The wind band in Mozart's opera orchestra: Origins, function, and legacy

Date of Completion

January 2007






This dissertation will investigate the use of wind instruments in the operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed between 1767 and 1791. Where are the origins of Mozart's "wind band" to be found? What are the innovative ways in which he uses wind instruments? Why did he employ such full orchestral forces in his later operas and not in his symphonies and concertos? What was the legacy prompted by Mozart's use of wind instruments and how did his innovations influence the next generation of Viennese composers? To put it another way, the genesis of the classical symphony orchestra of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is to be found in the Viennese and Bohemian wind bands of the time, combined with the Italian style opera orchestra employed in the court theaters of the Habsburg Empire. This is nowhere more apparent than in the stage works of Mozart. It is Mozart, by virtue of the fact that he was a composer of symphonies, concertos and operas, unlike the Italians who concentrated mainly on opera, who was at the forefront of this development. The origins of the "high-Classical" orchestra are to be found, more than anywhere else, in Mozart's mature operas. The synthesis of German symphonic style and the more string dominated Italian operatic style is at the core of this development, and the Viennese and Bohemian fondness for wind instruments was a key factor in this evolution. This orchestral synthesis which was pioneered by Mozart more than anyone else created the model for the classical symphony orchestra. ^