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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

FAMILY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 to Leopold Mozart (1719–1787), a musician of the Salzburg Royal Chamber, and Anna Maria, née Pertl (1720–1778), at 9 Getreidegasse in Salzburg.

He was the youngest of seven children, five of whom died in infancy.

Leopold Mozart, an exacting, imperious and often tyrannical man was a well known musician who played in a string quartet and composer. He bought out his classic book on violin playing Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule ("Essay on the fundamentals of violin playing", the same year as Wolfgang's birth.

Anna Maria Mozart was a vivacious, gossipy woman who had a loud, lavatorial sense of humor and a highly creative approach to spelling.

His elder sister was Maria Anna (1751–1829), nicknamed "Nannerl".

Mozart was baptized the day after his birth at St. Rupert's Cathedral. He was baptized Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.

The name Amadeus means love of God and is the Latin version of the Greek Theophilus.

At the age of 2 he heard a pig squeal "G sharp" squeaked little Mozart. He was right.

Wolfgang was a small and thin child with a happy disposition.

 CHILDHOOD CAREER

As a child Wolfgang Mozart created a sensation at European courts with his ability to sight read music and improvise. He began picking out chords from a harpsichord at the age of three. At four he was playing short pieces and wrote two minuets for the harpsichord at five. By the age of six he was a virtuoso on the violin and harpsichord. Wolfgang wrote his first symphony at the age of eight.

Anonymous portrait of the child Mozart, possibly by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni; painted in 1763

Wolfgang started operas (his first one was the Apollo et Hyacinthus written in 1767 when he was 11 years old) before he reached his teenage years.

Leopold soon realized that he could earn a substantial income by showcasing his son as a wunderkind in the courts of Europe. The child performer dazzled audiences by playing with his hands behind his back or keys covered by a cloth. After every performance the child Mozart would ask his audience "Do you love me?"

Mozart’s five-year older sister, Nannerl, was a singer and harpsichord player. who sometimes accompanied her brother as they toured Europe together. Mozart wrote a number of piano pieces, in particular duets and duos, to play with her.

As a child, Mozart was terrified of trumpets.

Wofgang's mother was worried about other children pinching Wolfgang's manuscripts so she sewed name-tags on them.

On one occasion when Wolfgang became ill, Leopold expressed more concern over the loss of income than over his son's well-being.


In 1763 the seven-year-old Wolfgang played before the court at Versailles.

Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart appeared before the English public for the first time in the Spring Garden Rooms, London on June 5, 1764.

Young Wolfgang stayed in Chelsea in 1765 where his music was much loved by King George II. Mozart astonished the London general public with his playing of the harpsichord with a handkerchief covering the keys.

When Mozart performed in London at the age of nine some members of the Royal Society thought his playing was too good for a child and suspected him of being a dwarf.

The Mozart family on tour: Leopold, Wolfgang, and Nannerl. Watercolor by Carmontelle, ca. 1763

In 1767 Wolfgang was forced to compose in solitary confinement for the suspicious Archbishop of Salzburg, He passed the test and at the age of 11 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a salaried concert master.

The 14-year-old Mozart who was touring Italy as a child wonder, arrived in Rome in 1770 and was invited to a liturgical celebration in the Sistine Chapel, where he could listen to the Miserere for two nine-part choirs. Aware that he could not get the music score because it was strictly prohibited, Mozart transcribed the piece  in its entirety from memory, only returning a second time to correct minor errors. It is now established that Mozart almost certainly knew the work beforehand. Some wags have referred to it as the first ever bootleg.

LATER CAREER 

A hard worker, Mozart produced music for over 20 paymasters ranging from the Viennese masons to the Austro-Hungarian emperor.

On March 13, 1773, Mozart was employed as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg, Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. The composer had a great number of friends and admirers in Salzburg and had the opportunity to work in many genres, including symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, masses, serenades, and a few minor operas.

The composer in 1777, by an unknown painter

Mozart was treated by Hieronymus von Colloredo as one of his servants and like a valet and he was expected to hang around each morning in case he was wanted. When Mozart refused to waste his time the Archbishop yelled at him to get out. On the way to the door Mozart coolly remarked “I hope this decision is final”.

Mozart grew increasingly discontented with Salzburg and redoubled his efforts to find a position elsewhere. Another contributing factor was his low salary, 150 florins a year.

Mozart watched his mother die in 1778 when she was accompanying him on a promotional visit to Paris. He was unable to get doctors quickly enough, (she refused them) or do anything practical to help. It was the one event in his life, which left him unable to compose for weeks.

In 1778  Mozart declined the position of Organist of Versailles as he did not like French music.

The Mozart family c. 1780. The portrait on the wall is of Mozart's mother.

By 1781, the harsh Prince-Archbishop Colloredo had become exceptionally annoyed with Mozart's frequent absences. That year Mozart fell out with him, during a visit to Vienna. According to Mozart's own testimony, he was dismissed literally "with a kick in the seat of the pants." Despite this, Mozart chose to settle and develop his career in Vienna after its aristocracy began to take an interest in him.

In December 1787, Mozart obtained a steady post under aristocratic patronage when Emperor Joseph II appointed him as his "chamber composer". It was a part-time appointment, paying just 800 florins per year, and required Mozart only to compose dances for the annual balls in the Redoutensaal. This modest income became important to Mozart when hard times arrived.

WORKS 

Mozart's influence is profound in changing opera into the form we know today. He created over 600 musical works despite living only to age 35.

Mozart's work wasn't to everybody's tastes. During his life time many condemned his music for excessive emotionalism.

Mozart wrote straight off the top of his head fully scored for the orchestra with virtually no second thoughts, crossings outs or alterations.

His preference for the piano ended the dominance of the harpsichord.

Mozart was a very fine violinist, though he often took the viola part when playing quartets. He composed five violin concertos for his own use.

Mozart composed works for the glass harmonica. The instrument’s premier virtuoso in his day was Mariane Kirchgessner, a blind Austrian woman. Mozart composed a beautiful quintet for her (Adagio and Rondo in C, K617) and, presumably as an encore, a Solo-Adagio in C (K617a-K356).  

He once composed a piano piece that required a player to use two hands and a nose in order to hit all the correct notes.

This religious solo motet Exsultate, Jubilate K. 165, was composed in 1773.when Mozart was visiting Milan. It was written for the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini and climaxes in an unforgettable series of soaring Allelulas.

Mozart didn't like the flute much and when he was commissioned by the Dutch flautist Ferdinand De Jean to write three flute concertos he could only come up with one- his The Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, which he composed in 1778.

Mozart's most successful opera during his lifetime was the Die Entführung aus dem Serail ("The Abduction from the Seraglio"), which premiered on July 16, 1782. A knockabout nursery farce, it was popular due to its oriental setting at a time of war with Turkey. After its premiere, Emperor Joseph II anecdotally made the comment that it had "too many notes".

Announcement for the premiere at the Burgtheater

Mozart composed his Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 in the winter of 1785–86 and completed it on March 24, 1786. He premiered the work in early April 1786 at the Burgtheater in Vienna with Mozart himself playing the solo part and conducted the orchestra from the keyboard. The work is one of only two minor-key piano concertos by Mozart, the other being No. 20 in D Minor. It features the largest array of instruments of any Mozart concerto: strings, woodwinds including oboes and clarinets, horns, trumpets and timpani.

When Ludwig van Beethoven heard the concerto in a rehearsal, he reportedly remarked to a colleague in admiration that "[we] shall never be able to do anything like that."

Mozart composed his comic opera The Marriage of Figaro in 1786. The opera became one of Mozart's most successful works and the overture is especially famous and is often played as a concert piece. The Imperial Italian Opera Company paid Mozart 450 florins for this piece, which was a considerable sum in his day.  It premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna on May 1, 1786.

Libretto 1786

Mozart completed his 40th symphony on July 25, 1788 as an “appeal to eternity.” He never heard it performed.

Mozart's friend Emanuel Schikeneder commissioned The Magic Flute in May 1791 at a time when the Austrian composer could scarcely afford to refuse any work. The piece was designed to revive the flagging theater of which Schikeneder was director, the theatre auf der Wieden in Vienna. Mozart had finished most of the composition by mid-July (in less than two months). He conducted at the premiere at Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden on September 30. 1791.

Playbill for the premiere, 30 September 1791.

Mozart's Clarinet concerto in A major, K. 622 was written in 1791 for the clarinetist Anton Stadler. It was  one of Mozart's final completed works, and his final purely instrumental work (he died in the December following its completion). Stadler was one of Mozart’s closest friends- they were fellow freemasons at the Palm Tree lodge- but he nevertheless had a nasty habit of stealing small valuables whenever Mozart’s back was turned.

BELIEFS 

Mozart's father had been a devout Catholic but the composer, influenced by the ideas of the eighteenth century European Enlightenment, became a Freemason and worked fervently and successfully to convert his father before the latter's death in 1787. His last opera, The Magic Flute, included Masonic themes and allegory.

He was in the same Masonic Lodge as Joseph Haydn.

Mozart had a broad belief in Christianity, who believed in regular religious Catholic practices and the need for the sacraments of the church. A freethinker, he had a private relationship with God.

During his lifetime, Mozart composed more than 60 pieces of sacred music. The majority were written between 1773 and 1781, when he was employed as court musician to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg

APPEARANCE AND CHARACTER 

Mozart was 5ft 4 ins and slightly built. He had a pale complexion, a profusion of fine hair and bright blue eyes. In his last year the sickly composer looked grey and haggard and 20 years older than he was.

Mozart c. 1780, detail from portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce

The composer was a dandy, his hairdresser arrived 6.30 am every morning to do his hair.

Mozart was passionately optimistic and self confident. Impatient with authority, he was lazy if not interested in his work but a hard working composer.

Mozart was a practical joker (he used to put pepper in his rival composer Saleri's tea) and a teller of risqué jokes.

He exchanged scatological letters with lots of four letter words and plenty of bottom and piddle jokes with his cousin Maria Anna. Mozart also wrote ballads about flatulence. His scatological behaviour sometimes outraged 18th century Vienna.

RELATIONSHIPS 

In 1778 whilst in Germany Mozart fell in love with Aloysia Weber, a 16 year old soprano, and composed arias for her as amatory offerings. At first she encouraged him and Mozart's mother had to persuade the 21-year-old composer not to drop everything and follow her. After a while she was complaining he was such "a little man" then she finally rejected him and married a Viennese actor. Mozart still smitten took up lodgings with her mother.

On August 4, 1782, Mozart married Aloysia's fun loving, dark haired sister Constanze who was also a singer. He wrote the C Minor Mass K 427 in celebration of their wedding.

1782 portrait of Constanze Mozart by her brother-in-law Joseph Lange

Mozart's father was against any interest that would distract his son from his music. He only gave grudging acceptance the day after ceremony.

After his marriage Mozart never saw his sister, Nannerl again.

Mozart wrote to Constanze some of the most poignant love letters of all literature, "dearest little wife of my heart"  and remained faithful to her.

Mozart and Constanze had six children, of whom only two survived infancy. Neither of these two, Karl Thomas (1784–1858) or Franz Xaver Wolfgang (later a minor composer himself; 1791–1844), married or had children.

Mozart and Constanze  spent their money freely and the composer had a weakness for gambling .For the last four years of his life he was increasingly in debt.

After Mozart's death Constanze worked hard on preserving her late husband's memory and remarried a Danish diplomat.

HOBBIES 

The Austrian composer loved to play billiards. A billiard table with five balls and 12 cues was among Mozart’s estate when he died.

Mozart was also an enthusiastic skittles player.

Mozart once compared music to horse-racing. "Melody is the very essence of music. When I think of a good melodist I think of a fine race-horse. A contrapuntist is only a Post-horse."

PETS

The Austrian composer loved animals. When growing up, Mozart had a pet dog, a fox terrier called Bimperl (or Pimperl or Miss Bimbes).

For three years, Mozart  kept a pet starling. His notebook includes a tune the starling sang which he used in his 17th piano concerto, GK453 in G major.

When the starling died, Mozart buried it in his garden and wrote a poem to his 'little fool.'

HOMES 

Mozart's birthplace and childhood home was at Getreidegasse 9, Salzburg. After marrying in 1747, Mozart's father rented the apartment on the third floor, living there until 1773. It consisted of a kitchen, a small cabinet, a living-room, a bedroom and an office.

Birthplace of W. A. Mozart

The restless Mozart had 14 different places of residence in Vienna including nine moves in one year.

Mozart spent the year 1786 in Vienna in an apartment at Domgasse 5 behind St. Stephen's Cathedral; it was here that Mozart composed The Marriage of Figaro. It can today be reached by a staircase in a courtyard.

HEALTH 

Between the ages of 6 and 18 as Mozart traveled around Europe playing at Royal Palaces, he suffered typhus, rheumatism and smallpox The constant travel and cold weather may have contributed to his subsequent illness later in life.

As an adult, Mozart was often ill suffering from chronic respiratory infections and constantly reoccurring typhoid. In addition the Austrian composer always seemed to be catching chills and was always too busy to recover from them.

Mozart snored loudly enough to be heard by neighbors.

DEATH AND LEGACY 

Mozart fell ill while in Prague for the  September 6, 1791 premiere of his opera La clemenza di Tito. He continued his professional functions for some time, but his health deteriorated and on November 20 he became bedridden, suffering from swelling, pain, and vomiting.

Mozart died in his home on December 5, 1791 (aged 35) at 1:00 am, while he was working on his final composition, the Requiem (unfinished when he passed away). His last words were "You spoke of a refreshment, Emile: Take my last notes, and let me hear once more my solace and delight".

Posthumous painting by Barbara Krafft in 1819

The actual cause of Mozart's death is uncertain. His death record listed "hitziges Frieselfieber" ("severe miliary fever"), a description that does not suffice to identify the cause as it would be diagnosed in modern medicine. Dozens of theories have been proposed, which include trichinosis, mercury poisoning, and rheumatic fever.

Though not totally proved there is some evidence that Mozart was poisoned. In his later years his rival composer Antonio Salieri  would confide to his friends that he poisoned Mozart out of jealousy. "Why would God choose an obscene child to be his instrument?"

Only one person accompanied the great musician from the church to the cemetery for his burial in a regular communal grave, the Central Cemetery, four miles outside Vienna. He was sealed in a wooden coffin and buried in a plot along with four or five other people.

Mozart's modest funeral did not reflect his standing with the public as a composer: memorial services and concerts in Vienna and Prague were well-attended.

When he died, he left so little money that his wife Constanze had to petition the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold II, for a pension.

When Mozart's autographed manuscript of nine symphonies was sold in 1987 for £2,350,000, it broke the record for the most expensive music and most expensive post medieval manuscript.

The species of frog Eleutherodactylus amadeus was named after Mozart in 1987.

 In a poll of a million music lovers in 1999, Mozart was voted Britain’s favorite classical composer.

Austria's National Anthem is Mozart's "Land of Mountains, Land of Streams" from his Little Masonic Cantata.

It would take you 202 hours to listen to all the music composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He wrote over 600 pieces, even though he only lived to 35.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is an anagram of "A Famous German Waltz God."

Sources Entries written by myself for Songfacts.com, Daily Express

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