Happy Birthday Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!

Happy Birthday Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Happy Birthday Mozart!

Today marks the birthday of one of the most prolific and well-known of all composers – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Born in 1756 in Salzburg, Austria, he was actually originally baptised Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. He was the youngest of seven children, five of whom died in infancy. His elder sister was Maria Anna Mozart, nicknamed Nannerl.

Wolfgang’s father Leopold Mozart was a minor composer and inexperienced teacher. During the year of his son’s birth he published a violin textbook which achieved some success.

Nannerl began keyboard lessons at age 7 while her younger brother looked on. Years later after Wolfgang’s death, she recalled:

“He often spent much time at the clavier, picking out thirds, which he was ever striking, and his pleasure showed that it sounded good. … In the fourth year of his age his father, for a game as it were, began to teach him a few minuets and pieces at the clavier. … He could play it faultlessly and with the greatest delicacy, and keeping exactly in time. … At the age of five, he was already composing little pieces, which he played to his father who wrote them down.”

There is some debate about how old Mozart was when he created his first musical compositions, but he was no older than five years old.

While he was young, Mozart and Nannerl travelled through Europe with their parents, where they performed as child prodigies. The first such performance was in 1762 at the court of Prince-Elector Maximillian III of Bavaria in Munich. The two children travelled widely, allowing Mozart to meet and aquaint himself with many different musicians. A particular influence on him was Johann Sebastian Bach.

In March 1773 Mozart was hired as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg. This gave him the opportunity to work in many different genres, including symphonies, string quartets and few minor operas. He resigned this position in 1777 due to the low salary and began travelling again in search of employment. During this time he fell into debt. He resorted to pawning valuables to raise funds. In July 1778 Mozart’s mother fell ill and died, reportedly from delays in calling a doctor due to lack of funds.

On 4th August 1782 Mozart married Constanze Weber. He had previously been romantically involved with Constanze’s elder sister Aloysia. Constanze and Wolfgang had six children together, but only two survived infancy.

Mozart met another great composer, Joseph Haydn, in Vienna in 1784. The two became good friends. When Haydn visited Vienna in later years, the two would sometimes perform in an impromptu string quartet. Haydn told Mozart’s father in 1785:

“I tell you before God, and as an honest man, your son is the greatest composer known to me by person and repute, he has taste and what is more the greatest skill in composition.”

1791 was a year of great productivity for Mozart. He composed a great deal, and some of his most admired works, including The Magic Flute, came from this time. In September of this year, he fell ill. His health continued to deteriorate and by November he was bedridden and suffering from swelling, pain and vomiting.

Mozart died at home on 5th December 1791 aged just 35 years old. The cause of his death remains unknown.

Although he was only 35 when he died, Mozart composed over 800 works. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music. His music stands as an archetype of the Classical style.

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