Biography of a Music Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Among musical composers, the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is singled out by the fact that within his short thirty-five years of life he managed to create an overwhelming amount of works that amaze the audience with their perfection. One of the explanations to this fact, apart from a God-given talent, is that Mozart started his musical activities at a very early age.

On the other hand, the life conditions of the time stimulated Mozart’s involvement into performing and composing music of all possible contemporary genres. Mozart’s genuine talent and extensive education, together with the demands of his time, constituted the fertile ground for producing over six hundred works in an unprecedented genre variety.

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The seventh child, and the second to survive, Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 to a family of gifted practicing musicians: his father, Leopold Mozart served as a violinist and composer in the Kapelle of the Archbishop of the Austrian town Salzburg[1].

It is noteworthy that in Mozart’s time, the Archbishop and the Primate of Germany was the person who defined the course of whole life in political, social, and cultural spheres, and this influence of exploitation was also felt by Mozart in his mature years[2]. Mozart’s early childhood years went in the thoroughly musical atmosphere of his father’s home.

On the one hand, Leopold Mozart often invited his musical colleagues to make music at friendly informal meetings. Those frequent musical gatherings allowed Mozart Jr. to enrich his musical knowledge with a large repertoire of contemporary music.

On the other hand, Leopold started giving keyboard lessons to Mozart’s older sister, Nannerl, when she was as young as five years, and naturally the little genius could not but join in. Already at the age of four he undertook attempts at scribbling first notes on the music paper, and surprised Leopold by taking initiative in learning to play the harpsichord and the violin[3].

This interest of his younger son to music could not go unnoticed with Leopold Mozart who considered it his sacred duty to develop and promote his children’s talents. Therefore, together with teaching music, languages, and other academic subjects, Leopold organized a series of travels round Europe for his children, where they played in concerts as child prodigies.

The period of the Mozarts family travels spanned over a decade, with the route of the first trip starting in Munich, Vienna, and Prague in 1762 and moving on to Mannheim, Paris, London, The Hague, and back to Salzburg via Paris, Zurich, and Munich. This first journey took the Mozarts over three and a half years, which were not at all luxurious.

The means of travelling were primitive: a horse-driven coach was the only means of transport at the time, so the family often experienced big delays due to technical problems and even suffered severe illnesses on the way[4]. The next significant trip was undertaken to Vienna in 1767, where due to the epidemic of smallpox the family had to stay for about one and a half year, which did not make Salzburg Archbishop happy at all.

Those were not the best days for the family, since the public stopped taking Nannerl and Wolfgang as child prodigy due to their older age, and the success of the concerts was quickly fading[5]. In order to enrich his son’s academic experience and to establish the necessary social bonds, Leopold took him for two years to Italy in1769[6]. There young Mozart created his first operas which despite his father’s hopes did not secure him a job by Milan court.

From 1773 to 1777 Mozart worked in his native Salzburg and initially enjoyed his activities since his artistic success was quite admired there. During the Salzburg years, Mozart established his individual compositional style in a series of symphonies, chamber music pieces, and minor operas[7].

His particular achievement of that period was a series of five violin concertos — a genre which he never took up again, since he himself preferred playing the viola and had obviously composed the violin concertos for the court violinist Antonio Brunetti[8].

He dedicated some of his other works, like piano concertos and music for events, to influential aristocracy and virtuoso performers, and did not neglect the church either, producing sacred music that included a series of Masses (e.g., Missa brevis and Missa solemnis), Litanies, and Vespers[9].

But with the course of time, as the artistic atmosphere in Salzburg grew tougher, Mozart felt he needed a broader stage to employ his talent. After a two year trip to Paris in 1777–78, he departed to Vienna where he spent most of his consequent years. In Vienna, his musical talents developed to the fullest: working incredibly long hours, Mozart enthusiastically involved nearly in any possible musical activity.

He gave lessons, performed in academies, and wrote a great number of music works, ranging from small pieces for solo instruments to large operas, symphonies and concertos[10]. After a great scandal, he finally received dismissal from the Salzburg court of Archbishop Colloredo and could start his own independent career.

Mozart’s private life also settled, with his marriage to Constanze Webber in 1782. To support his family, the composer had to write tremendous amount of works, and initially he focused his attention on the genres of keyboard music — sonatas and concertos — since he could also perform his own compositions and earn additional money[11].

This idea was triggered in the composer’s mind after emperor Joseph II arranged a competition between Mozart and the contemporary virtuoso Muzio Clementi, which Mozart won due to the especial expressiveness of his play[12].

Mozart’s success in Vienna as a composer was additionally emphasized by the acclaimed premiere of his 1782 opera Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail[13]. Subsequently, Mozart’s composing interests shifted even more to the genre of opera: in 1785 he started collaborating with the renowned librettist of the time, Lorenzo Da Ponte.

As a result of this creative duo’s activities, such masterpieces appeared as The Marriage of Figaro, Don Jiovanni, and Cosi fan tutte[14]. However, his last opera, The Magic Flute, was written to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder.

The last period of Mozart’s life was characterized by exceptional activity: within just one year, the genius managed to compose two operas, La Clemenca di Tito and The Magic Flute, a piano concerto, a clarinet concerto, two cantatas, chamber music works, and numerous minor pieces[15].

One of the most mysterious events of the composer’s life is the creation of Requiem, which he did not manage to finish completely due to his own illness.

Immensely hard work exhausted Mozart to such extent that his body could not stand the stress any longer. Long financial crises did not contribute to his wellbeing either; the genius composer died on 5 December 1791 and was buried in a common grave.

However, his music stays with the people for centuries on end, glorifying its marvelous creator. Mozart’s countless symphonies, operas, concertos, sonatas, masses, and minor works amaze the public with their melodic and harmonic perfection which could not have been produced by anyone less than a genius.

Works Cited

Gutman, Robert W. Mozart: A Cultural Biography. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999.

Melograni, Piero. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography. Trans. Lydia G. Cochrane. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Rushton, Julian. Mozart. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Julian Rushton, Mozart (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 1–2.
Robert W Gutman, Mozart: A Cultural Biography (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999), 6.
Robert W Gutman, Mozart: A Cultural Biography (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999), 6.
Robert W Gutman, Mozart: A Cultural Biography (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999), 90.
Piero Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 27.
Piero Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 33.
Julian Rushton, Mozart (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 41.
Julian Rushton, Mozart (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 43.
Julian Rushton, Mozart (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 43, 45.
Piero Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 161.
Julian Rushton, Mozart (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 106.
Julian Rushton, Mozart (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 106–107.
Julian Rushton, Mozart (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 106.
Piero Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 192–227.
Piero Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 228.

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