During the final year of his life, Mozart was extraordinarily productive. In the months leading up to his illness, and eventual death on December 5, 1791 at the age of 35, Mozart completed a series of works including the Clarinet Concerto, K. 622, a final String Quartet, K. 614, the motet Ave verum corpus, K. 618, and the operas Così fan tutte and The Magic Flute. The monumental Requiem in D minor remained unfinished until other composers pieced together Mozart’s blueprint, posthumously.
Often overlooked is the opera, La clemenza di Tito (“The Clemency of Titus”), K. 621. The commission, which Mozart received in July of 1791, came from Prague, and was intended to celebrate the coronation of Leopold II as King of Bohemia. Designed to buttress the aristocratic order in the wake of the French Revolution, the politically charged work fell into the category of opera seria, an already anachronistic form which involved stories rooted in ancient history and mythology. The commission was first offered to Antonio Salieri, who was too busy and turned it down. Mozart was given barely a month to complete the opera. While in Prague for the September 6, 1791 premiere, he fell ill with a sickness which would become fatal.
Beginning with halting, dramatic fanfares, the Overture to La clemenza di Tito is festive music fit for a coronation. It is straightforward, crowd-pleasing music by a man who was not only a sublime composer, but also a consummate craftsman and professional.
- Mozart: La clemenza di Tito : Overture, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Zürich Opera Orchestra Amazon
Featured Image: the Estates Theatre in Prague where “La clemenza di Tito” was premiered