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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

(born Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus [Lat. Amadeus] Mozart)

By Linda Andrean

During the 1700's, the city of Salzburg, Austria was governed by a princearchbishop, who exercised both political and religious authority. Among the many people employed in his court were musicians. Leopold Mozart was born in Augsburg, Germany. His parents' plan for him was to become a priest, but Leopold had no intention of becoming one. His interests were in acting and singing as well as the violin and organ. He moved to Salzburg, Austria in 1737 originally to study philosophy and jurisprudence. However, in 1740 he became a violinist in the court orchestra. In November of 1747 he married Maria Anna Pertl. Several children were born to the couple, but only a daughter Maria Anna Walburgia Ignatia, who was born in 1751 and became known as Nannerl, survived before the birth of Wolfgang. Wolfgang was born on January 27, 1756.

Leopold Mozart about 1765. Portrait attributed to Peitro Antonio Lorenzoni

Wolfgang and Nannerl were extremely gifted musically as children. Nannerl began music lessons on the clavier (an early piano) at the age of seven. Wolfgang, aged three, would spend hours picking out tunes, so by the age of four, their father began teaching Wolfgang minuets. He learned them very easily and by the age of five, began composing his own music, which he would play to his father who then wrote the music down. Wolfgang's first appearance as a child prodigy was playing the clavier at the age of five in an appearance with his sister before the court at Munich. Records of the early tours of the Mozart family are to be found in letters Leopold wrote to Lorenz Hagenauer, the family friend and landlord of the Mozart home. Hagenauer was most likely the person who financed the early travels of the Mozart family. In September, 1762 the Mozart family set out for Vienna to perform, and did not return home until January 1763. As young Wolfgang was performing before the royalty of Europe, he was losing his baby teeth! In her reminiscences, Nannerl summed up the first part of their tour: "Munich, Augsburg, Ulm, Ludwigsburg, Bruchsal, Schwetzingen, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Worms, Mainz, Frankfurt on Main, Mainz, Coblenz, Bonn, Brühl, Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle, Liège, Tillemonde, Louvain, Brussels, Mons, Paris, where they arrived on the 18th November 1763." From

Mozart as a child was greatly adored at the Austrian court of Empress Maria Teresa.

Wolfgang probably painted by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni, 1763. The beautiful outfit was a gift from the Empress Maria Theresa 1763 one of the first major concert tours for Mozart to the courts of Europe.

Illustration by Elaine Bonabel in Mörike, p. 119 depicting a typical trip by Mozart. The family most often rented a coach, but on occasion either purchased one or were lent a coach to use. The horses were rented for use for a certain number of miles and would then be exchanged for fresh horses at the next Inn stop. The roads were rough and the springs in the coaches not very comfortable for long distance travel. Note the springs on the coach in the drawing. On Christmas Eve, 1763, the Mozarts were invited to the French court of Queen Maria Leszczynska and Louis XV for two weeks. On New Years Day the Mozart family was invited to the court dinner with the royal couple. The family stood behind the royal couple during the meal. Leopold described the experience: "My Wolfgang was graciously privileged to stand beside the Queen the whole time, to talk constantly to her, entertain her and kiss her hands repeatedly, besides partaking of the dishes which she handed him from the table," . . . "I stood beside him, and on the other side of the King . . . stood my wife and daughter." (

For the next several years, family life consisted of traveling. The purpose of these trips was to show off the musical abilities of the two extraordinary children. During the trips to Paris, the most important musical center in Europe, then to England, Germany, and Italy young Wolfgang met many famous musicians and learned a great deal from them. He began to compose music seriously, so that by the time he was nine years old in 1765, his first sonatas were being published in Paris. During these intense early travels Wolfgang also contracted several serious illnesses: strep throat, rheumatoid arthritis and typhoid fever, from which he nearly died.

Estimated distances between cities: Vienna to Amsterdam= 938 km/538 mi. Paris=1,037 km /645 mi. London =1,237 km/668 mi.

Between 1763 and 1765 during his travels, Wolfgang composed: 2 sonatas while in Paris 7 sonatas while in London as well as two symphonies, 2 arias, a motet (a choral composition) and several untitled pieces and while in The Hague, an aria and a symphony. Mozart was definitely a unique child!

Leopold Mozart and his children L. C. de Carmontelle watercolor, 1763-64

Wolfgang Hildesheimer describes the early works as composed "with an originality of melody and modulation which goes beyond the routine methods of this contemporaries." (pp. 34-5) Mozart at this young age possessed the ability to vary the moods of the music within the conventional forms of the period. Mozart later wrote to his father that music must not offend the ear but must please those listening. On the return to Salzburg in 1769, Wolfgang composed masses for the cathedral of the prince-archbishop. An important tradition in Salzburg was the custom of the graduating students at the Benedictine University to celebrate the end of the academic year with a serenade called "Finalmusik", which was composed for a march or procession of the students. The march would be commissioned by the students or their families in honor of the graduation. Wolfgang composed several such marches.

By the end of 1769, father and son were off to Italy for new composing opportunities and exposure to new audiences. Wolfgang was now composing symphonies, sonatas, concertos, operas and arias. The life of the young Mozart was one of travel, composing and performing. Returning to Salzburg in 1772, Wolfgang received a formal court position as the Konzertmeister, which meant he now received a salary. He was also busy composing for many private patrons, which was an important source of income for musicians and composers. The composer Franz Josef Haydn was an important influence on his work during this period, especially in writing string quartets. During this period, Wolfgang wrote his first true keyboard concerto (K.175 in D), which was among the few of his keyboard concertos to be published in his lifetime. While in Salzburg, he was busy composing sacred music. In 1774, Wolfgang was invited to compose an opera buffa (comic opera) for the Munich opera season. The opera was La finta giardiniera (the feigned garden-girl). Operas were written specifically for the singers who were to perform them, which meant the composer had to work closely with the performers and understand the ability of each singer. During his stay in Munich, Wolfgang was also busy writing sonatas. The most popular sonata was K.283 in G because of its workmanship, sequence of ideas, phrase repetitions and ingenious tonal balance (Sadie, p. 369). With the sonatas, Stanley Sadie points out, Wolfgang developed from composing conventional music to works of much greater individuality. Returning to Salzburg in March 1775, Wolfgang turned to composing concertos along with serenades of the Finalmusik type. He was to continue working in Salzburg until 1777 in his position as Konzertmeister on an annual salary of 150 gulden. In August of 1777, Wolfgang received permission from the Salzburg prince-archbishop Colloredo to be released from his appointment. Leopold had to remain at court, so it was Wolfgang's mother who traveled with him now to the courts of southern and western Germany seeking an appointment hopefully in Mannheim or Munich. As in the former travels, the Mozarts traveled by horse-drawn coaches, which they would have either bought or rented. Horses would be hired at various inns along the way. The route Leopold carefully planned for mother and son to

take would bring them in contact with friends along the way whom Leopold thought would be most helpful. This was Wolfgang's first venture into the world without his father. Maria was following her husband's instructions but did not make the same demands on Wolfgang as her husband would have. Thus for the first time in his life, Wolfgang had more of a role in the decisions of what he wanted to do. He had a new sense of independence. From the correspondence between the family members, it is clear Leopold did not appreciate his son's decisions. Wolfgang and his mother traveled first to Mannheim where they stayed for several months. Then it was on to Paris. Wolfgang was not professionally successful in Paris. Tragedy also struck when his mother died there on June 30, 1778. Wolfgang had acquired a large amount of debt and finally had to leave Paris for home. It was during the stay in Mannheim in 1777 that Mozart found his first romantic inspiration in the person of Aloysia Weber. In Mannheim, Mozart was directed to her father who would be able to copy music for him. Mozart took Aloysia on as a voice pupil and cultivated her voice. She inspired him to write music for her to perform. They remained friends following her marriage and over the years, Mozart continued to write several arias for her. As a very famous opera singer in Vienna, she performed the roles of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni in the premiere in 1778 and the role of Constanze in a revival production of The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Aloysia Weber

Anna Nancy Storace

The other woman who inspired him to write music for her was Anna Storace (known as Nancy), one of the most famous singers throughout Europe of the period. For Anna, he composed the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, which premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on May 1, 1786 and the role of Zerlina in Don Giovanni. A third piece he composed for her as a farewell gift before she left Vienna to go to London in 1787, was the aria, "Ch' io mi scordi di te?... Non temer amato bene," K505, a piece for voice and piano. They performed the piece together at her farewell concert at the Kärntnertor Theater. The works for Anna are considered to be among Mozart's greatest for voice.

The year 1779 saw Wolfgang back in Salzburg with a court appointment once again. The next few years were very productive for him as he composed many religious and secular bodies of work. Late in 1777 he had begun composing an opera that was to have been for the Mannheim court. The opera developed into Idomeneo (an opera seria) and was presented first in Munich in January, 1781. In this opera, Mozart created a powerful and emotional work in which he expanded creatively beyond his previous works as well as beyond the typical operas of the period. Idomeneo takes place on the island of Crete following the Trojan War, focusing on a promise made to Neptune by Idomeneo, the king of Crete, and the intrigue based on the promise and the relationships involved. Thinking that he would never be able to do the work he wanted to do in Salzburg, Mozart moved to Vienna in 1781. He initially stayed at the Teutonic Order lodge house, which housed the employees of his Salzburg employer, Archbishop Colloredo. After a few months he found lodging at the house of his friends from Mannheim, the Webers, who had followed their daughter Aloysia to Vienna. Aloysia meanwhile had married. It was a younger daughter who then caught his attention, Constanze (called Stanzi) who Mozart married in August, 1782. Mozart's father and sister were opposed to the marriage because they thought Constanze to be beneath them socially and as a result, they never developed a good relationship with Constanze.

An artist's rendering of Wolfgang and Constance on their honeymoon.

Mozart and Constanze had six children over their nine years of marriage. Only two of the children survived beyond childhood, Karl Thomas, born in 1784, and Franz Xaver Wolfgang, born in 1791, was four months old when his father died.

Franz and Karl Constanze, portrait by Lange, 1782

Constanze was particularly fond of fugues, and Mozart composed several for her. Mozart wrote to his sister Nannerl in April 1782: "Well, as she has often heard me play fugues out of my head, she asked me if I had ever written any down, and when I said I had not, she scolded me roundly for not recording some of my compositions in this most artistically beautiful of all musical forms and never ceased to to entreat me until I wrote down a fugue for her."

Mozart in Vienna The citizens of Vienna did not hold the same regard for Mozart as an adult as was shown to him as a child. As an adult, he was one of several successful musicians and composers and no longer had the special status of child prodigy. His mature musical style was not that which the Viennese were used to and had established a taste for. Life became more of a struggle for Mozart because he never received the court appointment he wanted. However, that did not slow him down. He continued to be a prolific composer and to explore new approaches in his works. It was with the collaboration of the librettist (a poet and playwright, the person who writes the text of the opera) Lorenzo da Ponte that he composed his three great operas during his years in Vienna, Le Nozze di Figaro (1786); Don Giovanni (1787); and Così fan tutte (1790).

Lorenzo da Ponte

The oldest known surviving playbills for Don Giovanni and Cossi fan tutte

Playbill from 1786

19th century anonymous watercolor of The Marriage of Figaro

Mozart was at the peak of his creativity and with da Ponte, was able to exploit his full potential. In the operas, Hildesheimer states, Mozart conveyed the impression of "an absolutely conscious creative power, as if Mozart had asked himself how much of human affairs and feelings, actions and longings, he could bring to the material at hand, which was bound to be meager compared to his own artistic dimensions. He increasingly ignored the prescribed external standards." (p. 145) His later works convey a tremendous range of characters and emotional experiences, with music that directs the action rather than following it. Mozart created full ranges of emotion with his music. The use of major and minor keys gives the impression of opposite reactions and feelings. Mozart was constantly experimenting and testing combinations outside the popular standards of the period. He was innovative. Many comments and opinions have been written about Mozart's personal life, especially the years in Vienna. To understand Mozart better it is helpful to look at him in the context of his times and therefore, it is helpful to understand what life was like in the Vienna of the 1780's. Vienna is portrayed as a city loving music and entertainment of all sorts. With the availability of exceptionally talented architects, the nobility had created architecturally beautiful buildings and gardens. As a reformer, Emperor Joseph II wanted

the people to enjoy the gardens. In 1775 he opened the imperial garden, the Augarten, as well as his hunting grounds, the Prater, to the public, so that on Sundays the gardens were the gathering place for all ranks of society. Joseph himself walked freely among the strollers in the parks. Free concerts were performed. People enjoyed coffee and pastries at the cafes. Originally special theaters were built by the nobility as court theaters in the early 18th century. Soon popular theaters were built in the public squares. Then came the large public popular theaters. The Käntnertor was built in 1708. Joseph II developed the Burgtheater in an effort to bring the many different people of his empire together through cultural performances, including everything from opera to jugglers. When Emmanuel Schikaneder, known for his collaboration with Mozart on The Magic Flute, came to Vienna, he saw the need for establishing a theater that would be able to utilize set machinery and large groups on a stage large enough to create his remarkable productions. It was at the Theater an der Wien that The Magic Flute was first performed. Performers such as Johann Nestroy and Ferdinand Raimund became famous and adored by their public because of their remarkable abilities to perform in various roles.

Kärntnertor Theater

Joseph II felt that revolution should come from above. Part of his version of revolution was to encourage the development of the many Freemason lodges in the city. The lodges and their new ways of viewing society appealed to the prominent thinkers and activists of the period. Joseph II and Mozart belonged to lodges. Mozart's Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) first performed in 1791, is often called the "Masonic Opera" because of its embodiment of the Masonic beliefs. The librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder, and Mozart were members of the same lodge. Several sources write that in composing "The Magic Flute", Mozart and Schikaneder, were attempting to demonstrate to the public that the Freemasons, as seen through the Sun Priests, held reason, truth and virtue in the greatest esteem.

Drawing by Gottfried Engelmann for Monsieur Garcia's costume in the production of Don Giovanni

Leopold Schikaneder played the role of Papageno, the bird catcher, in The Magic Flute.

There were several venues in which Mozart performed and in which his works were performed. In 1782, Mozart and other musicians were required on Sunday afternoons to appear in the home of his patron Gottfried van Swieten to perform the music of Bach, Handel and Haydn. Mozart and several friends would often get together in the evenings to experiment with compositions. On other evenings, Mozart would go out to play billiards and bowl. Often he played concerts in the parks. All during this time he was busy composing and producing his greatest works. By 1787 however, his fortunes were turning. His behavior was becoming more erratic as his compositions were not being accepted by Viennese society, people who considered his music too difficult and unusual. The emperor told Mozart there were "too many notes" in his compositions. The stresses due to financial debt were weighing heavily on him. He had lost most of his students as a source of income. The important income for a composer then came from patrons or at least people to commission works for specific

performances. This was coming less and less for him. His financial situation was taking a serious turn for the worse. He had to move his family into a less spacious apartment. The irony is that the works he was composing at this time are now considered to be among his greatest. At the end of the year he had received 800 gulden as an imperial chamber composer's salary for the dances he composed, but no longer was he receiving commissions. He wrote Don Giovanni and two String Quintets in C major and G minor (K.515 and K.516) in an effort to produce something for immediate sale. His father died in May of 1787 and Mozart received 1,000 gulden as his share of Leopold's estate. In August, he completed Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, written in haste to make money. Mozart's personal characteristics were described at the time as frivolous, eccentric, restless, mercurial, and expressing himself with grimaces and gesticulations. His close friend, Joseph Lange, the husband of Aloysia Weber, saw that the need for self-exposure and the radical letting-go as "a vent for everything he denied himself in his music. For his music does not communicate his momentary state of mind but rather the creative process of his selfcontrol." (Hildesheimer, p. 269)

Mozart, 1789 painting by Christian Vögel

Mozart's father told of a conversation with Franz Josef Haydn, one of the most respected composers on the continent: "Haydn said to me: `Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition." Mozart fell ill on his trip to Prague in 1791 for the performance of his opera, La clemenza di Tito and his condition became worse when he returned to Vienna. In the last few days, his body was described as extremely swollen. He died on December 5. According to Viennese custom, he was buried in a common grave two days later. Over 200 years after his death, Mozart continues to be one of the most well known and beloved composers the world has known. He is famous throughout the world, with his compositions played wherever there are musicians or sung wherever there are singers. In his lifetime, Wolfgang Mozart composed 19 masses along with numerous other sacred music pieces; 19 operas, musical plays and dramatic cantatas, three ballets; numerous vocal music pieces; 59 symphonies, many concertos, serenades, divertimentos in addition to chamber music and other works. He composed masterpieces in all these forms even for instruments he was not fond of as well as for new instruments to the orchestra such as the clarinet. A good source for viewing the list of works is Sadie's book. During his lifetime most of Mozart's works were not published and at times not even kept track of. He himself did not start to keep track of his works until 1784. Most of the works prior to that are noted in the letters he or his father wrote. Immediately after his death, several European governments gave him their highest recognition and awards. So many interpretations have been written about Mozart's life, his behavior, and his relationships as well as his prodigious works. Hildesheimer sums it up: "The evidence is massive, but we will find Mozart forever puzzling and unapproachable. The almost continual creative activity of an intellect who towered so far above his society, and yet continually communicated with it and seemed to adapt to it, but who lived in it as a stranger, a condition neither he nor his circle could encompass; who grew ever more deeply estranged, never suspecting it himself until the end of his life, and making light of it until the very end-- our imagination cannot accommodate such a phenomenon." (p. 360) Following her husband's death, Constanze took on the enormous task of organizing her husband's works and getting them published under his name. In making certain her husband would receive the acknowledgement for the works he composed, she became a very astute businesswoman. She and her second husband, the Danish diplomat Georg Nikolaus Nissen undertook writing Mozart's biography. They returned to live in Salzburg to be close to the sources of his work. It was through Mozart's lifelong correspondence that his activities, views and works have been reconstructed as well as interpreted.

Illustration by Bonabel in Mörike, p. 55 Mozart's much commented on behavior is more clearly understood with the psychological tools of analysis available in today's world. Drs. Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey write in their book Driven to Distraction that "Mozart would be a good example of a person with ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder]: impatient, impulsive, distractible, energetic, emotionally needy, creative, innovative, irreverent, and a maverick. Structure is one of the hallmarks of the treatment of ADD, and the tight forms within which Mozart worked show how beautifully structure can capture the dart-here, dart-there genius of the ADD mind." (Hallowell and Ratey, p. 43) The discipline of the music forced the structure on Mozart. Whatever drove Mozart, the world is a better place for the beautiful music he composed.

Contemporary productions of Mozart's works take place all over the world.

1998 production of Figaro at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia

Productions of Don Giovanni at Indiana University and Opera Australia

Production of Cosi fan tutte at the Theater an der Wien, 1994

Ideas to think about Can you think of any government today that employs its own musicians? What does it mean to say Mozart "appeared before the court"? Describe what you think it would be like to travel great distances by horse and coach in Mozart's time. How many miles a day would be a reasonable distance to travel? What would you do if a wheel on your coach broke? Where would you stay overnight? Listen to some of Mozart's music and describe how it makes you feel. How does one distinguish between an opera, a serenade, a sonata or a symphony? You will have to look up the definitions in order to do this. What would a salary of 150 gulden be worth today in dollars?

Vocabulary words: clavier commissioned compose concertos gulden libbrettist operas (buffa and seria) patrons serenade sonatas symphonies

Selected Bibliography Anderson, Emily. The Letters of Mozart and his Family. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1985. Brion, Marcel. Daily Life in the Vienna of Mozart and Schubert. Translated from the French by Jean Stewart. New York, The Macmillan Company, 1962. Deutsch, Otto Erich. Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1965. Einstein, Alfred. Mozart, His Character, His Work. Oxford University Press, New York, 1945 and 1962 (paperback) Hallowell, Edward M. and John J. Ratey. Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood. Simon & Schuster, New York 1994. Hildesheimer, Wolfgang. Mozart. Translated from the German by Marion Faber. New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1982. Mörike, Eduard F. Mozart on the way to Prague / ill. by Eliane Bonabel ; transl. and introd. by Walter and Catherine Alison Phillips. New York, Pantheon, 1947. Mozart : portrait of a genius / Norbert Elias ; edited by Michael Schröter ; translated by Edmund Jephcott. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993. Sadie, Stanley. Mozart: The Early Years, 1756-1781. Norton, New York 2006. Schenk, Erich. Mozart and his times. New York, Knopf, 1959. Selby, Agnes. Constanze: Mozart's Beloved. Turton & Armstrong, Sydney, 1999 The Compleat Mozart. Editors: Zaslaw, Neal, with Cowdery, William. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1990.

There are many websites devoted to Mozart, the following are very helpful:,,1560548,00.html



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