A letter from Mozart to his Father

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Mozart was a prolific letter writer. The letter below is from Mozart to his father and concerns Mozart's composition process for parts of his opera The Abduction from the Seraglio.

26 September 1781 In the original libretto Osmin has only [one] short song and nothing else to sing, except in the trio and the finale; so he has been given an aria in Act 1, and he is to have another in Act 2. I have explained to Stephanie [the librettist] the words I require for the aria ['Solche hergelaufne Laffen'] - indeed, I had finished composing most of the music for it before Stephanie knew anything whatever about it. I am enclosing only the beginning and the end, which is bound to have a good effect. Osmin's rage is rendered comical by the use of the Turkish music. In working out the aria I have Š allowed Fischer's beautiful deep notes to glow. The passage 'Drum beim Barte des Propheten' is indeed in the same tempo, but with quick notes; and as Osmin's rage gradually increases, there comes (just when the aria seems to be at an end) the Allegro assai, which is in a totally different metre and in a different key; this is bound to be very effective. For just as a man in such a towering rage oversteps all the bounds of order, moderation and propriety and completely forgets himself, so must the music too forget itself. But since passions, whether violent or not, must never be expressed to the point of exciting disgust, and as music, even in the most terrible situation, must never offend the ear, but must please the listener, or in other words must never cease to be music, so I have not chosen a key foreign to F (in which the aria is written) but one related to it - not the nearest, D minor, but the more remote A minor.

Let me now turn to Belmonte's aria in A major, 'O wie ängstlich, o wie feurig'. Would you like to know how I have expressed it - and even indicated his throbbing heart? By the two violins playing in octaves. This is the favourite aria of all who have heard it, and it is mine also. I wrote it expressly to suit Adamberger's voice. You see the trembling, the faltering, you see how his throbbing breast begins to swell; this I have expressed by a crescendo. You hear the whispering and the sighing - which I have indicated by the first violins with mutes and a flute playing in unison.

Osmin's aria
Belmonte's Aria


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