Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart lived from January 27, 1756 to December 5, 1791. Mozart was a very influential and prolific composer of more than 600 works, including symphonies, concertante, chamber, piano, opera, and choral music. Regarded as a child prodigy, Mozart composed and performed in the European courts from the age of five, and was engaged at the Salzburg court at 17. Mozart’s musical style can be classified as Classical, although he learned from many of his contemporaries throughout his musical career. In order to better understand Mozart’s genius it is best to begin looking at his earliest contributions to the musical world as a child. From there, an exploration of his composition work in the employ of various patrons gives a more rounded picture of the development of Mozart’s musical style. Mozart is one of the most enduring composers, with his work continuing to resonate with modern audiences.
Mozart was born to a deputy Kapellmeister to the court orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg. Leopold, Mozart’s father, was also a minor composer and teacher. Mozart’s musical abilities were first noticed when he showed great interest in the music lessons of his older sister. By the age of five, the Mozart family was touring European courts. The young Mozart showed great ability in the playing and composition of small pieces, many of which were transcribed by his father, and survive today. Eventually, Leopold gave up his own composing to concentrate on the talents of his young son. Leopold was also the early teacher of all of Mozart’s studies. After extensive touring from 1762 to 1773, Mozart was given employ at the Salzburg court at the age of 17. There, he had the opportunity to work in many genres, including symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, serenades, as well as a few operas. While at the Salzburg court, Mozart composed his only violin concertos, as well as his first piano concertos. However, Mozart grew discontent with his work at court when his desire to work on operas was not encouraged. Mozart began looking for alternative employment in 1777 with a journey to Paris with his mother. While on his tour of Paris, he had financial difficulty, and fell to pawning valuables. While he was gone, his father worked to secure a better position for Mozart in the Salzburg court, and after the death of his mother, Mozart returned to Salzburg. However, his discontent was little diminished, and he left for Vienna in 1781. There, he worked as a freelance composer and performer, and established himself as one of the best keyboard players in Vienna. This period of Mozart’s life saw his marriage to Constanze Weber, as well as moderately great success with his opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio). Over the next few years, Mozart mounted a number of concerts featuring himself as a piano soloist which pushed him to great success and high accolades from his audience. Mozart also began to realize moderate financial success, which led him to adopt a more opulent lifestyle. Incidentally, this increase in lifestyle would lead to financial difficulties later. Around 1786, Mozart began collaborating with Lorenzo Da Ponte on two very successful operas, The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni. Soon after, Mozart secured a steady patronage post from Emperor Joseph II. However, Mozart’s financial situation began to worsen due to his lessening public performances and appearances. In fact, the families financial situation did not see any improvement until Mozart’s final year in 1791. This was a time of great productivity in which Mozart did a great deal of composing. Some of his works to come from this period include the highly regarded opera, The Magic Flute, a piano concerto, and a clarinet concerto. The Magic Flute was received with great success, and was performed many times right up until his death. Mozart died suddenly on December 5, 1791, at the age of 35. Mozart was in Prague supervising the performance of his new opera La clemenza di Tito, and began to fall ill. The exact details of his short illness and death are still unknown. Many of his contemporary biographers seem to be in consensus that he was taken by a form of fever. After his death, Mozart’s wife Constanze set about to secure her and her family’s financial security with the production of many of Mozart’s works as well as publishing many of his pieces. Mozart had great influence over many composers of his day, as well as affecting many who followed him. Besides being a force behind developing the classical style, Mozart’s musical abilities inspired many aspiring musicians. Indeed, Mozart’s work continues to thrill audiences and imitators alike.
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