Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Born January 27, 1756
Died December 5, 1791
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria. At three years of age Mozart showed an interest in the clavier, a keyboard instrument his sister Nannerl played. His father, Leopold, a musician in the court orchestra, began giving Mozart clavier lessons at four years of age. Mozart not only learned quickly, but made up a dance piece for the instrument. He was still four when he requested that his father give him violin lessons.
Mozart learned to write music before he could write words and at the age of six he wrote an original concerto. In 1762, Mozart was six and his sister was ten. Their parents decided it was time to have the children perform for audiences. The family traveled by coach from city to city and country to country. They went to Germany, France, Belgium, England, and other countries. They usually played for extremely well to do and famous people and sometimes even for royalty.
Although Mozart and his sister often played for people in the upper class they were not very well paid. Musicians at that time were considered servants, so often their performances brought very little money or token gifts.
Mozart played for the emperor and empress of Vienna. He played the organ in the church of the Franciscans in Vienna also. The emperor of Vienna, Joseph II, ask Mozart to compose and conduct an opera in 1786. However the emperorís musicians would not cooperate, so Mozartís father took him back to Salzburg.
In 1769, Mozart and his father went alone to Italy. They were in Italy over a year so Mozart could study. They attended operas and attempted to get Mozart a position in the Italian court, but they were unable to do so. Finally they returned to Austria. In Austria Mozart played with his father in the archbishopís court orchestra until and new archbishop took over. This man was Archbishop Heironymous Colloredo and he did not appreciate Mozartís musical talent.
Mozart grew unhappy and pleaded with his father to be allowed to travel on his own. Mozart had often spent the money he earned on wigs, fancy clothes, and parties. His father did not trust him to travel alone and handle his own finances. Then in 1777, when Mozart was 21, his father agreed to allow him to travel if Mozartís mother, Anna Maria went along.
Mozart and his mother embarked on a long trip. They went to Germany and France. But during the trip Mozartís mother became ill. She died in July of 1778, so Mozart returned to Austria in 1779. Later that same year, after an argument with the archbishop in which Mozart was kicked out of the palace, Mozart left Salzburg, Austria for Vienna.
In 1782 Mozart married a woman named Constanze Weber. Then Mozart began some of his work which is considered his best. Mozart began writing operas. In 1785 he wrote The Marriage of Figaro, which was performed one year later. In 1787 Mozart took this opera to Bohemia. The people in Bohemia enjoyed it so much that they requested Mozart to write an opera especially for them. So Mozart wrote Don Giovanni.
Mozartís operas were much different than other operas of the time. During the 1700ís, operas either expressed serious emotions about royalty and heroes, or they emoted humor centering on the common people. Mozart combined these qualities in his operas. His work was well liked, but often it was not initially well received.
His last opera, The Magic Flute first performed in 1791, was not very popular at first. This opera, suggested to Mozart by another man, combined many different types of musical moods. Soon, however, the people of Vienna, Austria enjoyed this performance. Mozartís health had slowly been failing, but after The Magic Flute he became increasingly ill.
Despite his illness, Mozart seemed determined to write a requiem requested by another man. A requiem is a long music piece for singers and orchestra, often performed at funerals. As Mozart worked on the requiem he felt as though he was writing the piece for his own funeral. Before he could finish the piece however, Mozart died on December 5, 1791.
Although Mozart was only 35 years old at the time of his death, he had written over 800 pieces of music. Most of this music was famous not only in his time, but in our time also.
Books for Children
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Getting to Know The World's Greatest Composers by Mike Venezia - An interesting biography which mixes photographs, illustrations, and comic relief for children 8 years and older. ( amazon.com has it)
- Amadeus Mozart (Famous People Series) by Ibi Lepscky for ages 5-9 ( amazon.com has it)
Music Tapes and CD's
- Amadeus: Original Soundtrack Recording of the film Amadeus - 2 CD discs ( amazon.com has it)
- Mozart's Magic Fantasy: A Journey Through 'The Magic Flute' (Classical Kids Series) CD ( amazon.com has it) also available on audio cassette ( amazon.com has it)
- Baby Mozart - Music To Stimulate Your Baby's Brain by Baby Einstein CD - this is intended for infants 1 to 36 months old. ( amazon.com has it)
- Amadeus (1984) - VHS starring Tom Hulce - This video a wonderful reference for parents and teachers. It is is not appropriate for younger audiences. It could be interesting for middle school children with parental preview and guidance during viewing. ( amazon.com has it) it is also available in VHS wide screen ( amazon.com has it) and it is available in DVD (1984) ( amazon.com has it)
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791 by Island of Freedom has a biography and some nice midi files.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the Composers Page has a comprehensive biography, family history, and some interesting pictures.
- The A biography of Mozart
March is Music In Our Schools Month. To find out more about music try our Music page.