MOZART Biography - Craftmen, artisans and people from other Occupations


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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 26, 1756 - December 5, 1791) is considered one of the greatest composers of European classical music (or more specifically, Viennese Classical music). He composed an astonishingly large amount of chamber, symphonic, religious, and operatic works as well as works for various solo instruments- most notably the keyboard. Although highly unappreciated during his lifetime, Mozart was admired by later composers and his works are frequently played today.


Life Family and early childhood years


Mozart was born in Salzburg, which is now in modern-day Austria but at the time was the capital of a small independent Archbishopric within the Holy Roman Empire, to his father Leopold and his mother Anna Maria Pertl Mozart. He was baptized on the day after his birth at St. Rupert’s Cathedral as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart but his name changed many times over the years.


The years of travel


Mozart’s musical ability started to become apparent when he was a toddler. He was the son of Leopold Mozart, one of Europe’s leading musical pedagogues, whose influential textbook Versuch einer grundlichen Violinschule ("Essay on the fundamentals of violin playing") was published in 1756, the same year as Mozart’s birth. Mozart received intensive musical training from his father, including instruction in both the piano and violin. Musically, he developed very rapidly and began to compose his own works at the age of five.


Leopold soon realized that he could earn a substantial income by showcasing his son as a Wunderkind in the courts of Europe. Mozart gained fame as a prodigy capable of playing blindfolded or with his hands behind his back, and for his ability to improvise wonderfully and at length on difficult passages he had never seen before. His older sister, Maria Anna, nicknamed “Nannerl", was a talented pianist and often accompanied her brother on Leopold’s tours. Mozart wrote a number of piano pieces, in particular duets and duos, to play with her. On one occasion when Mozart became ill, Leopold expressed more concern over the loss of income than over his son’s well-being. Constant travel and cold weather may have contributed to his subsequent illness later in life.


During his formative years, Mozart completed several journeys throughout Europe, beginning with an exhibition in 1762 at the Court of the Elector of Bavaria in Munich, then in the same year at the Imperial Court in Vienna. A long concert tour soon followed (three and a half years), which took him with his father to the courts of Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, The Hague, again to Paris, and back home via Zurich, Donaueschingen, and Munich.


ent to Vienna again in late 1767 and remained there until December 1768. After one year spent in Salzburg, three trips to Italy followed: from December 1769 to March 1771, from August to December 1771, and from October 1772 to March 1773. During the first of these trips, Mozart met G.B. Martini in Bologna, and was accepted as a member of the famous Accademia Filarmonica. A highlight of the Italian journey, which is now an almost legendary tale, occurred when he heard Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere once in performance, then wrote it out in its entirety from memory, only returning a second time to correct minor errors.


In September of 1777, accompanied only by his mother, Mozart began a tour of Europe that included Munich, Mannheim, and Paris, where his mother died. During his trips, Mozart met a great number of musicians and acquainted himself with the works of other great composers. He came to know the work of J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel; and he met Joseph Haydn, who declared to Leopold, “Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition.". Even non-musicians caught Mozart’s attention: he was so taken by the sound created by Benjamin Franklin’s glass harmonica that he composed several pieces of music for it.


Mozart in Vienna


In 1781 Mozart visited Vienna in the company of his employer, the harsh Prince-Archbishop Colloredo, and fell out with him. According to Mozart’s own testimony, he was dismissed literally “with a kick in the seat of the pants.” Despite this, Mozart chose to settle and develop his career in Vienna after its aristocracy began to take an interest in him.


On August 4, 1782, he married Constanze Weber (also spelled “Costanze") against his father’s wishes. He and Constanze had six children, of whom only two survived infancy. Neither of these two, Karl Thomas (1784-1858) or Franz Xaver Wolfgang (later a minor composer himself; 1791-1844), married or had children.


1782 was an auspicious year for Mozart’s career; his opera The Abduction from the Seraglio was a great success, and he began a series of concerts at which he premiered his own piano concertos as conductor and soloist.


As an adult, Mozart, influenced by the ideas of the eighteenth century European Enlightenment, became a Freemason and worked fervently and successfully to convert his father before the latter’s death in 1787. His last opera, The Magic Flute, includes Masonic themes and allegory. He was in the same Masonic Lodge as Joseph Haydn.


Mozart’s life was fraught with financial difficulty and illness. Often, he received no payment for his work, and what sums he did receive were quickly consumed by his extravagant lifestyle.


Mozart spent the year 1786 in Vienna in an apartment which may be visited today at Domgasse 5 behind St. Stephen’s Cathedral; it was here that Mozart composed Le nozze di Figaro. He then followed this up in 1787 with one of his greatest works, Don Giovanni.


Illness and death


Mozart’s final illness and death are difficult scholarly topics, obscured by Romantic legends and replete with conflicting theories. Scholars disagree about the course of decline in Mozart’s health - particularly at what point Mozart became aware of his impending death, and whether this awareness influenced his final works. The Romantic view holds that Mozart declined gradually, and that his outlook and compositions paralleled this decline. In opposition to this, some contemporary scholarship points out correspondence from Mozart’s final year indicating that he was in good cheer, as well as evidence that Mozart’s death was sudden and a shock to his family and friends.


The actual cause of Mozart’s death is also a matter of conjecture. His death record listed “hitziges Frieselfieber” ("severe miliary fever"), a description that does not suffice to identify the cause as it would be diagnosed in modern medicine. In fact, dozens of theories have been proposed, which include trichinosis, mercury poisoning, and rheumatic fever. The contemporary practice of bleeding medical patients is also cited as a contributing cause.


Mozart died around 1 a.m. on December 5, 1791 while he was working on his final composition, the Requiem (unfinished when he died).


  According to popular legend, Mozart was penniless and forgotten when he died, and was buried in a pauper’s grave. In fact, though he was no longer as fashionable in Vienna as he had once been, he continued to have a well-paid job at court and receive substantial commissions from more distant parts of Europe, Prague in particular. Many of his begging letters survive, but they are evidence not so much of poverty as of his habit of spending more than he earned. He was not buried in a “mass grave", but in a regular communal grave according to the 1783 laws.


In 1809, Constanze married Danish diplomat Georg Nikolaus von Nissen (1761-1826). Being a fanatic of Mozart, he edited vulgar passages out of many of the composer’s letters and wrote a Mozart biography.


Works, musical style, and innovations


Mozart was a prolific composer and wrote in many genres. Among his best works are his operas, piano concertos, symphonies, string quartets, and string quintets. Mozart also wrote a great deal of music for solo piano, chamber music, and religious music including masses. He also composed many dances, divertimenti, and other forms of light entertainment.




Many important composers since Mozart’s time have worshipped or at least been in awe of Mozart. Rossini averred, “He is the only musician who had as much knowledge as genius, and as much genius as knowledge.” Beethoven told his pupil Ries that he (Beethoven) would never be able to think of a melody as great as a certain one in the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24. Beethoven also paid homage to Mozart by writing sets of variations on several of his themes: for example, the two sets of variations for cello and piano on themes from Mozart’s Magic Flute, and cadenzas to several of Mozart’s piano concertos, most notably the Piano Concerto No. 20 K. 466. After the only meeting between the two composers, Mozart noted that Beethoven would “give the world something to talk about.” As well, Tchaikovsky wrote his Mozartiana in praise of him; and Mahler died with the word “Mozart” on his lips.


The Kochel catalog


In the decades following Mozart’s death there were several attempts to catalog his compositions, but it was not until 1862 that Ludwig von Kochel succeeded in this enterprise. Many of his famous works are referred to now by only their Kochel catalog number; for example, the Piano Concerto in A major is often referred to simply as “K. 488″ or “KV 488″. The catalogue has undergone six revisions since.




Mozart is unusual among composers for being the subject of many legends and myths. An example is the story that Mozart composed his Requiem with the belief it was for himself. Some of these myths may be based in fact, but sorting out fabrications from real events is a vexing and continuous task for Mozart scholars. Dramatists and screenwriters, free from responsibilities of scholarship, have found excellent material among these legends.


An especially popular case is the supposed rivalry between Mozart and Antonio Salieri, and, in some versions, the tale that it was poison received from the latter that provoked Mozart’s death; this is the subject of Aleksandr Pushkin’s play Mozart and Salieri, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Mozart et Salieri, and Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus. The last of these has been made into a feature-length film of the same name. Shaffer’s play attracted criticism for portraying Mozart as vulgar and loutish, a characterization felt by many to be unfairly exaggerated.