Born in Salzburg, Austria on January 27th, 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a prodigy. He was a musician who could play many instruments and started performing in public at the age of 6.
- Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor, composed in 1791, was left unfinished at the time of his death. He composed his Requiem (a mass for the dead) believing it was for himself
- He thought up his first rudimentary composition was when he was 5, and by 18 he had completed 30 symphonies
- In April 1787, a young Beethoven arrived in Vienna to get two weeks of music lessons from Mozart
- Mozart earned a substantial sum from his successful operas, but he was extravagant in spending and often ended up in financial difficulties
- He was a Roman Catholic and some of his greatest works were religious
- The characteristics of the Classical style can be found in Mozart’s music including clarity, balanced phrasing, transparency and a subtle delicacy.
A successful pianist and composer, Mozart wrote in almost every major genre and played a big part in popularising the piano concerto. Here are some of his most famous works:
- The Magic Flute (opera)
- Don Giovanni (opera)
- Ave verum corpus K. 618,
- Requiem K. 626
- Marriage of Figaro (opera)
- Clarinet Concerto K. 622
- Symphony No.39 in E flat K.543
- Piano Concerto K. 595 in B-flat
- Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K.467
- String quintets (K. 614 in E-flat)
Mozart and the flute:
In one of Mozart’s many letters he told his father he ‘couldn’t bear’ the flute. He was struggling to complete a commission for numerous flute pieces and it is thought he was trying to explain his stalling! The Classical era flute was much harder to play well and in tune than today’s powerful flute. Once the pieces are heard, it is obvious that Mozart had an affinity for writing for the instrument. After transcribing an oboe piece to fulfill the commission, we still have many wonderful and original Mozart melodies to play on the flute.
- Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C major, K. 299 (1778)
- Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K. 313 (1778)
- Flute Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 314 (1778) (an arrangement of the Oboe Concerto in C)
- Andante for flute and orchestra in C major, K. 315/285e (1778)
Wolfgang’s father, Leopold Mozart was a successful composer and performing musician who was keen to introduce his son and daughter, Maria Anna, to music early on. Recognising both children’s talents, Leopold devoted a lot of time to their music lessons. In 1762 he took the children to the court of Bavaria. This began a series of European tours showcasing Wolfgang Mozart to Europe’s nobility and notable musicians.
Young Mozart’s compositions grew increasingly mature and skilled. He gained a position as assistant concert master in Salzburg. Despite his success with his compositions, he found Salzburg too confining and felt it restricted his potential. This negative, immature attitude tested the Archbishop’s patience. With his sister in 1777, Mozart travelled to Mannheim, Paris and Munich is search of better employment. However the several promising positions eventually fell through and Mozart returned to Salzburg soon after his mother’s death in 1778.
Mozart disliked his new position as court organist and moved to Vienna in 1781 where he married Constanze Weber.
He became fascinated with J.S Bach and G.F Handel compositions resulting in some Baroque-style compositions and influences in later works such as passages in Die Zauberflote and the finale of Symphony 41. He also met Joseph Haydn and became admiring and influential friends.
Mozart initially did well in Vienna, achieving success with operas such as The Abduction from the Seraglio and The Marriage of Figaro. Unfortunately his income began to drop and he made more trips like the ones of his childhood but failed to improve his situation.
Following the death of composer Gluck, in 1787 Emperor Joseph II appointed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as his “chamber composer.” The low paid part time position helped Mozart with his debts and it only required to compose dances for the annual balls. It gave him the freedom to compose and pursue his own musical ambitions. Toward the end of the 1780s, his fortunes began to grow worse as he performed less and the ability of the aristocracy to support the arts had declined with war. During this time, Mozart travelled across Germany and Austria in attempts to revive his once great success and the financial situation, but did neither. 1788-1789 was a low point, experiencing “black thoughts” and deep depression.
Between 1790 and 1791, Mozart went through a period of music productivity and personal healing. He produced some of his greatest works including the opera Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), the final piano concerto in B-flat, the Clarinet Concerto in A major, and the unfinished Requiem.
This burst of productivity was interrupted with a decline in his mental and physical health. Mozart died at 1 a.m. on December 1st, 1791. Aged just 35, he was buried in a common grave outside Vienna.