Mozart was taught music by his father. He began composing at the age of 5, wrote his first symphony at 8 and his first opera at 11! As a teenager he and his sister were famous all over Europe; they travelled around with their father performing piano and violin duets to royalty. Their special trick was to make up the music on the spot! Mozart was an absolute genius. He wrote every kind of piece and was brilliant at all of them. He was also a lot of fun to be around. He loved to play practical jokes on people and he often got into trouble for doing so. He had a celebrity lifestyle with the best clothes, and most lavish houses and a lot of parties. Unfortunately he didn’t always have enough money to live like this and so had to say yes to every request for music that came along. By the age of just 35 he died of exhaustion leaving several important pieces unfinished and not enough money for a proper funeral. It was a very sad end for a man who changed music forever and is still regarded as one of the greatest composers who ever lived.
Most of the time the orchestra perform happily together but sometimes one instrument becomes a focus and has a little more fun. A concerto is a piece for a solo instrumentalist and orchestra, showing off the skill of the soloist. This piece was composed for a brilliant horn player, Mozart’s friend Joseph Leutgeb. Joseph was often on the receiving end of pranks and jokes from his composer friend and this piece is a musical chase as if the orchestra are running after the French horn player who is one step ahead! Catch me if you can! You cannot get this tune out of your head, just like the hook in a good pop song.
In music, a movement is a section of the piece of music – like a chapter in a book. Traditionally, a concerto consists of three movements, often a fast movement, then a slow movement, and then another fast one. This piece of music we are listening to is the third movement from Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4, and it is a Rondo. A Rondo is a musical structure in which a tune or theme returns at various intervals throughout the piece.
As you listen to the music, listen carefully to the opening 7 seconds. This is the main theme, and is played by the solo instrument, the French horn. It is immediately followed by a repeat of the same tune, played by the whole orchestra. This tune, is played lots of times, either by the French horn or by the orchestra. See if you can spot it each time.
Find out more about a Rondo:
Find out about the French horn from Ben Goldscheider who won the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition:
Horns in Mozart’s time were even more difficult to play because they didn’t have valves (buttons) to press. Mainly horns were used to play hunting fanfares but being a horn player on a hunt was hazardous - you had to ride a horse and play at the same time!
In this video, the horn player is using a horn like the horns played in Mozart time.
Find out more about a French horn: