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1750 - 1791

Marche funèbre
sulla morte del Signor Maestro Contrapunto,
KV 453a

arranged by Mark Starr for chamber orchestra
from Mozart's original piece for pianoforte (1784)

link to biography of Mozart

A demo recording of this arrangement -- realized with digital musical sounds -- will begin to play automatically upon opening this page.  If you do not wish listen to it, please click on the STOP button (or the PAUSE button) on the media player, below. You may wish to adjust the volume on your computer to a more comfortable level.


A delightful funeral march? Yes, when it is a funeral march by Mozart -- composed as a joke.

One of Mozart's students, a girl named Maria Anna Barbara Ployer (known to all as Babette), showed extraordinary promise as a pianist. In 1784, Mozart composed two of his greatest piano concerti for her.

However, Babette hated her studies in counterpoint.  Mozart did not wish to discourage her remarkable progress as a piano student, so he removed the study of counterpoint from her curriculum.

But Mozart being Mozart, he did it in a charming and ironic manner, by composing a tiny dirge that contains absolutely no counterpoint, thus burying the recently deceased Signor Maestro Contrapunto -- i.e., the noble but boring personification of counterpoint. The entire piece lasts 16 bars - with repeats, 32 bars.

Mozart notated the short piano piece on a page in Babette's album.  And there it remained, undiscovered until long after Babette's death in 1811.  (Mozart died in 1791.)

Like other ostensibly simple pieces by Mozart, his simplicity here was deceptive. This little piece is touched by genius.

In the opinion of arranger Mark Starr, this poignant music deserves to be orchestrated in the manner of Mozart's other funeral marches -- in particular, the Masonic Funeral Music, KV 477 -- which followed soon after Marche funèbre sulla morte del Signor Maestro Contrapunto, KV 453a.    However, if one plays the piece straight, as many piano students do, the point of Mozart's joke is obscured -- if not lost altogether. 

For that reason, Starr has inserted near the end a virtuoso cadenza for clarinet solo (which is optional in performance.)  You see, il Signor Maestro Contrapunto is not really dead.  In fact, he lived on in the late works of Mozart, and all the masters who followed:  Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, etc. Indeed, il Signor Maestro Contrapunto lives on today in the music of many contemporary composers.  In the clarinet cadenza, you can hear il Signor Maestro Contrapunto, alive and well, laughing at all those music students who hate counterpoint exercises.

Hopefully, this orchestral arrangement will give il Signor Maestro Contrapunto a proper send-off.

Marche funèbre, by Ingres

The full score of this arrangement is available for perusal, audition, purchase, downloading and printing on the website http://www.sibeliusmusic.com . Here is a link directly to the score:


The orchestral parts for this arrangement are available on rental for public performances and/or recordings from Noteworthy Musical Editions.  The arrangement is copyrighted and registered with ASCAP.

You can hear Mozart's original piece for piano performed on YouTube.  Just click on the sollowing link: