The Lighter Side of Mozart: Serenades, Divertimenti and Dances

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) is revered primarily for the serious works that he composed for the church, the theatre, and the concert hall, but his output is also sprinkled with lighter pieces that were written purely for entertainment. Throughout his career Mozart wrote background music for garden parties and other festive gatherings as well as marches and dances for public and domestic balls. We will sample some fruits of Mozart's simpler manner, demonstrating that these delightful and unpretentious confections hold keys to unlock Mozart's oeuvre and better understand his style.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, January 11 to Friday, February 5. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to messages, and engage in course activities. Students enrolled in Section 1 will participate in live videoconferencing sessions each Wednesday from 10–11:30 a.m. PT; students enrolled in Section 2 will participate in live videoconferencing sessions each Thursday from 3-4:30 p.m. PT.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Identify the elements of the musical styles in the lighter works of Mozart.
  • Describe the social context that provided the occasions for Mozart’s lighter works.
  • Discuss what these works by Mozart tell us about his approaches to composition.

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in videoconference seminars

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: Marches and dances

Mozart's numerous dances for orchestra include minuets, contredanses, German dances, and landler. We will see that these various dance types carried specific associations of character and social class in the minds of 18th-century composers and listeners.

Week 2: Divertimenti

The divertimenti are extended chamber works that embrace a multiplicity of musical styles, from stately minuets to florid, songlike slow movements of Italianate character. Our survey will include the famous "Lodron Night Music" divertimento.

Week 3: Serenades and notturnos

Writing music for parties and celebrations stimulated Mozart to some striking experiments in instrumentation, such as the Serenata Notturna for strings and timpani or the Notturno "for four orchestras."

Week 4: Serenades and notturnos

Mozart's later serenades, such as the "Haffner" and "Posthorn," contain much irresistible music, some of which approaches the symphonic breadth and emotional range of the master's greatest orchestral works.

Books, materials and resources

You will access reading material using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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