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Mozart: Abduction from the Seraglio Overture

Can you guess this piece? Here's a hint: An entirely different kind of Turkey.

Turkey (the country, not the food) was a popular musical theme in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly in Vienna. The location of Turkey on Austria-Hungary’s eastern border prompted a fashion for music imitating the style of Turkish military bands, called the alla turca style, or JANISSARY MUSIC in reference to the military rank of that name. This music emphasized quick, boxy rhythms in double time, and frequently employed a triangle and bass drum. Because the style was so popular, early fortepianos were sometimes made with drum and triangle attached, allowing a single player to imitate the sound of a Janissary band. Cannily aware of this fad, Mozart noted in a letter that the Turkish choruses in “Abduction” were “short, lively, and written to please the Viennese.”

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