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Monday, January 5, 2009


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in the sovereign archbishopric of Salzberg, now in Austria in January 1756. His father was one of Europe’s foremost music teachers, who, in the year of Mozart’s birth published a highly influential textbook for the violin. The Mozart biography is unusual.

By the time he was three Mozart’s genius was already in evidence and his proud father was already giving him intensive music lessons in the violin, clavier and organ. By the age of four he could play several pieces and by five he even composed a few. His piano playing was extraordinary as a six year old and he could even play blindfolded.

Mozart had a very unusual childhood, as he accompanied his father all over Europe for several years, beginning with a trip to Bavaria for the 1762 exhibition; on to the Imperial Court in Vienna; then to Prague. During the next three and a half years concert tours took them to many courts all over Europe, including London, Paris and The Hague. After returning home they went on to Vienna in 1767, remaining there for almost a year.

Another year in Salzberg followed then three long trips to Italy. Two particular highlights of this time included Mozart being accepted as a member of the acclaimed Academia Filarmonica; and the occasion when he heard Allegri’s Miserere for the first time in the Sistine Chapel and was able to write it out in full from memory. An astonishing feat.

In 1778 Mozart embarked on a concert tour accompanied by his mother who died in Paris.

By this time of his life Mozart had met many great composers and was a superb concert pianist and composer. He used the style of many of the composers he respected in his earlier music whilst at the same time developing his own.

By 1781 he had become Konzertmaister to the archbishop in Salzberg but after a visit to Vienna he became disenchanted with the strictures of his employer, and was keen to take his music further. Whether he was actually sacked or not is a matter of conjecture, however he moved and settled into Vienna life, and indeed got married to Constanze Weber in 1782, against his father’s wishes.

The year of 1782 was a great one for Mozart; he had success after success with his piano concertos as director and soloist and with his opera “The Abduction from Seraglio”. During this period he became familiar with and studied the Baroque composers, particularly J.S.Bach and G.F.Handel the result of which is very evident in his music of these and subsequent years.

The Mass in B minor, partially written to bring his father and wife together, for she was the soloist in the premier in Salzberg, whilst being a popular success did not bring the two together.

Mozart met and was friendly with Hayden in Vienna, and Hayden was very aware of Mozart’s extraordinary talents. Meanwhile he appeared as a soloist until 1785 enjoying financial success, but by this time he is suspected of having hand injuries, and his composition decreased.

Whilst his lifestyle and suite of 7 rooms were somewhat lavish during this time, entailing his occasional borrowings, he was by no means a pauper. His compositions and commissions from the rich earning him a very good living, and his frequent visits to Prague earned him fame and considerable financial considerations.

There is no doubt that Mozart died at about 1.00am on 5th December 1791. However there is some conjecture as to how long his illness had lasted. It is generally understood that he was pretty healthy until soon before his death, and so the Requiem he did not manage to finish was written during the time when he was healthy.

His family and friends were shocked by his sudden death at such a young age. Mozart was buried, as was the tradition at the time, in a regular communal grave pursuant to he 1784 laws of burial. Memorials were later set up.

This brilliant composer is certainly amongst the Great Composers and despite living only 35 years managed to complete an enormous number of works, most of which we still listen to and enjoy today. 

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