Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Nation: Austria

Composer

Birth Date: January 27, 1756
Austria Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Composer Cover
I. A Child Prodigy
II. Mature Career
III. Assessment
[Video] Four-Minute Biography
I. A Child Prodigy
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born January 27, 1756. He began to play upon the harpsichord when not yet four years of age, attempted composition in his fifth year, and in 1762 he and his sister Marianne began their musical tours with their father, Johann Georg Leopold Mozart. In Vienna, especially, their performances were attended with great success at the court of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Little "Wolferl," with his innocent and natural manners, showed not the least embarrassment in the presence of the great people he met.

In 1763, they left Salzburg again on a tour that took them to the courts of the principal sovereigns of Europe. Wolfgang learned with astonishing facility, and at the age of ten composed, played upon the organ, harpsichord, violin, and flute as well as sang. In December 1769, father and son went to Italy where the boy achieved a brilliant success. At Rome, he heard at the Sistine Chapel Gregorie Allegri's celebrated Miserere, which it was forbidden to transcribe but which he wrote down entirely from memory. At Naples, the public attributed his power to the magic effect of a ring he wore and insisted on his removing it. At Bologna, he was admitted as compositore to the "Accademia Filarmonica," and finally the Pope made him a Cavaliere of the Order of the Golden Spur. In 1770 his opera, Mitridate, Re di Ponte, after delays caused by professional intrigues, was produced at Milan before an enthusiastic audience and ran for twenty nights.

Spofford, A. R., Weitenkampf, F., & Lamberton, J. P. (1899). Mozart. In The library of historic characters and famous events of all nations and all ages (Vol. 8, pp. 387-388). Boston: Art-Library Pub. Co.
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II. Mature Career
Artistic triumphs appear not to have brought profits, and the new archbishop of Salzburg, Hieronymus, Count of Colloredo (elected in 1772), was not the type to encourage native talent. Important vocal and instrumental compositions began to come from Mozart's pen with incredible rapidity, and this fecundity of invention seemed to stimulate his genius instead of exhausting it. The operas Sogno di Scipione and Lucio Silla (1772), the opera-buffa La Finla Giardiniera (1775), and Il Re Pastore (1775) were among the more important works of this period. Another tour was next undertaken, but the result was disappointing. He went with his mother to Munich, to Mannheim, and then to Paris, which no longer proved a good field. Here his mother died, and Mozart returned in 1779 to Salzburg, where the archbishop now finally allowed him a small salary. His opera, Idomenee, Re di Creta, produced in Munich in 1781 with triumphant success, assured his position, and marked an era in the history of the lyrical drama.

Finding his position under the archbishop intolerable, he left his service and settled in Vienna. In 1782, he married Constance Weber and in the same year was produced his Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, "the foundation of German opera." In 1786, his wonderful Le Nozze di Figaro was received with the greatest enthusiasm, although intrigue was still rife in Vienna. The production of the opera in Prague was followed by a commission for a new opera for a consideration of 100 ducats. The libretto was furnished by Lorenzo Da Ponte and on October 29, 1787, Don Giovanni, "the pearl of all operas," was produced with extraordinary effect. The overture had been written out on the night before the performance.

Mozart was next appointed chamber musician to Emperor Francis I at a salary of 800 gulden. But he continued to remain miserably poor and his wife had become a confirmed invalid. Nevertheless in 1789 when King Frederich Wilhelm II of Prussia offered him the post of Kapellmeister with a salary of 3000 thalers, he decided to remain with his Emperor. The operas Cosi fan tutte and La Clemenza di Tito were produced in 1790, and next year Mozart wrote Die Zauberflote ("The Magic Flute"), an apotheosis of Freemasonry. Mozart himself was a member of the brotherhood and achieved a brilliant success artistically. Although as usual, he reaped no financial benefit.

While he was still at work on this opera, a stranger visited him with an order for a Requiem. It was the steward of Count Franz von Walsegg of Stuppach. But Mozart, not knowing this messenger, believed that he had been sent from the other world to warn him of approaching death. Thus the composition was begun in superstitious fear but he worked at it assiduously and surpassed himself. He did not live to write it all out but left the score to be completed by Franz Sussmayer, who had received instructions from Mozart on the composer's deathbed. He ended his short life on December 5, 1791 and on the afternoon of the following day his body was hurried in a disgraceful fashion to a pauper's grave. The rain caused even the few friends at the funeral to turn back and leave him to go to his last rest unattended. A statue has been erected to his memory, but his place of burial cannot be pointed out with any certainty.

Spofford, A. R., Weitenkampf, F., & Lamberton, J. P. (1899). Mozart. In The library of historic characters and famous events of all nations and all ages (Vol. 8, pp. 388-389). Boston: Art-Library Pub. Co.
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III. Assessment
Mozart's genius was many-sided and adaptive, though distinctly individual in whatever channels it was led into. In his works, every note is fitted into place with a definite purpose, and "the result of this well-considered symmetry is a degree of technical perfection which no composer, ancient or modern, has ever surpassed." The boundless wealth of melody in his music is governed by a highly refined taste, a fine artistic sense, which has insured the inexpressible charm of his work for all time. He "laid the foundation for the development of modern pianoforte-playing," and raised orchestral music to a new level. Richard Wagner said of Mozart, "He raised the capacity of instrumental music for vocal expression to a height which enabled it to embrace the whole depth of the infinite yearning of the heart." At his death, he was indeed crossing the threshold of that domain "of larger and freer musical forms in which Beethoven, and after him Schumann, were destined to do their greatest work...He combined the highest characteristics of the Italian and the German schools as no man ever did, before or since."

Spofford, A. R., Weitenkampf, F., & Lamberton, J. P. (1899). Mozart. In The library of historic characters and famous events of all nations and all ages (Vol. 8, pp. 389-390). Boston: Art-Library Pub. Co.
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[Video] Four-Minute Biography
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