Mozart and dance
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The Grosse Redoutensaal (Grand Ballroom) of the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna, where much of Mozart's dance music was first performed. The composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote a great deal of dance music. This article covers the types of dances that Mozart wrote, their musical characteristics, and their reception by the public both in Mozart's day and in modern times. Mozart's dance compositions relate to a personal trait of this composer: he was himself a great enthusiast for dancing. The article covers Mozart's training as a dancer, his high level of skill, and the various opportunities he had in his lifetime to go dancing. -------------------------------------------------
Dance music composed by Mozart
About 200 dances by Mozart are still preserved. The modern edition of the dances as published by the Neue Mozart Ausgabe (see External Links below) runs to about 300 total pages in score. For a complete listing of Mozart's dances, see this list. History
Mozart began writing dances when he was five years old; see Nannerl Notenbuch. In 1768, when Mozart was 12, his father Leopold reported that Wolfgang had composed "many minuets for all types of instrument". Mozart continued to write dance music for various occasions during the Salzburg period of his life (up to 1781). Following his move to Vienna, the pace of dance music composition increased, as on 7 December 1787 Mozart was appointed Royal and Imperial Chamber Composer for Emperor Joseph II. This post, though largely a sinecure, had as its main duty the composition of dances for the balls held in the Redoutensälen (public ballrooms) of the Imperial Palace. Mozart complied with this requirement scrupulously, composing dances in great number. He generally wrote dances each year between late December and early March; this reflected the scheduling of the imperial balls, which according to Abert were held "every Sunday during the carnival season, as well as on the last Thursday before Lent and on the last three days of the carnival." There are dances from 1788, 1789, and 1791; none date from 1790 because the Emperor was ill and died February 20 of that year. Genres
Mozart's dances are primarily in three genres.
The minuet was slightly old-fashioned by Mozart's time. It was of aristocratic origin, elegant and stately. Mozart wrote his minuets in ternary form; that is, first the minuet proper, then a contrasting trio section, followed by a return of the minuet. Mozart also wrote a great number of minuets intended for listening rather than dancing: they occur (usually as the third of four movements) in his symphonies, string quartets, and many other works. These minuets are usually longer, faster in tempo and less regular in their phrasing than the minuets meant for dancing. German dance
The German dance (German: Deutscher Tanz) originated with the lower social classes. It was much livelier than the minuet and to some degree resembled the waltz. The close physical contact between the dancers, together with constant spinning causing dizziness, led this dance to be attacked as immoral. It was nonetheless danced widely. Mozart's German dances are, like the minuets, in ternary form, but normally with a coda added. Abert notes that the coda "in most cases relates back to the final dance and frequently includes all manner of orchestral jokes". For an example of the German dances, see Three German Dances, K. 605. Contredanse
| No. 2 from the 5 Contredanses K. 609 (1791)MENU0:00|
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The contredanse was a form descended from English Country Dance. Like its ancestor, it was rich in figures (individual movements and patterns) and was popular among all social classes. Mozart composed contredanses as a sequence of multiple sections. They...