1756 - 1791 Person Name: Wolfgang Mozart, 1756-1791 Hymnal Number: 3100 Composer (attributed to) of "ELLESDIE" in The Cyber Hymnal Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Austria 1756-1791. Born at Salzburg, Austria, the son of Leopold Mozart, a minor composer and violinist, and youngest of seven children, he showed amazing ability on violin and keyboard from earliest childhood, even starting to compose music at age four when his father would play a piece and Mozart would play it exactly as did his father. At five, he composed some of his own music, which he played to his father, who wrote it down. When Mozart was eight, he wrote his first symphony, probably transcribed by his father. In his early years his father was his only teacher, teaching his children languages and academic subjects, as well as fundamentals of their strict Catholic faith. Some of his early compositions came as a surprise to his father, who eventually gave up composing himself when he realized how talented his son was. His family made several European journeys and he and his sister, Nanneri, performed as child prodigies, at the court of Prince-elector Maximillian II of Bavaria in Munich, and at the Imperial Courts in Vienna and Prague. A long concert tour followed, for 3.5 years, taking the family to courts in Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, Dover, The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Mechelen, and again to Paris, and back home via Zurich, Donaueschingen, and Munich. During these trips Mozart met many musicians, acquainting himself with the works of other composers. He met Johann Christian Bach in London in 1764. Family trips were challenging, and travel conditions were primitive. They had to wait for invitations and reimbursements from nobility, and they endured long, near-fatal illnesses far from home. First Leopold (1764) got sick, then both children (1765). They traveled again to Vienna in 1767 and stayed there over a year. After a year back in Salzburg, Leopold and Wolfgang went to Italy (1769-1771), Leopold wished to display his son’s abilities as a performer and maturing composer. In Bologna, Italy, Wolfgang was accepted as a member of the famous Academia Filamonica. In Rome he heard Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere twice in performance. Back in the Sistine Chapel, Mozart wrote the whole performance out from memory, thus producing the first unauthorized copy of this closely guarded property of the Vatican. In the next few years Mozart wrote several operas performed with success in Italy, but his father’s hopes of securing a professional appointment for his son were not realized. At age 17 he was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position. After returning to Salzburg, Mozart was employed as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg, Prince Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. This gave Mozart ample opportunity to develop relationships with other musicians and his admirers, resulting in his development of new symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, masses, serenades, and some minor operas. In 1775 he wrote his only violin concertos, five in all. Again, he was discontent with work in Salzburg and traveled to find more opportunity to write operas. He and his father again visited Munich and Vienna, but neither visit was successful with the exception of his opera ‘La finta giardiniera’ in Munich. In 1777 he resigned his Salzburg position and went to Augsburg, Mannheim, Paris, and Munich again. In Mannheim he met and fell in love with Aloysia Weber, one of four daughters of a musical family. He could find no real employment there and left for Paris in 1778. He might have had a position as organist at Versailles, but he was not interested in that. He fell into debt and started pawning valuables. During these events his mother died. Meanwhile his father was still trying to find him a position in Salzburg. After checking out several other European cities and Munich, he again encountered Aloysia, but she was no longer interested in him, so he returned to Salzburg, having written another symphony, concerto, and piano sonata, and took the new appointment his father had found. However, he was still in discontent. Visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He wrote another opera, ‘Idomeneo’, in 1781, that was successful in Munich. Two months later he was summoned to Vienna, where his employer, Archbishop Colloredo, wanted him around due to his notoriety. Mozart wished to meet the emperor and perform for him, and finally got that opportunity. It resulted in a part-time position and substantial commissions. Colloredo became a nemesis to Mozart’s career, finally releasing Mozart from his employ with a literal kick in the pants, much against his father’s wishes. However, he was now independent. Mozart then decided to settle in Vienna as a free lance performer and composer. He lived with the Fridolin Weber family, who had moved from Mannheim to Vienna. Fridolin, the father, had died, and they were taking in lodgers to make ends meet. His career there went well, and he performed as a pianist before the Emperor, establishing himself as the finest keyboard player in Vienna. He wrote another opera in 1782, again achieving success. Mozart had now become a prolific and influential composer of the Classical period and was known throughout Europe. Aloysia was now married to actor, Joseph Lange, and Mozart’s interest shifted to her sister, Constanze. In 1782 he married Constanze Weber Mozart Nissen. The marriage started out with a brief separation, and there was a problem getting Mozart’s father’s permission, which finally came. They had six children, but only two survived infancy: Carl and Franz. He lived in Vienna and achieved some notoriety, composing many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas. In 1782-83 he became intimately acquainted with Johann Sebastian Bach and George Friederic Handel, as his friend, Gottfried van Swieten, owned many manuscripts of the Baroque masters, which Mozart studied intently. He altered his style of composition as a result. That year Mozart and his wife visited his father and sister, and he composed a liturgical piece, a Mass, with a singing part for his wife. He also met Joseph Hadyn in Vienna in 1784 and they became friends. They even played together in a string quartet from time to time. Mozart wrote six quartets dedicated to Hadyn. In 1785 Hadyn told Leopold Mozart, “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”. Over the next several years Mozart booked several piano concertos in various places as a sole performer to delighted audiences, making substantial remuneration for his work. He and his wife then adopted a more luxurious lifestyle. They moved to an expensive apartment and he bought a fine fortepiano and billiard table. They sent their son, Karl, to an expensive boarding school and also kept servants. In 1784 Mozart became a Freemason and even composed Masonic music. Over the next several years he did little operatic writing and focused on his career as a piano soloist and writer of concertos. He again began operatic collaboration in 1785, creating ‘The marriage of Figaro’, then ‘Don Giovanni’ in 1787. That year his father died. Also that year he obtained a steady post under Emperor Joseph II as his chamber composer. This was part-time employment that was important when hard times arrived. However, Joseph aimed at keeping Mozart from leaving Vienna for better work. The Austrio-Turkish War made life difficult for musicians, and his aristocracy support had declined. He moved to save on expenses, but that did not help much, and he was reduced to borrowing funds from his friends, and pleading for loans. During this period he produced his last three symphonies. In 1789 he then set up on a journey to Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin hoping to improve his fortunes. In 1790 he was highly productive, producing concertos, an opera, ‘The magic flute’, a series of string quintets, a motet, and an (unfinished) Requiem. Finances began to improve and he begin paying back his debts. Public reaction to his works also brought him great satisfaction. In 1791, while in Prague for the premiere of his opera, ‘La clemenza di Tito’, he fell ill. He continued professional functions for a short time, but had to go home and be nursed by his wife over the next couple of months. He died at Vienna, Austria, at the age of 35, a small thin man with undistinguishing characteristics. He was buried in a modest grave, having had a small funeral. Beethoven composed his early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Hadyn wrote “posterity will not see such a talent (as Mozart) again in 100 years”. 600+ works. Side note: Mozart enjoyed billiards, dancing, and had a pet canary, a starling, a dog, and a horse for recreational riding. He liked off-color humor. He wore elegant clothing when performing and had a modest tenor voice.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart