Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, In a Nutshell (Facts About W.A. Mozart)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27 1756 to Anna Maria and Leopold Mozart in Salzburg, Austria. He was baptized "Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart." Young Wolfgang was a child prodigy and began composing at age 5 and played before Austrian royalty at age 6.
Leopold was the deputy Kapellmeister (literally meaning: choir master) to the court orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg and recognized this impressive talent in his only son. Leopold was what would be considered a show business dad by modern standards and toured Wolfgang extensively from 1762 to 1773. It was on this tour that Wolfgang met Johann Christian Bach (son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach), who would become a tremendous influence on Mozart's writing.
In 1777, the 21-year-old Mozart went to Paris in search of job. This time, he was accompanied by his mother and it was to be a much more disastrous trip than the one he took with his father. While in Paris, he met and fell in love with Aloysia Weber, and things were looking up. But that feeling changed when his mother became ill and later died in 1778. It was also at this time when Aloysia confessed to Mozart that she was not interested in him, further darkening the trip. He returned home to Austria, heart broken.
By 1782, Mozart was living in Vienna and things were again looking up for Mozart. Mozart gained access to many manuscripts of J. S. Bach and G. F. Handel. These manuscripts influenced Mozart's compositions like "The Magic Flute", and Symphony No. 41.
Mozart married Constanze Weber (Aloysia's sister) on August 4, 1782, with his father's grudging consent. Although they had 6 children together, only 2 survived to adulthood: Karl Thomas, and Franz Xaver Wolfgang. Neither would become significant players in musical history, although Franz did become a minor composer for the time.
Mozart also met and befriended Joseph Haydn while living in Vienna. Haydn was often called the "Father of the String Quartet", and when Haydn would visit Vienna the two composers were known to play together in string quartets. Mozart wrote 6 string quartets in his life and each was dedicated to Haydn.
Haydn is said to have told Leopold Mozart, "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, furthermore, the most profound knowledge of composition." upon hearing the last 3 of Mozart's quartets.
Mozart began to earn more money from his concerts, and he and Constanza began to live an opulent lifestyle. They moved to an upscale, expensive apartment and Mozart bought an expensive piano and billiards table. They also kept servants and sent their son, Karl, to an expensive boarding school.
With this kind of lifestyle, they were unable to save substantial amounts of money. This became a problem around the time of 1786. By that time, Mozart had stopped appearing in public concerts, except for rare performances. In fact, from 1788 to the end of his life, Mozart's career declined. To be fair, this time was difficult for most musicians in Vienna due to the Austro-Turkish War (1788-1791) and a general decline in prosperity and hence ability of the aristocracy to support the arts.
By 1789, Mozart and his family were forced to move to cheaper lodgings and borrow large sums of money. Wolfgang made long journeys to Leipzig, Mannheim, Berlin, Dresden and Frankfurt in the hopes of improving his financial situation. These trips only produced sporadic success, and failed to help his financial situation significantly.
Mozart's Unfinished Requiem
The last year of Mozart's life was relatively productive. It was during this time that he wrote some of his most significant works, like his final piano concerto (K. 595 in B flat), The Magic Flute, the unfinished Requiem K. 626, the Clarinet Concerto K. 622, and a series of string quintets (K. 614 in E flat).
Mozart became ill on September 6th, 1791 during his premiere of the opera "La clemenza di Tito" written for the coronation of the Emperor. He continued to work however, and his illness became worse. It had become so bad by November 20th that he became bedridden and suffered painful swelling and vomiting.
Constanze, her youngest sister Sophie, and the family doctor were at his bedside during this time. Even in such a physical decline, there is evidence that he was still occupied with finishing his requiem.
Wolfgang Mozart died on December 5th, 1791 at 1:00 AM. He was buried in a common grave, as was the custom in Vienna at the time.
The cause of his death is uncertain, and there have been many theories ranging from mercury poisoning to trichinosis and common influenza to rheumatic fever. One thing is certain, his steadily worsening financial situation coupled with his life style and the stress it imposed on his life did not help matters. In fact, you could say that he worked himself into an early grave.
In the time following his death, Mozart's musical reputation improved substantially. There was an unprecedented interest in his work.
This may be due, in part, to the fact that Mozart's work follows the development of the classical era music quite closely. In fact, Mozart's music is often seen as prototypical of the greater period as a whole. He was very representative of the time in which he lived, in much the same way as more modern musicians like The Beatles.
Mozart was extremely prolific in his short life and wrote over 600 total compositions for almost every genre of the time. He composed symphonies, concertos, string quartets, operas chamber music, masses, serenades and divertimenti. He is also largely responsible for created and popularizing the piano concerto.
- Mozart liked to dance and play billiards.
- He had a canary, a horse, a starling and a dog as pets.
- Mozart had a gift for imitating music that he heard.
- One of Mozart's most famous pupils, Johann Hummel, would become an important figure in the musical transition between the Classical and Romantic periods.
- Ludwig van Beethoven was influenced by Mozart's work as a teenager, and traveled to Vienna in the hope of studying with him, although the two never actually met.
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