I’m reading a book about Mozart and the author mentioned that Mozart liked to laugh and be happy. Hence, he used to joke a lot.

Three kinds of jokes are mentioned:

  1. Those that everybody would understand (e.g. Papageno and Magic Flute)
  2. For players: asking to play an impossible musical fragment
  3. Esoteric jokes, hidden in his pieces

Some of the jokes from the third category remained hidden and undiscovered, but it mentions that Tibet was excited to discover such jokes.

What examples do we have (maybe from each category)?

  • 3
    I believe that it's the job of the author to cite his material Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 3:52
  • 2
    @Timinycricket Well, of course. In this specific case they simply didn’t. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 3:56
  • Mozart also used dirty jokes, at least in his lyrics.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 16:24
  • @Dekkadeci since Mozart mostly set words written by others, or seems likely that his own lyrical output is entirely scatological, or at least mostly so.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 15:33

3 Answers 3


Ein musikalischer Spaß, K.522 is the most obvious one. It could well fit into all your categories, but most certainly the 1st. It is full of parody, banality, unmusicality, even bordering on atonality in places. It is Mozart at his most sarcastic.

K.522 has seemingly impossible trills for the horns in the last movement (too high and too low and too long). Also in category 2 the slow movement ends with a crazy whole tone scale in the violin that ends in the stratosphere. For category 3 Mozart puts crude consecutive 5ths deep in the violas (therefore well hidden) in the trio of the Menuetto.

  • 1
    What about specific examples for the third and second categories? Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 4:20

There is this piece that some might consider humorous, the toilet humour is not all that funny to me but some may find it funny.

Behind the banality lies an interesting story. Götz von Berlichingen was a German Imperial Knight who famously told said the following as attributed to him in the play made by Johan Goethe that was based on his life.

Famous quote The first version of the drama included a quote that gained fame fast. In the third act, Götz is under siege by the Imperial Army in his castle at Jagsthausen. The captain of the army asked him to surrender; from a window, he gives his answer:

Mich ergeben! Auf Gnad und Ungnad! Mit wem redet Ihr! Bin ich ein Räuber! Sag deinem Hauptmann: Vor Ihro Kaiserliche Majestät hab ich, wie immer, schuldigen Respekt. Er aber, sag's ihm, er kann mich im Arsche lecken!

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Götz von Berlichingen mit der eisernen Hand, act 3, Goethe's Werke, vol. 8 (1889), p. 109 It can be translated as:

Me, surrender! At mercy! Whom do you speak with? Am I a robber! Tell your captain that for His Imperial Majesty, I have, as always, due respect. But he, tell him that, he can lick me in the arse!

This became such a sensation that it entered into folklore. Mozart must have seen the play by Goethe and must have been amused by the sheer banality of it all and decided to write that particular song about it.

  • I've read that Mozart came up with the dirty lyrics, but he put them on a tune that someone else composed.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 16:27

Neil Meyer cites a humorous canon for voices by Mozart. Another is Difficile lectu, K559. This is a canon for 3 voices. The text appears to be Latin --- it consists of Latin words, but as far as I can see those words make no sense together except that "difficile lectu" means "difficult to read". The Latin in fact makes puns on some rude words in German and Italian.

It is in a set of 3 canons. Another in the set is Bona nox, K561, which contains some rude words in German.

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