Feature: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Exsultate jubilate K165

rauzinniIn 1773 the "sixteen, going on seventeen" Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his father Leopold were on the last of their three visits to Italy. The initial impetus for the trip was overseeing the first performances of  Lucio Silla, K. 135, an opera seria commissioned by the ducal theater in Milan the male lead for which was one of the most celebrated castrati of the day Venanzio Rauzzini (1746-1810). The opera opened on December 26th 1772 and Rauzzini was scheduled to sing a new motet composed by Mozart for the occasion in Milan’s Chiesa di Sant’Antonio abate January 17th 1773 you might think that even for a budding genius this was too tight a deadline and you’d be right he didn’t quite manage it and instead of producing a motet consisting of two arias,  two recitatives,  and an Alleluia, which at that time was the standard structure for a motet in Italy he dropped second recitative giving Exsultate jubilate its structure of Aria → Recitative → Aria → Alleluia and, incidentally, coming up with the formal structure he would follow when composing his concertos. If you look at the score for Exsultate jubilate it rapidly becomes clear that this while technically it’s a motet you could with equal justification call it a Concerto for solo Castrato.

Rauzzini was a singer of formidable virtuosity and it’s a testament to both his skill and his stamina that Mozart felt he could successfully meet not only the demands of the opening Allegro and the concluding Alleluia but that could also succesfully negotiate florid passages of great rapidity set against some beautifully expressive and fluid lyrical writing. It gives you some idea of how demanding a piece this is when you remember that while the piece as a whole is popular as a concert showcase for generations of soprano virtuosi that the Alleluia alone is often excerpted for use as a concert aria.

Musically it’s divided into four parts:

Aria: Exsultate, jubilate (Allegro) this is a budding sonata that features a brief but nevertheless complete solo cadenza just before the coda.

Recitative: Fulget amica dies.

Aria: Tu virginum corona (Andante) this elegant, cantabile movement with its beautifully fluid writing that resembles the first movement’s main subject is followed by a very brief cadenza that directly modulates into the Alleluia’s main subject. (Incidentally if anyone ever tells you that Beethoven was the first to link two concerto movements tell them to listen to Exsultate jubilate technically they’re correct in that Exsultate jubilate  isn’t formally a concerto but nevertheless Mozart got there first).

Alleluia: Alleluia (Molto allegro) the gloriously happy ritornello of Mozart’s rondo-finale completes a musical trinity of themes ending the motet with a breathtaking virtuosic display that shows the young Mozart at his pragmatic best and by no means incidentally consoles his audience for the fact that he never quite got around to writing the second recitative.

Enjoy :-)


Feature: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Exsultate jubilate K165

Exsultate, jubilate,
o vos animae beatae,
dulcia cantica canendo,
cantui vestro respondendo,
psallant aethera cum me.
Rejoice, resound with joy,
o you blessed souls,
singing sweet songs,
In response to your singing
let the heavens sing forth with me.


Fulget amica dies,
jam fugere et nubila et procellae;
exorta est justis,
inexspectata quies.
Undique obscura regnabat nox, surgite tandem laeti,
qui timuistis adhuc,
et jucundi aurorae fortunatae frondes dextera plena et lilia date.

The friendly day shines forth,
both clouds and storms have fled now;
for the righteous there has arisen an unexpected calm.
Dark night reigned everywhere [before];
arise, happy at last, you who feared till now,
and joyful for this lucky dawn,
give garlands and lilies with full right hand.

Tu virginum corona,
tu nobis pacem dona,
tu consolare affectus,
unde suspirat cor.
You, o crown of virgins,
grant us peace,
Console our feelings,
from which our hearts sigh.

Alleluja, alleluja!

Alleluja, alleluja!

Sylvia McNair

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