Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg. His full name given during the baptism was Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart and he often called himself Wolfgang Amade Mozart. During his lifetime Mozart created more than 600 musical works, which have been widely popular during the last several centuries. Given the artist’s short lifespan the amount of work he created is especially stunning. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been and remains one of the most famous classical composers of all times and it seems that every musician after Mozart owes something to him.
Mozart was born in Salzburg after his parents, Leopold and Anna Maria Pertl Mozart, moved there from Augsburg. His parents were musicians and already at the age of four little Wolfgang received his first music lesson. According to some sources, Mozart wrote his first piece of music at the age of eight, while other historians suggest that the future world-famous composer started writing music when he was five.
At the age of six, Mozart was already performing for the first time, accompanied by his sister.
Parents noticed early talent of little Wolfgang and his sister Nannerl and in 1763 took them on a three-and-a-half year tourney all over Germany and Western Europe. Children played in courts and public academies in order to entertain nobility. During this trip, Mozart wrote his first sonatas for piano and violin, which became his first published works, and the first symphony Es-Dur. During the trip, little Wolfgang became familiar with the Italian operas and symphonies.
Probably even more important and influential was the meeting with Johann Christian Bach, who became Mozart’s hero and role model.
After the long trip, the family came back to Salzburg. Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots (The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment) was composed by Mozart in 1767 together with two other older friends. During the smallpox epidemic the family decided to find refuge in Brunn und Olmutz, nonetheless, the sickness reached both Wolfgang and his sister even there. In the very beginning of the 1768, the family returned to Vienna, where the twelve-year-old composer finished Bastien and Bastienne, Waisenhausmesse and La finta semplice (The Pretended Simpleton).
In 1769 Mozart’s father took him on the first out of three trips to Italy, which altogether with small interruptions lasted almost three and a half years. In 1770 in Rome the Pope Clemens XIV made young Mozart a knight of the Golden Spur Order, however, Mozart, unlike Christoph Willibald Gluck did not refer to himself as a knight. In Rome once or twice Mozart heard Miserere by Gregorio Allegri, which was kept in secret in the Vatican, and managed to write it down from memory almost without any mistakes.
Padre Giovanni Battista Martini in Bologna taught Mozart counterpoint – correlation among several voices independent in contour and rhythm but harmonically interdependent; used in classical music, especially in Renaissance and in Baroque music. After an exam, he was accepted in the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna. There he met many famous musicians like Giovanni Battista Sammartini, Niccolo Piccinni, Pietro Nardini and Giovanni Paisiello. In December 1770 Mozart’s opera seria Mitridate, re di Ponto was performed in Milano and was very successful. As a result, Mozart got two other assignments and composed Serenata teatrale Ascanio in Alba and Dramma per musica Lucio Silla.
Both musical works were performed in Milano in the following two years. However, Mozart did not receive desired employment in Italy and in 1771father and son were forced to return to Salzburg. Mozart became a court musician in Salzburg. In 1773 Mozart wrote his first piano concert. His Dramma per musica Il re pastore was performed in Salzburg in 1775, however, was not very successful. Despite his employment in Salzburg, Mozart continued to travel with his father and in 1777 had to quit his job, which did not allow him to travel freely.
Mozart wrote ballet music Ballettmusik Les petits riens, which was performed in Paris in 1778, but once again it did not bring further employment opportunities to the composer. Wolfgang returned to Salzburg, where he composed the Kronungsmesse (Coronation Mass) in 1779. In 1781 Mozart left Salzburg and moved to Vienna, where he worked as an independent composer and music teacher. After that year Mozart visited Salzburg only a few times.
In 1786 opera buffa Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, or The Day of Madness) was performed and the following year drama giocoso Don Giovanni was performed in Prague. In 1790 in Vienna the public heard opera buffa Cosi fan tutte (Thus Do They All, or The School For Lovers) for the first time. In 1791 premiered both opera seria La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus) and die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute). Die Zauberflote was accompanied by text in German. During this time Mozart also wrote six string quartet devoted to Joseph Haydn, Linz Symphony (symphony No. 36 in C major), Prague Symphony (Symphony No. 38 in D major), Eine kleine Nachtmusik (in English: a little night music, Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major) as well as three last symphonies in Es-Dur, g-Moll, in C-Dur.
In 1782 Mozart married Constanze Weber, who she met three years earlier in Mannheim. She gave birth to six children, of whom only two, Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver Wolfgang survived childhood. We do not know how Mozart suffered the death of his children, but it is possible to hear Mozart’s pain and sadness in Symphony no. 40 in G Minor, written when his little daughter Theresia died.
Only several months after the premier of the Zauberflote Mozart died after spending weeks in bed. Now there are many speculations about what might have caused Mozart’s death. The composer himself was convinced that he had been poisoned. According to one of the well-known legends, Antonio Salieri poisoned the great composer, however, this legend has been largely discredited by modern scholars.
Joseph Haydn had very high opinion of Mozart and considered him one of the greatest composers. Mozart himself wrote once: “As you know, I can more or less adopt or imitate any kind and style of composition.” It is one of the Mozart’s peculiarities throughout his life, he absorbed and incorporated music in various styles. His style was significantly influenced by south German and Italian music of the second part of the eighteenth century. Of course, the earliest influences can be traced back to his father and local composers in Salzburg. The connection between the father and the son was so big, that for a long time it was unclear which of the two composed “lambacher” symphonies and it is still debated how much influence and input Leopold Mozart had into his son’s early musical works. It is possible to suggest that father Mozart helped his son with the early symphonies.
During the trips to Italy, Mozart became familiar with the local operas, which influenced his music later. Also counterpoint, that he learned from Padre Giovanni Battista Martini in Bologna, had great influence on the composer and his works. Mozart integrated his works counterpoint techniques and blended classic homophonic and baroque polyphonic styles.
Mozart was an incredibly multifaceted composer. He is probably the only or at least one of the very few composers who created music in all genres of his time. He himself was very proud of that. In his collection were music for violin, flute, clarinet, horn, piano, chamber music, dance music, serenades, songs, canons, and masses. Mozart brought piano concerts closer to symphonies. Mozart himself played piano and violin. He wrote five concertos for violin, a clarinet concerto, four concertos for horn, two for flute, and both an oboe concerto and a bassoon concerto.
The composer increased length and extent of individual works, which can be especially clearly seen in his symphonies. Mozart was very demanding, definitely more than his contemporaries when it came to the orchestra placement. He demanded a special unusual place for wind instruments. Especially in his later operas, Mozart was able to create compelling psychological and dramatic characters. He managed to connect the seemingly simple music with the complicated and demanding.
It is stunning that Mozart was able to leave after his short life such amazing amount of work. His biographers claim, that he did not make rough drafts and always wrote a whole piece. “… all witnesses of Mozart at work agree,” wrote Alfred Einstein, one of the Mozart scholars, „that he put a composition down on paper as one writes a letter, without allowing any disturbance or interruption to annoy him — the writing down, the fixing, was nothing more than that — the fixing of the completed work a mechanical act.” No doubt Mozart had talent and skills to compose music very quickly. Linz Symphony, for example, was written in only four days and the last movement of the famous Jupiter Symphony was written in a few days.