerto
The clarinet concerto is a beautiful piece, and it was the last instrumental music Mozart composed. It was also written for a relatively new instrument that pretty much owes its place in the orchestra to Mozart.
2. The Magic Flute
Ask a group of singers which opera is Mozart’s greatest, and you’ll hear a whole lot of arguing about Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. We’re going to go out on a limb, though, and give the number two spot to The Magic Flute, and not because of its psychedelic fantasy plot and intense lyrics (“The wrath of hell burns within my heart!”), though both are pretty awesome.
No, we’re making Flute number two because with this piece, Mozart kind of invented the musical.
Yeah, opera had existed for about 200 years, but The Magic Flute wasn’t really an opera. It was a Singspiel — a song-play — which was a genre of theater popular in Germany featuring spoken (rather than sung) dialogue interspersed with songs.
It was also a pretty lowbrow artform. Most Singspiele were simple comedies written for lower-class audiences and performed by itinerant actors traveling from village to village.
The Magic Flute dragged Singspiel from the town square onto the stages of Austria’s most prestigious theaters, giving the genre legitimacy in the eyes of the upper class and establishing a theatrical tradition that would eventually lead to Broadway.
Even though the story told in “Amadeus” isn’t true, Mozart’s Requiem is still one of the most moving pieces in all of classical music. The fact that he wrote it on his deathbed and it had to be completed after he died only makes it that much more impressive.
Think about that for a minute: the guy was so good, he was able to write his own Requiem. Who else was he going to get to do it? Salieri?
And one more: the "Jeunehomme" Piano Concerto
Mozart wrote this concerto for a skilled pianist friend, and it shows! The elegant style of this concerto requires the touch of an expert musician. Singing melodies float about, decorated with turns, runs, and other virtuosic ornaments... and the simplicity exposes any weakness in the pianist's technique. Mozart himself was a fan of this work, and he performed it many times.
Stream More Mozart at Redlands Symphony
Enjoy our Rewind episode that showcases Mozart's Divertimento in D, Sinfonia concertante, and Symphony No. 36 "Linz." Each piece is introduced by our music director and conductor, Ransom Wilson.
Sparks will fly with the joy, energy, and diversity of American music. Enjoy favorites from William Grant Still, Aaron Copland, and Joan Tower. Experience the Coltrane-inspired virtuosity of John Adams’ spirited Saxophone Concerto.