Exsultate Jubilate

K. 165, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

When Mozart was sixteen, he visited Milan with his father for the premiere of his opera Lucia Silla, K.135. He was overwhelmed with the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini who starred in the title role of Cecilio. “He sang like an angel,” Mozart declared. Three weeks later he produced Exultate Jubilate to display Rauzzini’s talent. It was performed on January 16, 1773, in the Church of San Antonio.  His seventeenth birthday was the following day. Later he would revise the work two times (discovered in 1978), but the original version is the one which has stayed in the repertoire.

The composer called his new work a motet, defined in the 13th century “piece of music with words”. In the Renaissance, the motet became more elaborate with contrapuntal textures, and the genre had two formats: sacred and secular. In the 18th century, it was defined as a “sacred Latin solo cantata” per the contemporary music flutist and theorist, Johann Quantz.

In Exultate Jubilate the parts are as follows for soloist and orchestra:

AllegroExultate jubilate: twenty measure introduction

Recitativo: Fulget amica dies ( very small)

Andante: Tu virginum corona: a set of variations

Allegro (sometimes marked vivace): Alleluja

This is perhaps the most famous part of the motet and is frequently excerpted as a “tour-de-force” concert aria.

© Marianne Williams Tobias, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 2016.

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