Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1756-1791

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the most famous composers of all time. He lived and composed during the Classical Period. Mozart was a child prodigy which means that when he was a kid he could do things well that most adults can't do at all.

Childhood

Mozart was born in Salzburg, a city in Austria. He was the youngest child of Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart. From a very early age, the Mozart showed great musical talent. His father was a musician and taught his older sister "Nannerl". Wolfgang watched the lessons and started playing by himself around the age of 3. By the time he was 4 he began lessons and by the time he was 5 he began composing! By the time Mozart was 6, he and Nannerl were touring around Europe,

performing for Kings, Queens and other royalty and rich people. Mozart was able to

play the harpsichord, piano and violin better than most adults!

Here is a video of Mozart's first pieces. The date for the pieces in the catalog of Mozart's music is 1761 - when he was five or six! The pieces are written for and played on the harpsichord because the piano was just becoming popular. Almost all of Mozart's keyboard music is written for piano.

Mozart composed his first symphony when he was 8 years old. His life until the age of 17 was travel, performing and composing.

 

Eventually, Mozart was too old to be a child prodigy. After traveling all over Europe, Mozart returned to Salzburg and worked for a short time for the Archbishop of Salzburg. But Mozart was restless. He knew that he was a  genius, and he thought that Salzburg too small for his great talent.

Vienna 

In 1781 Mozart traveled to Vienna, where he would live for the rest of his life. Mozart taught piano lessons and tried to get people in Vienna to commission music from him - that means to pay him to write music for them. Commissions were the only real way a composer could make money in the Classical Period. Mozart was not very good at getting commissions and he was really bad at managing money. 

 

In 1782 Mozart married Constanze Weber. Mozart’s father, who was very involved in Mozart's life, did not approve of the marriage. Mozart and Constanze were happy, but poor. The Mozarts had six children. But four died as babies. The two sons who lived to be adults never married or had children.

Although many people recognized the greatness of Mozart's music while he was alive, he was never totally successful. He died a poor man at the age of 35. There are a lot of stories about Mozart's death. Some people think he was poisoned by another composer who was jealous of his talent, others think that all of the traveling when he was young made him unhealthy as an adult. In his short life, Mozart was able to produce a tremendous amount of music that moves people to this day.

Music

Mozart wrote over 600 pieces of music including  41 symphonies, 22 operas, 27 piano concertos, 23 string quartets and 15 masses. Writing music was not difficult for Mozart. He heard the music in his head and wrote it down in pen. Look at the pictures below to see the difference between Mozart and Beethoven in terms of how they wrote their music.

Mozart's best know pieces include Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), the operas The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni, Symphony 40 in G minor and the Requiem. Another shorter popular piece that he wrote is "Twelve Variations on Ah! Vous Dirai-je, Maman" which is 12 variations on the theme of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

After Mozart’s death a man called Köchel studied all his music, and tried to number them in order of when they were written. The "Köchel number" helps us to know exactly which piece we are talking about. The highest Köchel number is 626, his requiem mass.

Click here for a longer biography at Kiddle.

Video Biographies

There are many many many movies and clips about Mozart. In 1984 a man named Peter Shaffer wrote a play called Amadeus that was then made into a movie. Amadeus is based on the idea that Mozart was poisoned. It gives us a picture of what life was like in Mozart's time and shows us a little about his talent. The actor who played Mozart decided to give him a crazy kind of laugh. Mozart probably didn't do that but once you hear it you won't forget it!

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