Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus* was born in Salzburg, Austria, on January 27th, 1756 to Leopold Mozart and his wife, Anna Maria Pertl. Leopold was a composer, musical author, and violinist, and the Mozart family spent a lot of time with music.

Joannes (hereafter called Wolfgang--did you read the *?) quickly proved to be very gifted musically. By age four, he could play back tunes played to him on the harpsichord, and by five he was playing the violin. He is said to have composed his first piano pieces just before his fourth birthday--these are slight variations on the music his older sister was practising.

Leopold was keen to exhibit his son's talents, along with those of his gifted pianist-daughter, Maria-Anna (called Nannerl) (1751--1829), and he took them on a series of tours across Europe with them when Mozart was just six years old. Mozart's first known public appearance was in 1761 at Salzburg University.

In 1767 the family went for five months to Vienna, where Mozart wrote an opera buffa (comic opera) for the Emperor, La finta semplice (trans, the Pretend Simpleton); and a Singspiel (a German-language opera with some spoken dialogue), Bastien und Bastienne (1769), commissioned by Dr Franz Anton Mesmer. However, in Vienna the Italian musicians at court, including the composer Antonio Salieri, made it difficult for him to produce his operas. He returned to Salzburg, and was appointed honorary Konzertmeister to Archbishop Sigismund von Schrattenbach.

There followed three extended visits by father and son to Italy (1770--2). Musical experience gained on these tours helped mould Mozart's style, especially in dramatic music. He was prolific, writing sacred vocal pieces and instrumental works too. By 1772 he had written about 25 symphonies (some are lost), and his first quartets. Further quartets and symphonies followed during and after a visit to Vienna in 1773, when he came into contact with Haydn's music. Between 1775--6 he composed two operas: La finta giardiniera (trans The Lady Who Disguised Herself as a Gardener) and Il re pastore (The Shepherd King); five violin concertos; the Haffner Serenade, and masses for the Salzburg Court Chapel. Bach, Haydn, Handel, and the Italian composers were all major influences on him at the time.

Unhappy with the austere and unmusical Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg, who was appointed at the death of Sigismund, Mozart left his service in 1777 and, travelling with his mother, sought employment elsewhere. They stayed at Mannheim, where he composed some piano concertos and flute quartets, and fell in love with a coloratura soprano, Aloysia Weber. In 1778 his mother died in Paris. He composed the Paris symphony the same year. His father then persuaded him to return to Salzburg. Mozart visited the Webers on his way back to find that Aloysia seemed to have forgotten him entirely.

Back in Salzburg, Mozart reluctantly accepted the post of court organist (1779). At this time he composed the Coronation Mass (1779), the Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat Major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, and the Serenade in D Major. In 1780 he received an important commission from Munich, the opera seria (serious opera) Idomeneo . In 1781 Colloredo summoned Mozart to Vienna for the coronation of Emperor Joseph II. Again, he left the archbishop's service, this time after a stormy scene, but remained in Vienna, which became his home for the rest of his short, full life.

Aloysia Weber had married a court actor and Mozart had turned his attentions to her sister Constanze, whom he married in 1782 - the year of his Singspiel , Die Entfhrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Harem). Married life was humorous and happy, but financially insecure. Mozart eked out his income by teaching. They had six children, two of whom survived. He became a Freemason in 1784, and in the same year he produced six piano concertos. In 1785 he composed a futher three, and in 1786 three more. These marked the rich flowering of his maturity, along with the six quartets dedicated to Haydn; the Linz and Prague symphonies; and the three Italian comic masterpieces composed to libretti by Lorenzo da Ponte: Le nozze di Figaro (1786, The Marriage of Figaro, after Beaumarchais), Don Giovanni (first performed in Prague, 1787), and CosÏ fan tutte (1790, trans Thus All Women). The string quintets in C major and G minor (1787), the last three symphonies (1788) - including his masterpiece of counterpoint, the Symphony no.41 in C Major, the Jupiter - the quartets for the King of Prussia, and a clarinet quintet mark the peak of his instrumental powers.

The letters to fellow Masons in his last three years make sad reading, reflecting his countless anxieties about finance or health. He hoped for new commissions or a court post on the accession of Emperor Leopold II, but nothing was forthcoming. In 1791 he applied unsuccessfully for the post of Kapellmeister of St. Stephen's Cathedral. His last complete works were the masonic Singspiel , Die Zauberflote (1791, The Magic Flute); an opera seria, La clemenze di Tito (1791, The mercy of Tito), and a clarinet concerto for Leopold's coronation. Commissioned by an unknown stranger to compose the Requiem Mass, Mozart became obsessed with the idea that it was for his own death, and he died before the work was finished, after three weeks of fever, on December 25th, 1791. There isn't any strong evidence about the cause of his death, although there is much speculation about it. Deeply in debt at the time of his death, Mozart did not live long enough to enjoy the financial rewards from the success of The Magic Flute, and was buried in a pauper's grave.

* Theophilus translates to Amadeus in Latin, and he adopted this later in life. He used Wolfgango Amadeo Mozart as his signature in the 1770 until 1777, when he switched to Wolfgang Amadè Mozart. He did refer to himself as 'Wolfgangus Amadeus' in jest, but it's a mystery how this became the norm.

Mozart was Apple's codename for Mac OS 7.5, following Apple's convention of "musical" codenames. Other names that have been used were Tempo, Allegro, Harmony, Sonata, Rhapsody, and Copland.

Being a composer, I know that Mozart is God's way of letting you know that you are far from perfect.

While Beethoven, Stravinsky, Haydn, Brahms, Debussey, etc etc worked long and laboriously for that one piece, making notes that were reams of paper long and scratching out every other line, Mozart could (and always did) sit down and completely write out his piece in one go, with it being perfectly orchestrated, notated, and publishable from the first draft. He sometimes wrote entire symphonies in a day.

Opera of course, took a little longer... Don Giovanni took him all of three weeks to write.

Here's a secret that musicologists the world over don't want me to tell you, but I will anyways:


His father did.

I'm not saying his genius is deprecated by this, or that the quality of his work before he lost all of his baby teeth is poor. I just thought that antiquity should know.
Actually, Mozart did write the music that is known as his first symphony (K.V. 17) himself. It is not a very complex work, but all sources indicate that the young Mozart (he was eight years old at the time) wrote the thing over the course of a couple of days while touring England with his father and sister.
Mozart's second symphony was definitely composed by his father, but it is hard to hear many (if any) stylistic differences, because the format of the music is the old classical style. Wolfgang Mozart had as yet to develop his own (rather unique) style.
The music known as the third symphony (K.V. 19) was also not written by Mozart. It was wrongly ascribed to him, but the symphony was actually written by another composer of the period, C. F. Abel. Again, it is relatively easy to see why it is difficult to decide who wrote what, because of the classical style involved. However, it has to be said that Mozart was able to achieve the level and skill of composition of an adult when he was actually still a young child.
The mystery of Mozart's compositional method

We don't know much of how Mozart composed, whether he really did all the work in his head and wrote the fair copy down immediately, or went through drafts which then got destroyed. We have Beethoven's sketchbooks for evidence that he did a lot of rewriting, and Brahms admitted that he burnt most of his attempts to write a string quartet - not to mention agonizing for a decade or so over his first symphony. Haydn's method of musical composition is more mysterious: the large number of pieces that he completed points to a fairly rapid and efficient method, but he probably used sketches and tried things out at the piano. But lack of surviving sketches is no evidence that sketches never existed. The document "'A Letter' from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart", and the great speed with which he composed, reinforce the belief that he conceived everything fully-formed in his head, but the authenticity of the letter is doubtful.

In the dedicatory letter to Joseph Haydn that accompanied a set of six string quartets, Mozart said that they had cost him much trouble to compose. To quote John Sichel's Program Notes,

"Mozart called the quartets the result of 'long and arduous labor' and so they were, especially for this phenomenon of nature from whom music usually flowed like water from an open fire hydrant. He wrote the six quartets over the course of three years (by comparison he wrote The Marriage of Figaro and his great C minor piano concerto K. 491 in two months) and the number of false starts, erasures and alterations in the score bespeak the effort and care involved."
By contrast, the Trio K. 498 for clarinet, viola and piano was reputedly written in a bowling alley at a single sitting, leading to the name "Kegelstatt". However as with many stories about Mozart, this is disputed, for example by Stanley Geidel:
'Plath and Rehm point out that the subtitle "Kegelstatt" was possibly erroneously transferred from Mozart's set of Twelve Duos for Two Wind Instruments, K. 487. The manuscript of these Duos, dated nine days earlier than the Trio, bears the inscription "untern kegelscheiben" (i.e., "during a game of skittles"). Kochel, in his catalog of Mozart's work, confirms this inscription in the Duos. No similar inscription appears in the manuscript of the Trio.

I have personally examined the manuscript of the Trio at great length, and written extensively on this great work. It is very clear that the "Kegelstatt" music is in fact the Twelve Duos, this fact confirmed by a note in Mozart's own hand, which appears on the Duos. In the final analysis, all of this confusion most likely arose from a publisher's error.'

Geidel's thesis is strengthened by the relative length and importance of the two works - the Trio a substantial and involved masterpiece, the Duos, as far as I know, short and purely recreational.

Mozart was a complete musical professional, in addition to being a genius: growing up in a professional musician's household, he was perfectly at home with the formal and technical aspects of composition from his earliest years, so it is not difficult to believe that many of his compositions, especially the shorter and lighter ones, were written down directly in their final form.

It is sobering to see that Mozart took about 200 compositions, and over a decade of work, before he wrote anything interesting (rather than simply stylish and correct) - and a further hundred or so before his percentage of masterpieces reached a creditable level. His maturity as a composer took place only after adolescence, with a few exceptions (the violin concertos, the "Jeunehomme" piano concerto). (Hans Keller made this point well.)

Contrast Mendelssohn, who was original and interesting at 14 and could write profound masterpieces from 16 onwards. It would be fascinating to know what Mozart himself thought of his transition from empty fluency to fluent genius. Was he was inspired to raise his game by contact with other masterpieces (Bach, Handel and Haydn) rather than the insipid trash that mostly passed for music in the 1770's - or was such contact just a helping hand towards a maturity that was arriving of its own accord?

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