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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Other names: Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus


Knight of the Golden Spur (Vatican)

Chapel master and organist to the Archbishop of Salzburg, 1779–81 res.
Chamber musician to Emperor Joseph II

One of the most celebrated composers, Mozart began to perform on the harpsichord when he was about four years old, and manifested an exquisite musical organisation. His first teacher was his father, who devoted much time to his education. At the age of six years he composed short pieces of music, and was regarded as a prodigy of musical genius. He had a sister four years his senior, who in early childhood was an excellent musician. In 1762 Leopold Mozart took Wolfgang and his sister to Munich, where they performed before the court and excited great admiration. They also visited Vienna, and exhibited their skill before the emperor and his family, by whom they were encouraged and caressed. In 1763 young Mozart excited the astonishment of the Parisians by his performance on the organ and by his talent for improvisation. He visited with his parents the principal cities of Germany, and published two of his compositions in 1763. The Mozart family passed the year 1764 in London, where they gave public concerts. In about 1766 they returned to Salzburg, where Wolfgang continued his studies, taking for models the productions of Handel and Emanuel Bach. He composed in 1768 his opera La Finta semplice which was not represented. Accompanied by his father, he made the tour of Italy in 1769 and 1770, and was received with enthusiasm. He produced at Milan the opera Mitridate which was performed with success in 1770. During his visit to Rome the pope created him a knight. His next works were two serenatas: Ascanio in Alba, and The Dream of Scipio. He composed in 1773 his opera Lucio Silla, which was very successful. He passed several years in travel, and solicited employment in various foreign countries without success. In 1779 he obtained the places of organist and chapel master to the Archbishop of Salzburg. At the request of the Elector of Bavaria, he composed Idomeneo in 1781, which was superior to his former works and obtained immense applause. 'This work', says Denne-Baron, 'was nothing less than a complete transformation of the art'. He quitted the service of the archbishop, — a coarse and sordid person, who required him to eat with his menial servants, — and in 1781 settled in Vienna. In 1782 he composed his opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, and married Constance Weber. He became a friend of Haydn. Mozart composed, with unremitting activity and in rapid succession, symphonies, sonatas, quartets, motets, waltzes, etc. In about 1785 he produced Davide penitente, an oratorio, which abounds in beauties of the first order. His comic opera The Marriage of Figaro, composed in 1786, was performed with unbounded applause, and, in the opinion of some critics, formed an epoch in dramatic music. His masterpiece is Don Giovanni, which was first performed at Prague in 1787. The King of Prussia offered him 3000 crowns a year to attract him to Berlin; but he declined to quit the service of the emperor Joseph, who paid him only 800 florins. He was often reduced to painful distress for want of money while he lived in Vienna. Among his later works is The Magic Flute of 1791. Mozart, as a performer on the piano, surpassed all the German musicians of his time. His constitution was naturally delicate, and his health rapidly declined in 1791, during which he was employed to compose a requiem by a mysterious stranger, or a person who wished his name to be a secret. This person was an agent of Count Walsegg. To his morbid and depressed imagination this seemed as a warning of his own impending death. With this presentiment, he composed his Requiem, which is considered his most sublime work.

Place of birth: Salzburg
Place of death: Vienna

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