Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been one of my favorite composers for years, especially after I watched Milos Foreman's brilliant film Amadeus, a wonderful adaptation of Peter Shaffer's stage play.
While the story and the performances by F. Murray Abraham (Antonio Salieri) and Tom Hulce (W. A. Mozart) were enthralling, the true star of the movie was, of course, Mozart's beautiful and timeless music, and no wonder, for the music supervisor (and conductor) for Amadeus was none other than one of the best interpreters of Mozart's compositions, Sir Neville Marriner.
In this wonderful two-disc set of the original soundtrack, Marriner leads the acclaimed Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields orchestra in 20 excerpts from various symphonies, piano concertos, operas, and Mozart's final opus, the Requiem.
Disc One begins with the first movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K 183, a very dramatic and energetic work which foreshadows the emotionally charged compositions of Beethoven (who was a student of Mozart's) and other composers of the Romantic era. Composed when Mozart was only 17 years old, it is the first symphony he wrote in a minor key. Sweeping and almost stormy at times, it is an apt accompaniment to the film's "I killed Mozart!" opening sequence.
Among the other eight tracks on this first disc are excerpts from Giovanni Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater," early 18th Century Gypsy music played on instruments of the period, and more Mozart works ranging from opera (the Turkish Finale from The Abduction from the Seraglio) to the first movement from Symphonie Concertante, K 364.
Disc Two contains 11 tracks, including the beautiful third movement of the Piano Concerto in E flat, masterfully played by pianist Ivan Moravec and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Opera and fans of Mozart's works for voice and orchestra will enjoy this second disc, for not only are there excerpts from The Marriage of Figaro (Ecco la Marcia, Ah Tutti Contenti) and Don Giovanni (the famous Commendatore scene from Act II), but also the "Ruhe Stanft" aria from Zaide (featuring the lovely voice of soprano Felicity Lott). Rounding out the bulk of this mostly vocal-works half are five selections from Mozart's Requiem, K 626, a work into which the composer poured his creativity and energies but was unfinished at the time of his death in 1791. Aptly, the final track is the "Romanza" or second movement of the Piano Concerto in D minor, K 466. As played by Imogen Cooper and the orchestra, it reflects various emotions that are normally associated with music from the Romantic era rather than the more sedate and "logical" Classical period in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived during his brief 36-year sojourn on Earth.
The two-disc set also comes with a handy booklet with program notes, divided into "The Story" on one side of the page and "The Music" on the other, helping the listener identify which cue goes with what scene, while at the same time giving brief music appreciation notes to put the works into historical and artistic context.